KEYNOTE: Tracing changes in writing practices as academics become digital scholars
Across the world, pressures on universities are changing what it means to be an academic. These include managerial pressures related to funding, league tables, research assessments and demands for impact. At the same time, there are changes in relations with students connected with consumerisation and internationalisation. Managerial discourses seem to be extending into more aspects of the academic workplace, work is speeding up and boundaries between work and not-work are collapsing. As a result of these changes, academics are carrying out a wider variety of writing tasks involving new and extended genres. This paper explores the ways in which this is happening and in particular how digital communications technologies are shaping writing practices. It draws upon a recent ESRC funded study The Dynamics of Knowledge Creation: Academics’ Writing Practices in the Contemporary University Workplace. Examining 3 disciplines in 3 universities in England, the study documents the diversity of writing practices. The paper identifies transformations in digital tools and resources and how in all aspects of their working lives academics have become digital scholars. This includes how academics make sense of social media, how they take on new online identities and how they utilise new ways of measuring the online self. Data for this study comes primarily from in-depth interviews and observations and tracking of specific events, alongside auto-ethnographic investigations of the research team’s own practices. It also discusses the value of ethnographic approaches for understanding writing practices and it explores how new methodologies are changing the landscape of language research.
WORKSHOP: Workshop on ethnographic approaches to research in the academics writing project
Following on from the plenary lecture, this workshop will look in more detail at the methodology underlying the Academics Writing project and how ethnographic methods are changing to adapt to digital environments. The methods include different sorts of interviews, specifically techno-biographical interviews, walk around interviews, day in the life interviews, talk around texts interviews, and contextual interviews. There are also observations and tracking of specific events and auto-ethnographic investigations of the research team’s own practices. The aim of the workshop is to identify the underlying principles of ethnographic research on which the methods are based. In the workshop, we will also discuss possible international differences in practices. The workshop will help participants to design and carry out studies of their own.