Literature Review

For my MA Thesis, I want to find out about the motivations and experiences of German business founders in Ireland. Qualitative interviews will build the core of my research. Participants should have founded an innovative start-up or a small single business (e. g. a restaurant or B&B), ideally in the past 25 years. However, up to 50 years will be allowed for two reasons: First, to explore the experiences of business starters whose initially small businesses have eventually evolved to greater companies. Second to track possible changes over time: While the focus is clearly contemporary, it is intended to draw comparisons to the past and to find out in how far changed conditions in Ireland and changed German perceptions of it have affected German-Irish business relationships? It is aimed to be of practical use for Germans business starters in Ireland and institutions, telling them where to improve for more effective help. Moreover, certain themes will be specifically investigated in order to determine their (non-existing?) degree of influence on the participants’ decisions.

While the actual section on my research methodology and methods will have to be kept to a minimum, literature on how to conduct the research probably will be key to my thesis: A qualitative descriptive approach using the instrument of semi-constructed interviews seems to be a feasible choice. Three articles of David Nicholls establish fundamentals and terminology of qualitative research: “Qualitative research: Part one – Philosophies” (International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, vol.16, no. 10, 2009, pp.526-33), “Qualitative research: Part two – Methodologies” (same, vol. 16, no. 11, 2009, pp. 586-92) and “Qualitative research: Part three – Methods” (same, vol. 16, no. 12, 2009 pp. 638-47). Qualitative Description is addressed by Margarete Sandelowski whose article “Focus on Research Methods: Whatever Happened to Qualitative Description?” (Research in Nursing & Health, no. 23, 2000, pp. 334–40) highlights its legitimacy in its own and demands that it should not be disguised by (inapplicable) claims of using a different methodology. However, ten years later she clarifies that this does not mean that no structured approach at all is needed: “What’s in a Name? Qualitative Description Revisited” (Research in Nursing & Health, no. 33, 2010, pp. 77–84). Means to ensure quality in qualitative research are discussed by Andrew K. Shenton in “Strategies for ensuring trustworthiness in qualitative research projects” (Education for Information, no. 22, 2004, pp. 63–75). Actual guidelines for successful interview conductions can be found in Alsaawi, Ali: “A Critical Review of Qualitative Interviews” (European Journal of Business and Social Sciences, vol.3, no. 4, 2014 pp. 149-56) and Turner, Daniel W., III: “Qualitative interview design: A practical guide for novice investigators” (The Qualitative Report, vol. 15, no. 3, 2010, pp.754-60).

Business relationships between Germany and Ireland have a long history. In order to understand change and/or persistence of cultural themes, some historic cases will be referred to. Well documented is the ‘Shannon Scheme’, where German company Siemens was contracted in the 1920s to make electricity nation-wide available in Ireland. Comprehensive information can be found in The Shannon Scheme: and the Electrification of the Irish Free State (The Lillliput Press, 2002) which is edited by Andy Bielenberg. Michael McCarthy’s chapter on “How the Shannon Scheme Workers Lived” (pp.48-72) is of particular interest. McCarthy’s book High Tension: Life on the Shannon Scheme (The Lilliput Press, 2004) further elaborates on general and culturally caused challenges. Gerald O’Beirne’s Siemens in Ireland, 1925-2000: Seventy-Five Years of Innovation (A. & A. Farmar, 2000) describes the company’s subsequent interactions with Ireland. Another relevant case is German crane builder Liebherr who established a plant in Killarney in 1958 and still operates there. (Academic) literature on this case is rare, especially with regard to cultural aspects. Ideally, an interview with the founder’s daughter (and successor) would deliver important insights into this.

The extant literature on cultural aspects of German-Irish business relationships is not specific to experiences of German business founders in Ireland. However more general experiences can be used to compare and contrast culture-related themes. Niamh O’Mahony’s German-Irish Corporate Relationships. The Cultural Dimension (Peter Lang, 2004) and Managing Cross-Cultural Business Relations. The Irish-German Experience (Blackhall Publishing, 2004), edited by Gillian Martin and Mary Keating are important books on this subject. So is Contemporary German-Irish Cultural Relations in a European Perspective: Exploring Issues in Cultural Policy and Practice (Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2012), edited by Joachim Fischer, particularly Claire O’Reilly’s chapter on

“German-Irish Economic Ties and their Interdependence with the Cultural Sphere” (pp.173-96) and Gisela Holfter’s “After the Irisches Tagebuch: Changes and Continuities in the German Image of Ireland, 1961–2011” (pp.159-72). Close relevance has Claire O Reilly’s work on The Expatriate Life: A Study of German Expatriates and their Spouses in Ireland – Issues of Adjustment and Training (Peter Lang, 2003), however with a different focus.

It is important to note that there was a significant shift in Germany’s perception of Ireland. While it was perceived as very different 50 years ago, it is nowadays considered as another reasonably wealthy EU-country. The following books cover a broad range of perspectives on these topics and have some very relevant chapters: Transition: Ireland, Germany and Irish-German Relations in Business and Society since 1989 (Nomos, 2009), edited by Niamh O’Mahony and Claire O’Reilly and Ireland and the Irish in Germany: Reception and Perception (Nomos, 2014), edited by Claire O’Reilly and Veronica O’Regan.

For a long time, German perceptions of Ireland were dominated by one book: Heinrich Böll’s unconventional travelogue Das irische Tagebuch (Kiepenheuer und Witsch, 1957), for which Böll added an epilogue on changing conditions for the later English translation Irish journal / Heinrich Boll translated from the German by Leila Vennewitz (Secker and Warburg, 1983). While the described Ireland has quite changed, this book is still very dominant in all evaluations of Irish-German relations and can therefore not be ignored. Work on it seems to be dominated by Gisela Holfter, who wrote Heinrich Böll and Ireland (Cambridge Scholars, 2012) and edited Heinrich Böll’s Irisches Tagebuch in Context (Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier). Moreover, Hugo Hamilton wrote an “updated” travelogue, an homage to Böll’s 50 years earlier published book, which is especially interesting as a marker of change: Die redselige Insel: Irisches Tagebuch (Luchterhand, 2007). Given the importance of Böll’s book in previous decades and its ongoing (though less dominant) popularity, the question of its influence (or not) and (possible) changes of this will be specifically addressed during the interviews.

A further specific goal of my thesis is to find out about the occurrence of the “trap of similariy” a concept introduced by Patrick Schmidt in “Bridging the intercultural gap: non-conventional truths about American-German business.”, a chapter (pp.429-37) of Transatlantic Mergers & Acquisitions: Opportunities and Pitfalls in German-American Partnerships (Wiley, 2005), edited by Kai Lucks. The trap of similarity refers to the phenomenon that, when countries are perceived as being culturally close, interacting parties easily fail to recognise the nevertheless existing differences, so that conflicting attitudes are contributed to individuals rather than the culture. Because of its nature participants are likely not to be aware of its occurrence and its investigation will therefore be likewise difficult and important.

In conclusion, the core of my thesis will be original research, namely qualitative interviews. However, literature highly feeds into the preparation of these interviews with regard to format and content. The literature will be made available by the common ways open to students and academics. In order to manage the interview volume, the use of NVivo software will be considered.

All Things Come to an End…

This post sums up a six months long journey of first engagements with the academic world, especially with regard to its development towards online knowledge sharing.

The first half of my M.A. expierence was an “academic coming-of-age story”. Due to my background and hesitating attitude concerning the use of online media, I mostly took the role of a consumer and observer of academic knowledge sharing. However, this eventually guided me to a position where I feel comfortable with producing my Master thesis research. The three major themes that are reflected in this development are:

  • First experiences with academic events and corresponding observations and realizations
  • The extreme significance of an electrifying presentation style
  • First active participations in academic knowledge sharing
CHAPTER ONE

My first blog entry “Scholarly Blogging: It’s Getting Real – Is it?” ended with the statement:

”And I have a feeling that in the end, there is one thing that I will have developed even more than my research skills – myself.”

A statement that has proved to be even more true than expected, when it concluded a reflection on my personal attitude towards scholarly blogging as well as my concerns about it and the decision to nevertheless give it a chance. Important for this decision was that I had long time ago realized that there

“was some evidence that I was not as open toward progress as I had always believed I would be. Would I have been one of those people that I found so stupid when they objected to the car as being inferior to carriages? I found this idea of myself rather shocking and I try to keep it in mind as a guiding tool since.”

Driven by this self-awareness I tried to fight a

“feeling is shared by a number of scholars, who are horrified by a development that is increasingly placing more emphasis on visibility via online networking.”

I tried to accept that

“it is an inevitable part of the academic world”.

However, I could not help having some doubts:

“One concern … is however, more than valid: The problem of attention that is taken away from a presenter’s input by participants who simultaneously following a conference and commenting on it online. On the other hand, is Scholarly blogging often considered as a tool to facilitate knowledge-sharing. I wonder, however, if the honourable objective of accessible knowledge might be contradicted by an uncontrollable flood of comments of varying quality.”

Six months a little bit more experience have not changed these concerns much. However, I also had to acknowledge the advantages of a successful academic online presence like the one of our lecturer Donna Alexander. Therefore, I was honestly determined to positively handle the challenge of blogging.

CHAPTER TWO

However, at the start of my second post “Feeling like a Postgraduate First Year Student – Still Trying to Gain Momentum” that progress was probably only internally visible:

“Another month is gone and my blog record does not reflect my stated intention to give the whole research blogging a real chance. However, the fact that nothing of consequence was put into writing, does not mean that I was not constantly thinking about potential blog entries. An event is experienced differently when every impulse is instantly reviewed in terms of its suitability as initial point for a blog entry. This enriched thinking process alone is a not easily made visible benefit of having a research blog.”

One reason for my difficulties was that

“I did a business degree in another country, I find myself in a position where I am treated like a postgraduate humanities student, but really feel like a first year one. Obviously, my intention was to broaden my horizon and I embrace the opportunities given, however, they also make me all too aware of my own limitations. Everything is new and unknown … My understanding of the academic world is still constantly being shaped.”

As another reason, I identified that I was

“not convinced (enough) that the world has waited for and needs to know what my thoughts are.”

As some fellow students shared this perception,

“I became to realize that is part of our agenda as postgraduate students to start to take ourselves more seriously. However, to fully internalize this belief is quite a challenge and requires a long process of small transformation. For me personally it started when a lecturer commented on approaching academic staff at the university: “I know that undergraduate students feel sometime awkward about contacting stuff, but I really hope you start to see us as peers really.” I think few of us have, but it is flattering that we should.”

To make a start,

“I threw myself into a lot of new academic experiences. They varied significantly with respect to format as well as content. Eventually, it was this variety that was more valuable than any of these particular events.“

To give some examples: A master class on sociology made me realize

“how important it is to engage with questions concerning the direction of an overall area rather than one own’s field of study only.”

Moreover, I took away

“the idea that experts are nowadays only interesting for the public domain if they can generalize and transfer their knowledge to other topics.”

I also experienced directly how

“research ideas are shared and how they might extend to become new projects”,

when upon hearing about a UK commemoration effort that intends

“to rebuild (the often distressing) physical circumstances in which women participated in or witnessed politics, … Irish scholars started to wonder in how far similar information are available about the women’s physical positions at the Leinster house.”

Furthermore, I made the critical observation that

“research areas are all too often occupied by academics who were driven to it by some sort of personal connection. While this is very understandable and even brings about some advantages, I sometimes feel that many fields would benefit from a more diversified background of its researchers.”

CHAPTER THREE

A perceived lack of balance and diversification was also one of my observations expressed in the next post: “When America Sneezes, the World Gets a Cold”. At

“UCC’s ‘America in the Era of Trump” symposium‘ that took place in the week of [Donald] Trump’s inauguration”,

it found that it

“obvious that opinions of the speakers were not very various. Maybe it is too much to ask for diverse opinions given this particular topic, but I still feel that it would have enriched the event.”

Nevertheless, the event

“gave an excellent opportunity to experience opinions in Ireland beyond a level of interaction with people and media coverage”

and I

“appreciated the opportunity to experience a worldwide event in a third country.”

Despite interesting insides, it was not the content of seminar that had influence on my academic identity. Instead it was another step on my pursuit to understand the academic world. I singled this event out, as it marked

“the first time that I could sense some personal progress as it indeed felt familiar. After I had attended quite a few of academic events and encountered different formats, I recognized that apparently one particular structure was favoured. It almost seemed like there was an unspoken agreement that this was the most reasonable structure and that one should try to follow it; at least in humanities in Ireland. The (rather few) events I had attended in Germany had been structured differently, however, I do not think that I can judge this comprehensively. The format I am talking about is a series of short presentations by four speakers, followed by a moderated Q&A session and the symposium followed this approach exactly.”

Furthermore, I noted in my mind that in case I ever moderate a panel of experts, I should remember to follow the moderator’s excellent example and

“request at the beginning of the Q&A part to limit the own contribution – if one could not do without it – to one sentence and to just ask a question. Such a reminder should be mandatory whenever an event is handed over to the audience, since the urge to demonstrate one owns knowledge seems to be even more common than the format of four moderated speakers, as even I have become aware of by now.”

Concerning the integration of online platform into academic conduct, I

“noticed that tweeting was particularly addressed at the beginning of the event, however not in a very devoted way. It was merely acknowledged that it is becoming increasingly popular to tweet about events and that whoever felt inclined to do so should just use one of general Trump-hashtags. Altogether, Twitter had been referred to at approximately one third of the research seminars I went to this year. I think it is nice to see that what we learn is actually relevant, but it is also good to know that some can do (yet) without it.”

You have earned a break! This proves: Germans do have humour! Wait for the end! “Fun Fact: American presidents age three times faster during their terms.”

CHAPTER FOUR

As described above, the Trump symposium was special to me, because I perceived it as a track record of personal development. However, it really was an event that I attend a few days later, that left a much deeper impression. Indeed, I am still quite flashed by the experience. Once again – and more than ever – it was not the content of the research seminar that I found most inspiring, but its delivery. My memory of the event is still that surreal that I can only do it justice by quoting my post “Being in Love with a Research Seminar” almost in full. I had literally heard about the event

“only 10 minutes before it started. Coming from a very enjoyable first class of my Irish-German relations course, I decided that it could not hurt to attend the event about German author Bertolt Brecht, whose name was familiar to me while many background details were not. However, instead of diving directly into the topic, presenter Manfred Schewe (Professor of Drama & Theatre at UCC) made the bold statement that we all had must have come with some expectations and he asks us to reflect on these expectations. The first thought this provoked in me was a somewhat dismissive “Not true for me.” I had honestly believed not to expect anything from it. However, this direct request to reflect on the expectations made me realize that even though mine were not specific, I nevertheless had some: at the very least to kill some time and as best-case-scenario to take away something interesting from it. I had just reached this conclusion and found it quite brilliant that Prof. Schewe had evoked this in me, when he ended the reflective pause with the announcement that the believed our expectation was that he would sing. He then started out of the blue to perform Brecht’s “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” (Mack the Knife). I cannot speak for the rest of the audience, but this was in the least what I had expected at all. The performance (which was close to the one in the upper YouTube video, though various other interpretations exist) seemed quite bizarre, however it resourcefully set the tone of highly intellectual madness. What followed next was again a rather unusual creative approach, where Prof. Schewe assigned an adjective to each letter of B-R-E-C-H-T to introduce different aspects and to contrast certain opposites. Just like its well-conceived start, the whole presentation continued to be a perfectly balanced mix with regard to content as well as means of presentation. An extraction of Brecht’s childhood memories was read from a book, but then a Power-Point-embedded video was used to show a witty Brecht who in his late forties is interrogated by Americans about his potential connection to communism. Power-Point was also used to support some more presented facts including a table with Brecht’s most prominent works.

Performance Style similar to Manfred Schewe in the Seminar (singing starts at 0:28)

Frank Sinatra sings English version “Mack The Knife” in different style.

However, in between this a flavour of some of Brecht’s works was given every here and then. Again, I was impressed by the way this was done. Prof. Schewe had brought someone to assist him there. He would read a German passage, followed by the English translation read by the assistant. Longer texts were broken down, so that the translation could be closely linked to the German original. This was an excellent way to accommodate an audience of different language abilities. The presentation was given in English so this language could be clearly expected to be understood. However, I recognized at least some native German speakers as well as Irish people with a good command of German. It would have been a pity to deprive those of the German originals as translations do not always do justice to literary material. On the other hand, not everyone’s German might have been sufficient to follow the German text only, so that this material would have been lost on them. Finally, if one was able to understand both versions, this resulted in the opportunity to compare original and translation. In my opinion the involvement of a second person added enormous value to this approach. A change of voice clearly signalled the change from original to translation. Of course, it is easy to consciously recognize such a change anyway, but with a change of speaker one unconsciously knows it even before really knowing it. Perhaps it was particularly beneficial that the assistant was female which increased the contrast of voices. When a long presentation is given by one single speaker, there is always the danger of an audience’s accidental digression. Even more so, when he repeats the same content in a different language. A second speaker is a good remedy to prevent this from happening. Furthermore, I think it demonstrates a high esteem for the audience to make the effort of engaging an assistant speaker. This high appreciation could be felt throughout the whole event. It made me once more realize how important an elaborated presentation is, which unfortunately seems often to be undervalued in the academic world. This research seminar was entertaining while maintaining a very sophisticated intellectual level and it stimulated the brain strongly and lasting. I surely took some interesting ideas away from it. However, as indicated before it was the way the content was delivered that impacted me most. I might well try to incorporate one thing or another into one of my future presentations (e. g. the use of adjectives whose capital letters form the title). And I will most certainly attend any future research seminar of Prof. Schewe independent of my interest into the particular topic, as I can trust that we will present it in an audience-friendly way that allows participants to take something valuable away from it.”

CHAPTER FIVE

As explained, this event is responsible for my strong believe that a high-quality presentation style matters more than it is acknowledged for in the academic world. It will also have influence my future presentations. The same effect had our final course work, a “Mini-Conference” where we presented our proposals for our research projects. We had to follow a specific technique, where 20 slides are presented in 20*20 seconds; called Pecha Kucha. In “Textualities Conference 2017 – Or: The Most Rehearsed 6:40 Minutes of My Live“ I concluded:

“Pecha Kucha is a very effective mean to restrict the presenters’ time and thus to keep an event’s timetable. It forces the speakers to be precise and prevents them from relying too much on their slides.”

This is because

“Key to this presentation style is to have little to no words on the slide but a picture that gives away “the top of the iceberg” while the spoken text explains deeper context. Having been forced to rely entirely on the power of pictures, has changed my approach to presentations: I had been conscious to make slides lean and readable before, but this time it was taken to an extreme – and it worked. Where I usually believed that it might be helpful for the audience to have key ideas in writing, I now trust to place more emphasis on what I say.”

Probably even more important this event was an academic activity that I did not only attend, but of that I was an active part. It

“was a valuable test run and the atmosphere was surely different from a normal in-class-presentation: Everyone was clearly taking the event serious and I almost for the first time felt a responsibility to be well prepared for the audience’s sake and not only for my own one. Moreover, it was impressive to witness the question and discussion section after every panel of four presenters. The responses and input of the audience seemed to be very thought-provoking and a great help for some students. Unfortunately, my research interest on German business founders in Ireland seemed to be a little bit out of direction. I was looking into interested, but bewildered faces and the input with regards to content was limited.  … [Still,] I got the feeling of participating in a conference”.

CHAPTER 6

Another active contribution to academic knowledge sharing is described in the entry “’Wikipedia Editathon’ – An Assignment with Lasting Impact”. In addition to reflections on content selection, technical aspects and insights about the nature of Wikipedia, it was the perception of doing something that is actually meaningful that made this experience special:

“Once I had found out that there was no ‘Irish Journal‘ Wikipedia page out there, I started to feel a purpose of the task beyond completing just another assignment. When I was preparing the page content I was delighted by the idea that my efforts would not just end up in a forgotten computer file like student assignments usually do. With any luck, there will at some time someone be as grateful for the provided information as I always am. Therefore, I believe that more lectures should and hopefully will “force” their students to contribute to Wikipedia as part of their course work. However, I also hope that those students will not exaggerate it and will not make pages more academic and voluminous than necessary.”

THE FINAL CHAPTER

In the end, it is fair to say that I was forced on a journey from which I eventually benefited a lot. A constant reflection on 6 months of academic encounter certainly deepened this experience. I still do not feel an urge to “put myself online”, but I have opened up to it and acquired helpful skills to do so. Moreover, I have become more clear about my presentation style ideals. Finally, I have arrived in the academic world. The first image I used in my blog reflected a lot of caution, while the last one shows me presenting my research intentions.

Blog Bild

 

Work Cited

“Being in Love with a Research Seminar….” Quest for an Acadamic Identity, https://aonbheannach.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/being-in-love-with-a-research-seminar/. 30 March 2017.

“Feeling like a Postgraduate First Year Student – Still Trying to Gain Momentum.” Quest for an Acadamic Identity, https://aonbheannach.wordpress.com/2016/11/30/feeling-like-postgraduate-first-year-student-still-trying-to-gain-momentum/. 30 March 2017.

“Scholarly Blogging: It’s Getting Real – Is it?.” Quest for an Acadamic Identity, https://aonbheannach.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/first-blog-post/. 30 March 2017.

Textualities Conference 2017 – Or: The Most Rehearsed 6:40 Minutes of My Life.” Quest for an Acadamic Identity, https://aonbheannach.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/textualities-conference-2017-or-the-most-rehearsed-640-minutes-of-my-life/. 30 March 2017.

“’Wikipedia Editathon’ – An Assignment with Lasting Impact February.” Quest for an Acadamic Identity, https://aonbheannach.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/wikipedia-ediathon-an-assignment-with-lasting-impact/. 30 March 2017.

“When America Sneezes, the World Gets a Cold.” Quest for an Acadamic Identity, https://aonbheannach.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/when-america-sneezes-the-world-gets-a-cold/. 30 March 2017.

Textualities Conference 2017 – Or: The Most Rehearsed 6:40 Minutes of My Life

Meet “Pecha Kucha”

Friend: “How did your presentation go?

Me: “Better than expected, but it was really hard to make the timing when the 20 slides move on automatically every 20 seconds.”

Friend: “Pecha Kucha Style?”

Me: “Yes! Where have you heard of that?!”

Friend: “Haha, YOU told me about it ages ago! AGES!”

 

Oh, that was right… At least if 6 month qualify for “ages”. I had almost forgotten about it, but at the beginning of our Masters we were first informed that we would eventually hold an event to present our research proposals. At that time, I found the event’s labelling as “Mini-Conference” sounded quite belittling. However, over the course of the programme, as I became more aware of and immersed in the process of academic knowledge sharing, I started to appreciate the meaning of a “real” conference. Given this personal development, the time from September to March did indeed feel like “ages”. Surely, our “Mini-Conference” could not carry the same weight. Nevertheless, it was a valuable test run and the atmosphere was surely different from a normal in-class-presentation:

Everyone was clearly taking the event serious and I almost for the first time felt a responsibility to be well prepared for the audience’s sake and not only for my own one. Moreover, it was impressive to witness the question and discussion section after every panel of four presenters. The responses and input of the audience seemed to be very thought-provoking and a great help for some students. Unfortunately, my research interest on German business founders in Ireland seemed to be a little bit out of direction. I was looking into interested, but bewildered faces and the input with regards to content was limited.  So, while I got the feeling of participating in a conference, I also felt like attending the wrong one. Most of my class mates were presenting on English language literature, which for me definitely is more of a blind spot than an area of academic knowledge. Instead of giving substantial input, I felt at times like I could only comment on the Pictures:

picture tweet three

picture tweet two

Picture tweet one

Pictures are however crucial to Pecha Kucha and to highlight their selection was therefore not entirely inappropriate. Key to this presentation style is to have little to no words on the slide but a picture that gives away “the top of the iceberg” while the spoken text explains deeper context. Having been forced to rely entirely on the power of pictures, has changed my approach to presentations: I had been conscious to make slides lean and readable before, but this time it was taken to an extreme – and it worked. Where I usually believed that it might be helpful for the audience to have key ideas in writing, I now trust to place more emphasis on what I say. However, this only works if the picture is really to the point and it is shocking how much time the preparation of 20 good slides takes up:

Once you have an idea for an image in mind good luck finding it. You go through ten image databases, through 15 pages of Google search, change your key words five times and combine them differently, try another language and when you finally find the perfect motive it is copy-right protected or almost just as bad: totally pixelated. If it looks even slightly blurred on your computer, do not even consider using it for the big screen! Furthermore, you might want to change the composition of your slide as well. Just putting up 20 slides with one square picture each only meets the basic requirement, but rarely tells an interesting story. If you add unexpected elements to an image or combine two or more elements to create a new one, you clearly win your audience’s attention. However, this again comes along with much more effort to put in. If you need more than one element (e. g. clip arts of people doing different activities), you will have a tough job finding two that look good enough together. Not to mention the hours that fly by while you try to position elements straight, balanced and with equal distances to everything else on the slide.

Blog entry picture presentaionMe presenting a very personal opening slide in UCC’s North Council Room

The other big challenge of Pecha Kucha is the crucial importance of timing. The format does not allow for any mistakes or hesitations and god forbid you start to splutter or you need some water. Doing this in a foreign language certainly adds to the pressure. On the other hand, I have witnessed many academics who delivered their research so perfectly in English instead of their mother tongue that I hardly dare to claim this as an excuse.

Altogether, Pecha Kucha is a very effective mean to restrict the presenters’ time and thus to keep an event’s timetable. It forces the speakers to be precise and prevents them from relying too much on their slides. However, it requires an amount of preparation that is not always feasible or justifiable. The pure fact that I can still recite my entire presentation text without having even looked at it once in two weeks, demonstrates how much rehearsals had been necessary for a performance that still was not exactly to the point. In conclusion, I believe that my presentations skills have benefited from this unusual exercise. However, I deem it much more practical if more flexibility is maintained. While the aim can be kept at about 20 seconds per slide it, it is definitely less stressful when the actual slide change can be manually controlled. This reduces a lot of the pressure and makes this presentation style applicable in the long run.

“Wikipedia Editathon” – An Assignment with Lasting Impact

Here you can read about quite an experience that resulted in an unusually long post which is hopefully compensated by a well enough structure.

 

By the time the actual assignment started, my feeling about it had actually already changed for the better, but I could not help to be a little bit melodramatic anyway:

hungergames-tweet

Read below how I overcame different obstacles so that a daunting task eventually turned out to be not such a bad thing that had quite an impact.

Identify your potential for contribution: a problem that is no problem, but still can be problematic…

The first time I was told about “the Wikipedia thing” was months before it became relevant. An assignment where I should improve Wikipedia?? That sounded so daunting that I suppressed any further thoughts about it. Unlike many people, I am quite a big fan of Wikipedia. I use it almost daily; not for academic purposes but for almost everything else. Even though I know that it is created by laymen, I trust it almost blindly – and so far it never backfired. While I relied on printed encyclopaedias until 10 years ago, Wikipedia has proved to be so much more detailed and up-to-date since. As I felt that I owe half of my knowledge to this online source, I could not imagine that there might be anything I know that Wikipedia doesn’t. Fortunately, this turned out to be one of the few problems that vanish without actively addressing them.

When our lecturer formally introduced the idea of the assignment, which really could be anything from correcting typos to provide citation or creating new pages, I suddenly saw room for improvement everywhere. Actually, I had quite often felt that a page structure was not ideal or that there was much more that could have been said. I more often than not refer to the German as well as the English Wikipedia page for the same topic in order to squeeze out as many information as possible. From that I was more than aware that scope, structure and design can vary greatly. Therefore, it should be ridiculously easy to simply find a German page and synchronise the English one, right? Not quite. First, it is usually the English page that is more comprehensive than the German one. Moreover, according to my understanding the assignment was not about updating anything, but something that had to do with our MA Thesis research interest. In my case that is the perceptions of German-Irish relations; but perceptions are not exactly a topic for an encyclopaedia. What had caused me some headache, eventually resolved easily. German author Heinrich Böll’s “Irish Journal” (Irisches Tagebuch) had shaped the German perception of Ireland for decades and still serves as a reference point to track changes of those.

When you have decided to update a page that doesn’t exist…

Once I had decided to make my Wikipedia contribution to the “Irish Journal” page, I could not wait to go home and see what it actually looks like. I was quite nervous and feared especially that the page might be that comprehensive that I could not possibly add anything valuable. My only hope was that – given that the book is German – there was something on the German page that I could transfer to the English one. I had prepared myself for everything, except for what happened. The page did not even exist!!! Wikipedia Search, Google Search, slightly differing titles, search for existing inter-page links. It really didn’t exist. I was quite shocked and here the whole thing for me stopped being about an assignment. I felt very strongly that there had to be a page about the book and it seemed to be my responsibility to take care of it. The only thing that worried me was that our  ususally so“look-everything-is-so-amazingly-easy” tech-savvy lecturer had explicitly warned us about creating a completely new page. But whatever pitfall there may be, however unwise it might turn out to be, I felt the urge for an “Irish Journal” page and couldn’t help to go for it.

Bringing a new page to life…

It might actually have been advantageous that it was not recommended to create a new page, because it made me making an extra effort for preparation. Setting up an account was surprisingly easy, but gave me the immediate power to change and create sides – or as I felt at that point: to mess with Wikipedia. Ideally, everyone has a “sandbox” to practice without interfering with the actual encyclopaedia. Less ideally, I really could not figure out what I was doing in this sandbox. Likewise, the meant to be fun and helpful “Wikipedia Adventure” guide tour only added to my confusion. I felt like in my first week on Facebook, when you have no idea who actually sees your posts or messages in the different spaces. Fortunately there are plenty of Wikipedia pages on how Wikipedia works of which “Wikipedia:Contributing to Wikipedia” is usually the starting point. It is almost inevitable to get lost in all links, however I often got back to these three pages: “Wikipedia:Your first article”, Help:Edit and especially “Help:Wiki markup”

There are two ways of working with Wikipedia: Wiki markup and the VisualEditor. I soon got the impression that the programming-language-like Wiki markup was the original tool while the other one was added to make it easier for less tech-savvy persons to participate. The advantage of working with the VisualEditor is that it looks almost like the final page, however, there are certain limits of what can be done with this tool. As I could not find out how to use it for the creation of a new page anyway, I decided to go with Wiki markup. As I could not make anything in the sandbox looking at least remotely like an actual page, I had to experiment with the real thing – always extremely conscious to not accidently hit the save button. I made myself familiar with the creation of a new page, the table of content and (sub-) headings, with how to change font sizes or make it italic or bold, with the creation of links to other pages and with citations – and I prayed to god that it was enough to bring a decent page to life.

“Facts, facts, facts and also consider the readership…”

Apart from the technical challenges there was the question of content. Interestingly thinking about an appropriate structure made me more consciously realizing how much the style and content of Wikipedia pages differ. My first instinct was of course to refer to the existing German page. However, I didn’t like it very much and even worse the parts that I found interesting and that I had liked to include were not referenced. This seems generally to be more accepted on German pages. Fortunately, I found eventually reliable sources for all these facts and much more, but I wondered how much to include. I believe the answer to that depends very much on the purpose of the user. Sometimes I could use much more information than is provided, but on the other hand an all too detailed page can prevent a short overview for an unknown user. Having this in mind, I tried to find a middle way through including more than the publication year and chapter titles, but no detailed analysis about the chapters’ rearrangements. The advantage of creating a new page was the total freedom concerning its structure. That allowed me to accommodate all information I considered relevant in a somewhat logical order, however, I ended up having quite specific subsections and I wonder if future editors might find it hard to integrate. Another problem that occurred was that I would have liked to include the information that Böll sometimes exaggerated facts to make a better story. I have read somwhere that while a doctor’s night service is compensated by a cooper kettle in the book, he had actually just been paid normally. However, I had read this in a journalist’s article and I had no idea from where he had his information. So, I felt that the information was too unsubstantiated to be used, but I had not questioned its rightfulness before. That made me realize how often we believe information quite uncritically. On the other hand, they mostly turn out to be right and are called general knowledge.

If you need a break and like flat jokes watch this. Or if you like How I Met Your Mother… This happens when you cannot do course work without Netflix breaks…

When it works quite well and you feel like a king…

When our actual updating session began, the biggest challenges lay already in the past, but it was the crucial point that would decide if the efforts were eventually rewarded or if the whole thing resulted in a catastrophe after all. Much to my relief, most things worked pretty well thanks to a trial and error approach, the preview button and some help from our lecturer. Sometimes I had to make compromises especially regarding style and layout and one particularly difficult citation issue. Here, I felt the benefit of a shared responsibility with a broad community to which I could leave the issues that I was not able to figure out. Even though Wikipedia is not about the person who wrote it, but about the content, I could not avoid feeling ownership and proud of it. I was not very fond of the idea that someone may come along and delete parts of it or otherwise “improve” it in a way that I might find unprofitable, but I guess that is the way it is. So instead of worrying about this too much, I just enjoyed to look at the newly created page for the moment. The only thing that spoilt this a little bit was an error just in the title. I had created a page for “Irish journal” instead of “Irish Journal”, but since this was part of the URL I didn’t see an easy fixture. That gave me the opportunity to make my first use of the Talk-page and ask the community for help. Indeed, it did not take long until someone had fixed it. Much to my relief he had even marked it with the “m” for minor changes, so it hopefully was not too cumbersome. Apart from that there were few more changes until today. Someone didn’t like the external link to the German Wikipedia source. I believed it was a good idea because of the nature of the topic, but maybe it is against the etiquette. Moreover, the first words were put into bold and italic – fair enough –, a typo corrected – thank you – and a category added. This left me with ambivalent feelings. On the one hand I was relieved that no one felt the need to smash the page, on the other hand I would have liked to see what other might find important to add.

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Final thoughts…

Once I had found out that there was no “Irish Journal” Wikipedia page out there, I started to feel a purpose of the task beyond completing just another assignment. When I was preparing the page content I was delighted by the idea that my efforts would not just end up in a forgotten computer file like student assignments usually do. With any luck, there will at some time someone be as grateful for the provided information as I always am. Therefore, I believe that more lectures should and hopefully will “force” their students to contribute to Wikipedia as part of their course work. However, I also hope that those students will not exaggerate it and will not make pages more academic and voluminous than necessary.

The assignment has helped me to understand Wikipedia better. A week after the Editathon, I came across a page that was so well referenced that I immediately suspected it must have been updated as part of some kind of a student assignment. With my newly acquired skills, I knew that I might find out more via the “View History” section. To my surprise, I was able to find out exactly who did it. It was one of my fellow student during the Editathon. Personally, I see the “product” Wikipedia with different eyes, since I had a look behind the scenes of production. For example, I recognize more details about a page’s composition. And when I come across a missing hyperlink in future, I now know how easy it is to fix it and I might make many such small contributions. However, it is now also more consciously in my mind what everyone knows, but what nevertheless is easy to ignore: The content of any given page is not God-given or objectively selected. It is a collection of what some people consider relevant and lacks everything they don’t.

Being in Love with a Research Seminar…

This January I attended very much by chance a research seminar that I found most inspiring. Interestingly this had less to do with its content but more with its delivery. I literally learnt about it only 10 minutes before it started. Coming from a very enjoyable first class of my Irish-German relations course, I decided that it could not hurt to attend the event about German author Bertolt Brecht, whose name was familiar to me while many background details were not. However, instead of diving directly into the topic, presenter Manfred Schewe (Professor of Drama & Theatre at UCC) made the bold statement that we all had must have come with some expectations and he asks us to reflect on these expectations. The first thought this provoked in me was a somewhat dismissive “Not true for me.” I had honestly believed not to expect anything from it. However, this direct request to reflect on the expectations made me realize that even though mine were not specific, I nevertheless had some: at the very least to kill some time and as best-case-scenario to take away something interesting from it. I had just reached this conclusion and found it quite brilliant that Prof. Schewe had evoked this in me, when he ended the reflective pause with the announcement that the believed our expectation was that he would sing. He then started out of the blue to perform Brecht’s “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” (Mack the Knife). I cannot speak for the rest of the audience, but this was in the least what I had expected at all. The performance (which was close to the one in the upper YouTube video, though various other interpretations exist) seemed quite bizarre, however it resourcefully set the tone of highly intellectual madness. What followed next was again a rather unusual creative approach, where Prof. Schewe assigned an adjective to each letter of B-R-E-C-H-T to introduce different aspects and to contrast certain opposites. Just like its well-conceived start, the whole presentation continued to be a perfectly balanced mix with regard to content as well as means of presentation. An extraction of Brecht’s childhood memories was read from a book, but then a Power-Point-embedded video was used to show a witty Brecht who in his late forties is interrogated by Americans about his potential connection to communism. Power-Point was also used to support some more presented facts including a table with Brecht’s most prominent works.

Performance Style similar to Manfred Schewe in the Seminar (singing starts at 0:28)

Frank Sinatra sings English version “Mack The Knife” in different style.

However, in between this a flavour of some of Brecht’s works was given every here and then. Again, I was impressed by the way this was done. Prof. Schewe had brought someone to assist him there. He would read a German passage, followed by the English translation read by the assistant. Longer texts were broken down, so that the translation could be closely linked to the German original. This was an excellent way to accommodate an audience of different language abilities. The presentation was given in English so this language could be clearly expected to be understood. However, I recognized at least some native German speakers as well as Irish people with a good command of German. It would have been a pity to deprive those of the German originals as translations do not always do justice to literary material. On the other hand, not everyone’s German might have been sufficient to follow the German text only, so that this material would have been lost on them. Finally, if one was able to understand both versions, this resulted in the opportunity to compare original and translation. In my opinion the involvement of a second person added enormous value to this approach. A change of voice clearly signalled the change from original to translation. Of course, it is easy to consciously recognize such a change anyway, but with a change of speaker one unconsciously knows it even before really knowing it. Perhaps it was particularly beneficial that the assistant was female which increased the contrast of voices. When a long presentation is given by one single speaker, there is always the danger of an audience’s accidental digression. Even more so, when he repeats the same content in a different language. A second speaker is a good remedy to prevent this from happening. Furthermore, I think it demonstrates a high esteem for the audience to make the effort of engaging an assistant speaker. This high appreciation could be felt throughout the whole event. It made me once more realize how important an elaborated presentation is, which unfortunately seems often to be undervalued in the academic world. This research seminar was entertaining while maintaining a very sophisticated intellectual level and it stimulated the brain strongly and lasting. I surely took some interesting ideas away from it. However, as indicated before it was the way the content was delivered that impacted me most. I might well try to incorporate one thing or another into one of my future presentations (e. g. the use of adjectives whose capital letters form the title). And I will most certainly attend any future research seminar of Prof. Schewe independent of my interest into the particular topic, as I can trust that we will present it in an audience-friendly way that allows participants to take something valuable away from it.

When America Sneezes, the World Gets a Cold

Few of my class mates could avoid having a post on Donald Trump or at least referring to him when talking about his “twelve-century equivalent”. Nor can I. While Trump’s election was certainly a big surprise and I dare say a shock in many parts of the world, I only started to realize what it meant for Americans when I happened to end up as the only German among a group of them two evenings after the election. I witnessed their emotional response and sensed much more despair than I had experienced from German friends. We surely thought future was in danger with “our friend America’s” new ruler and believed no one could feel more dramatic about it than we, but only the direct comparison to the Americans’ desperation made me realize that we had already started to accept the fact of his election and moved on with our lives while they were still paralysed. Personally, I really appreciated the opportunity to experience a worldwide event in a third country. Especially in a country that seems even closer connected to the country of the event’s origin, be it through the language, the heritage or a less self-centred economy. Ironically, the Irish have always managed to claim an (however far remoted) Irish heritage of the American president from Kennedy to “O´Bama”, but they are probably less inclined to find it for this particular one. Trump’s German connection however is hardly deniable even though the Germans had never been eager to have a president “from their ranks”.

UCC’s “America in the Era of Trump” symposium that took place in the week of Trump’s inauguration gave an excellent opportunity to experience opinions in Ireland beyond a level of interaction with people and media coverage. Moreover, it contributed to my attempts of becoming more familiar with the academic world. Indeed, it was the first time that I could sense some personal progress as it indeed felt familiar. After I had attended quite a few of academic events and encountered different formats, I recognized that apparently one particular structure was favoured. It almost seemed like there was an unspoken agreement that this was the most reasonable structure and that one should try to follow it; at least in humanities in Ireland. The (rather few) events I had attended in Germany had been structured differently, however, I do not think that I can judge this comprehensively. The format I am talking about is a series of short presentations by four speakers, followed by a moderated Q&A session and the symposium followed this approach exactly. I also noticed that tweeting was particularly addressed at the beginning of the event, however not in a very devoted way. It was merely acknowledged that it is becoming increasingly popular to tweet about events and that whoever felt inclined to do so should just use one of general Trump-hashtags. Altogether, Twitter had been referred to at approximately one third of the research seminars I went to this year. I think it is nice to see that what we learn is actually relevant, but it is also good to know that some can do (yet) without it. A finale thing, I wish to highlight about the conduct of the symposium is the moderator’s excellent request at the beginning of the Q&A part to limit the own contribution – if one could not do without it – to one sentence and to just ask a question. Such a reminder should be mandatory whenever an event is handed over to the audience, since the urge to demonstrate one owns knowledge seems to be even more common than the format of four moderated speakers, as even I have become aware of by now. Considering people’s emotional engagement with Trump, the moderator’s remark was probably needed even more than ususal and it actually worked.

Fun Fact: American presidents age three times faster during their terms. Wait for the end!

A pity was however that the first speaker had a quite pessimistic look on the whole situation, with the only silver lining being that it might operate as wake-up call for the media. The subsequent speakers tried to follow the moderator’s call to find a little bit more optimistic words, however, those attempts were rather poor and demonstrated even more that the speakers did not find much positive about it. This made obvious that opinions of the speakers were not very various. Maybe it is too much to ask for diverse opinions given this particular topic, but I still feel that it would have enriched the event. A central theme and (hope) was the idea that Trump might not last for the entire election period, but in fact be forced to resign after about a year. Second speaker Harry Browne (Dublin Institute of Technology School of Media) reasoned that Trump had hostilely taken over the Republican party and that those he took over from were still there and had the CIA in their corner. However, he also pointed out that the CIA would not necessarily be better and that a fight between these two dangerous parties might be the best for the world. That was about as positive as it got. Let’s hope for the best, because as we all know: when America sneezes, the world gets a cold.

Feeling like a Postgraduate First Year Student – Still Trying to Gain Momentum

Another month is gone and my blog record does not reflect my stated intention to give the whole research blogging a real chance. However, the fact that nothing of consequence was put into writing, does not mean that I was not constantly thinking about potential blog entries. An event is experienced differently when every impulse is instantly reviewed in terms of its suitability as initial point for a blog entry. This enriched thinking process alone is a not easily made visible benefit of having a research blog. Additionally, I felt inclined to understand the reason for its emptiness. This made me realize that my urge to get my words out to the world is limited. That is partly, because thoughts on any topic are so much shaped by personal experience. In order to explain plausibly how a conclusion was reached or how a perception is motivated, (too) much personal information is required. I feel a certain hesitation to give away these insights, especially online. Furthermore, I am not convinced (enough) that the world has waited for and needs to know what my thoughts are. A fellow student’s perception fed into this. He felt that we can create our blogs like they were for real, but in the end, we are just some MA students pretending to have important things to say. Here, I became to realize that is part of our agenda as postgraduate students to start to take ourselves more seriously. However, to fully internalize this belief is quite a challenge and requires a long process of small transformation. For me personally it started when a lecturer commented on approaching academic staff at the university: “I know that undergraduate students feel sometime awkward about contacting stuff, but I really hope you start to see us as peers really.” I think few of us have, but it is flattering that we should. This short sentence was said as part of a long session. It was spontaneously stated and certainly not the intended takeaway message of that lecture. However, it was probably the one with greatest impact for me. It is therefore a great example of how any event can bring about at least a little piece that eventually advances oneself – often unexpectedly and unintendedly.

In this spirit, I threw myself into a lot of new academic experiences. They varied significantly with respect to format as well as content. Eventually, it was this variety that was more valuable than any of these particular events. As I did a business degree in another country, I find myself in a position where I am treated like a postgraduate humanities student, but really feel like a first year one. Obviously, my intention was to broaden my horizon and I embrace the opportunities given, however, they also make me all too aware of my own limitations. Everything is new and unknown, while my fellow students draw comparisons with similar events they have attended before. My understanding of the academic world is still constantly being shaped. So what were the events I participated in this month and how did they influence this understanding? I attended a master class on sociology (1), a seminar of the Women’s History Association of Ireland on the context of the 1919 Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act (2), a lecture on Seán Lemass and the violence of the Irish Revolution (3)and a student-organized political debate on whether or not Northern Ireland was abandoned by the Republic (4). The master class (1) negotiated the position of sociology from very different angles. The audience was reminded that Ireland is not sympathetic with sociology because this field was so long occupied with the country’s religion. I liked the idea that experts are nowadays only interesting for the public domain if they can generalize and transfer their knowledge to other topics. The question of how sociologists should deal with their students was also prominently addressed. I appreciated the event as a reminder of how important it is to engage with questions concerning the direction of an overall area rather than one own’s field of study only. In contrast, the women’s history seminar (2) was more topic focused. It was a master piece of how historical events can be tied to contemporary issues. For example, as a subtle way of exclusion the “similar-to-me-effect” was introduced. As an invitation was needed to become a member of associations, and those were given to people resembling the existing members, changes were impeded. Equal fundamental barriers still exist, e. g. when it comes to mentoring in the business world. Even more future-oriented was the introduction of the Vote100 campaign – a UK Parliament’s project to commemorate 100 years of the vote for some women and all men in 2018. Among other activities it is planned to rebuild (the often distressing) physical circumstances in which women participated in or witnessed politics – if at all. This idea fascinated not only myself, Irish scholars started to wonder in how far similar information are available about the womens’ physical positions at the Leinster house. This demonstrated exceptionally the way that research ideas are shared and how they might extend to become new projects. Despite all the brilliant impulses, the event brought about a distressing factor. All speakers were female and there were merely two men among a dozen women in the audience. In general, research areas are all too often occupied by academics who were driven to it by some sort of personal connection. While this is very understandable and even brings about some advantages, I sometimes feel that many fields would benefit from a more diversified background of its researchers.

 

Scholarly Blogging: It’s Getting Real – Is it?

My first blog entry is devoted to my concerns about scholarly blogging and how I came to the conclusion that it is nevertheless worth trying it.

I recall from my childhood how some children TV programs explored the stories behind critical inventions that changed the life of humanity. Very often the tale of the poor, missunderstood, but heroic inventor was told, whose visions were wrongfully contradicted by a conservative narrow-minded (scientific) society. The narratives included advancements such as Thomas Edison’s light bulb or Carl Benz’s car. As I was experiencing the benefits of these very same inventions, I found it unbelievable how the community of the inventor’s time would object to these innovations even after they had become available. Of course, I wasn’t really able to reflect the concept of hindsight at that age. Therefore, I easily judged those people as being stupid for ridiculing change instead of embracing it. I was very much convinced that I would never be the same and swore to always be delighted about advancements. This was in the mid-nineties and at the time when my parents got their first personal Computer.

I tried to imagine what the next major changes would be, but I could not dream of the developments of the next decade and the even faster progressions since then. I loved the improvements of the internet in terms of speed and usability, but I was never in pursuit of the latest technology. When the smartphone was introduced in 2007, I was not much impressed. Quite the opposite was the case. I disliked the effect that instant availability of the internet had on the culture of conversations. Many questions that would have been lively discussed before, where now easily solved by someone who had googled the answer. Likewise, I was rather reluctant to join social networks, mainly due to concerns about data privacy. I avoided joining them for quite some time, but had to give in eventually, because using them had become almost inevitable. Still, I am far away from posting every five minutes. As I was reflecting on these developments and my attitudes towards them, I reached a somewhat surprising and unpleasant conclusion. There was some evidence that I was not as open toward progress as I had always believed I would be. Would I have been one of those people that I found so stupid when they objected to the car as being inferior to carriages? I found this idea of myself rather shocking and I try to keep it in mind as a guiding tool since.

These thoughts are the background of my mixed feelings towards research blogging. From my module on research skills, I expected to get advice on how to improve my writing with regard to traditional paper-based academic work. Instead it was made clear that one of our main tasks would be to run a research blog as well as to ensure its interactivity. My first response was: Can they really force me to open a Twitter account (@Aonbheannach16)?! My second: I am not sure if that is me. This feeling is shared by a number of scholars, who are horrified by a development that is increasingly placing more emphasis on visibility via online networking. An anonymous author has expressed some of his concerns in his comment: “I’m a serious academic, not a professional Instagrammer”.

I think a lot of such resistance can be attributed to being uncomfortable with the newly developed style of (academic) interaction; a state of mind, which to condemn would make me a hypocrite, because this is not exactly within my comfort zone either, as surely became clear by now. I wonder however, if such perceived discomfort entitles us to refuse changing game rules. Securing funds for research is another necessity that many scholars find unpleasant. Indeed, it is a nuisance and it might impose restrictions on independency and consume valuable time of research experts. Nevertheless, it is an inevitable part of the academic world – and so increasingly is online networking. One concern, raised by the above-mentioned comment, is however, more than valid: The problem of attention that is taken away from a presenter’s input by participants who simultaneously following a conference and commenting on it online. On the other hand, is Scholarly blogging often considered as a tool to facilitate knowledge-sharing. I wonder, however, if the honourable objective of accessible knowledge might be contradicted by an uncontrollable flood of comments of varying quality. Moreover, I am worried about the rights that are given to social network providers over the content that is spread by using their product.

These concerns and my personal attitude towards the use of social media made me at first somewhat reluctant to welcome the demanded course work. This changed when our lecturer Donna Alexander portrayed the opportunities that can arose from an actively managed blog. She convincingly explained the surplus of an established online visibility: receiving invitations to seminars, which in turn allow to further grow the network, having proven track record of a readership, getting valuable feedback and even (paid) offers to transform a blog entry’s topic into an article. As promising as all this sounded, the greatest impact made the reminder of the importance of visibility – and how blogging is an important (complementing) tool to generate it. Admittedly, all this is not the most urging concern for a Master student. The biggest immediate benefit from blogging will probably come from the affords of writing a structured text. However, I now feel privileged to be introduced to this emerging style of scholarly engagement at an early stage. That is why I have decided to fulfil the given tasks not as unavoidable burden. Instead I hope to benefit from efforts to manage the challenge of blogging and online exchange as resourcefully as possible. And I have a feeling that in the end, there is one thing that I will have developed even more than my research skills – myself.