Updates Galore

My third year as a PhD student has been, in a word, insane. While I certainly worked a lot during my first and second years, it feels like everything has begun to fall into place during the third. Here’s some things I’ve recently noticed and/or experienced:

  1. I have consumed enough of the extant literature in my little pimple on the face of human knowledge that I am finally feeling comfortable engaging in lively discussions about my research and my field more generally. This was an especially wonderful observation when I realized I no longer had to write out a “script” and pseudo-memorize it when I was giving talks. As outgoing of a person as I am, I generally freak out before speaking in front of a group, be it a classroom of 25 students or a conference room with 100 other academics. It was only at the beginning of this year when I was at the HICSS conference that I had a minor epiphany and realized that I know my research and should be confident in talking about it (and not worry about minor spells of forgetfulness when I get asked a question from left field).
  2. Lecturing in front of students is, in some ways, even scarier, because I’m not talking about my area of expertise. But as my friends who are more experienced in teaching keep reminding me: even if I don’t know everything, I still know more than the students in the class (hopefully). Now that I’m finally getting some experience as an instructor I’m realizing that it’s not quite as terrifying as I originally imagined. It’s still a ton of work, but I think it’s worth it. I can’t deny, however, how much easier it will be when I don’t need to spend hours-days prepping for one lecture.
  3. Academic publishing sucks in many ways. The worst is the publishing cycle. From initial submission to publication, years can go by. Years! When you work in a field that is constantly evolving, this is especially problematic. Imagine people doing cutting edge research on Friendster back in the day and having their amazing study be published and Friendster is already old news. This happens all the time and can be very discouraging. That said, 2011 appears to be the year when everything seems to be falling in place regarding publishing for me. Check out my CV for full details, but I’m especially proud to have three journal articles out or coming out this year, each on very different aspects of communication technology use: (1) Facebook use and political participation; (2) students’ repurposing of Facebook for classroom organizing; and (3) cyberslacking behaviors in the workplace.
  4. While not within reach, my PhD is starting to become visible on the horizon. In just a few weeks, I will begin collecting data for my prelim, which is a large research project I need to perform (in lieu of comps) before I can become ABD (all-but dissertation). For this study, I’m focusing on the role that context collapse (i.e., the flattening of multiple audiences into one) plays in self-presentation on social network sites. I’ll be collecting both quantitative (survey) and qualitative (interview) data for this research and am getting very excited to get this study underway!
  5. On that note, I’ll be talking about the changing roles of audience and self-presentation online at the Theorizing the Web conference in College Park, MD on April 9. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone there and especially chatting with professors who work in the area, since I’ll be moving back to MD in less than a year.
  6. I also received the exciting news earlier this week that I’ve been selected for the Consortium for the Science of Sociotechnical Systems (CSST) Summer Research Institute, being held this June. This is a NSF-sponsored program that pairs advanced doctoral students and pre-tenure faculty with more senior researchers in the field to help grow as socio-technical researchers.

Needless to say, a lot has been going on lately, with even more happening as this year progresses. It’s turning into quite the wild ride, so I’m just trying to hold on and enjoy myself.