Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Branding as a Grad Student and Scholar

I've been thinking a lot the last couple of weeks about what exactly my work does. Not the point of it per se, but rather, what is my argument? What do I contribute? What gap does my scholarship and specifically my dissertation fill?

On a separate but related note, I cut all my hair off last week.
I went from this:
 To this.
My hair hasn't been this short in almost twenty years. So the last few weeks have been full of radical changes.

I immediately took pictures and posted them online, changing avatars across platforms. But while this is cute, it's not professional, so I had it on my list to make sure I took a professional picture I could make my avatar before the end of the summer.
I really hate selfies, and a lot of selfie culture, but there you go. So this morning, using a carefully balanced set of paperbacks to prop up my camera, and waiting a bit for the high desert sun to be in the right place, I took my new, carefully constructed, avatar picture, and then made sure it replaced my avatar on all my main platforms.
This is what I ended up with.
It's me, but it's also a carefully constructed image of me. I like my garden, and the stucco wall makes a good background. The snake pin is a conscious call out to my work on the devil, as is the color scheme. This past year I bought several shirts in this color for the express purpose of wearing them to conferences. Part of making myself identifiable.
I used to do this through a Twitter handle of "Tie Girl" and wearing ties all the time which was very successful. But dealing with anxieties last year made ties impossible to wear, and teaching high school again meant some changes in wardrobe anyway, so I've shifted to this. While I still like my ties I can also admit that this look is much more comfortable, and hence, more me.

You'll notice in both my Twitter, and Blogger pages that my shelf display of my adorable crocheted present of a devil against my devil scholarship is the background. I like this because it's cute, it's clear, and it shows a lot of the scholars my work interacts with. It also clearly works, because I've had people comment on each of these elements.

As part of rethinking, re-visioning my dissertation these last few weeks, I've also been tweeting about it differently.
I have not been using my #DevilDiss hashtag. For a variety of reasons, but one is that I need to focus less on my process, and HOW I'm writing it, and more on the actual argument. So I've been using my tweets as short statements of argument, in addition to Irene Clark's function outlines, to clarify for myself exactly what I'm trying to say.
I imagine too this will mean a shift in how I blog with more of a focus of using Blogger to write and think out smaller pieces of my argument and less on the "look how cool this process is."

My Blogger has a slightly wider shot of the same shelf, with the same avatar. I also make sure that my blurb about what my work does is copy and pasted across platforms for consistency. I rewrote my "my work does X" statement this past week as I thought and rethought exactly what the throughline in all my pieces was.
I do not use Linked In.
I unsubscribed from the emails.
I usually only go on there on days like today when I need to change my avatar. But while I don't post to it regularly I do maintain it because it comes up in search results. So I make sure it says what I want to say.
So I do try to post some of the more professional writings. So not the Blogger post links, but for example when In Media Res ran my short video essay as a companion to the short piece I wrote for Cinema Journal on the folkloric forest in Twin Peaks, I posted the link to that.
I also make sure my UNM English Department graduate student page is up to date.
I am also very good about self-publicizing. In this Dr. Will Brooker has been an inspiration. I remember him mentioning a few years ago about the importance between sharing your work, getting it out there, and having the confidence to do so, and just being someone who only uses social media FOR that and not for connections or support. That has stuck with me.
So when I publish something, or present at a conference I make sure to fill out our department's form to publicize it.

I think it's about balancing being savvy about your work and being genuine.
So more good, focused things that come up in a search for me.

Another thing I do is every couple of months is I Google Search myself, not only to make sure that I'm presenting what I want, but also to see what comes up. A lot of things I can't control, like the biased and awful RMP. But I do know what's out there, and if every asked there's a narrative or explanation.
My blog posts and other scholarly writings come up in a search of me, as do Web 2.0 tool accounts with resources I've created for teaching.
I also have a Google Scholar alert for "K. Shimabukuro" which is what I mostly publish under.
But mostly this just returns results of the K. Shimabukuro who is an M.D doctor, and works on bone related things. Grandpa Hank says Shimabukuro is the equivalent of Smith in Hawaii and Okinawa where we're from, so these don't surprise me.
I am also not related to this guy, as I have to explain every time I have students come back from vacationing in Hawaii.
A few months ago I had a student threaten me, so now in my searches I also look very carefully to see how much personal information is available, as this student was able (I still don't know how) to get my home address and ask if it was a good place to find me.
That, and another misogynistic incident, has made me a little more wary.
While I enjoy being a public scholar, and think it's important, these types of things are now the world we live in. So it's important to be aware and do what we can to address.
These incidents are also the reason I no longer try to use Twitter in the classroom. I tried twice, it failed, for different reasons I think, but this one student so easily used what I innocuously tweeted under the class hashtag against me that it was scary. So I don't do it anymore. I know others use it with great success and I'd like to revisit it, but admit to be a little too raw about it all.

The important thing to me in all this is that I present the different facets of what is important to me in my work (scholarship, public engagement, teaching) and that my online presence creates a unified picture. So that the threads between my medieval, early modern, folklore, and popular culture work are clear.

At conferences the first thing I do is hack my badge. I add my Twitter handle, but I also draw a little devil me on it. It's my way of providing information, but also presenting myself as a brand.
At #Kzoo16 I was reminded how much I hated the conference badges on strings. They blow in your face. And I think they encourage people to look at your chest and not your face. Which I have issues with. So since I usually attend 2-3 conferences a year, and it was inexpensive on Amazon, I thought I'd make my own conference badge holder, to carry in my conference binder, and as a bonus have it showcase my own personal scholarly branding.
I was ridiculously proud of the results.
Of course, I'm not a Dr. yet, so I can't use it for a while, but it'll be great when I can.
I've also changed by @ handle to @LuciferArgues but imagine once graduated I'll return to the above, so that's fine too. If not, like I said, this was cheap and could easily be replaced.

Revisiting all of this, and updating my blurb and avatar has also clarified/reminded me of a few things for me about the dissertation:
  • It's not a Milton dissertation. While I believe Milton's Satan to be the end in the evolution in the figure, my dissertation is on the devil, not Milton.
    • I thought my hashtag #DevilDiss helped me stay focused on this but again I think I got stuck on process not product so now need to make sure the dissertation actually ARGUES this.
  • Visuals have rhetorics. The visual rhetoric of the devil is the foundation on which everything else is built.
    • This is why I've reorganized my dissertation so this is the first, and foundational, chapter.
  • These rhetorics then act as a short hand for narratives, enabling them to mention, then dismiss, appearance and get to what the author really wants to talk about.
    • This is how hagiographies, early modern drama, pamphlets, and Paradise Lost use the English devil, as a vehicle for other things (mainly the fears, anxieties, and desires of that historical and cultural moment).
  • Arguments should be clear, concise, and to the point.
    • There should be a clear argumentative thread that can be traced across works, chapters, subsections.
So those are the things I do to brand myself and my work. I know there are some who do not understand a grad student or early scholar wanting to share so much of their work or process online. I know others who think it's dangerous. That it will be held against us. Or that people can steal our work.
I both understand those concerns and recognize they are not my concerns.
My public scholarship has given me far more than it has cost me. It has gotten me book chapters, conference roundtables, articles, and online posts. It has gotten me an online support network. It has gotten me scholarly input. PDFs of hard to find articles, help, advice. There have been days and weeks where I do not know how I would have gotten through the day without my online system. Particularly these last few weeks.
But I do understand there are pitfalls. And those are some of the reasons why I curate my presence the way I do. I think it's important, and more and more, I think it's going to become the accepted direction. Already I know scholars who put their social media work on their CVs as a form of service. But it is important to do it right. And I think as grad students, figuring out HOW we want to present ourselves also helps us figure out how we want to present our work and what we want to say.

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