🗣Lesson #2. the conversation you’re in👀

A blog to briefly declare something I did not know, I did not know. A truth of academic research that is perhaps true of many exchanges, except in academic conversations only the words need to be alive…

Have you ever observed two people who are evidently having different conversations with each other? Each exchange appearing to further distance one from the other, but both using the same phrases whilst meaning quite contextually different things. Both are people you wish to converse with, but what conversation are they actually having? And what are you to add to such confused disagreement between friends?

As the observer you initially just note disagreement. Only by listening a while, and understanding the friends wider positional norms, does the disconnect become heard. You note it first, because you have tried to ground both sets of comments. But soon one or both talkers note it too. One space of discourse, but three people with three ideas of what conversation is being had, or what arena it is sitting within.

This is lesson #2 of my PhD journey – second lesson of so very many. Lesson #2, entitled “know what conversation you are in”. Lesson #1 {here}

🔎Finding the right conversation📚📕📗📘📙

This notion of academic discourse as a conversation is from chapter 1, of Anne Sigismund Huff (2009) “Designing Research for Publication”. This seems such an obvious insight once pointed out, but one I have been blind to up to now – it is key to understanding what it is I am really engaged with. A better way to explain what academic writing is, and the role the scholarly contributors represent.

As my supervisor explained last week, “we are not seeking problems to solve, we are advancing what was until now partially unknown”. Or as was observed when comparing notes on presenting in conference settings, in an academic conference you are presenting to the experts, and who is not nervous in doing that? Expect those experts to engage from the last thing or the better thing already said. Put another way, the scholar finds themselves in the middle of an ongoing conversation, and we are expected to have heard all that has been said despite not being there.

That is in essence what my first month of a PhD has taught me. That not only am I yet to elucidate my problem, but even as that now emerges, I am yet to even know the conversation I am joining – and which ones I am not.

🙋🏻‍♀️🤦🏽🙇🏼‍♂️Scholars collectively converse – intellectuals individually know💁‍♂️

A second part to this lesson is the reorientation of my assumed role. This PhD is not about becoming the intellectual, but about the scholarly pursuit. In the same way that the problem solving is the consulting role. Problem clarity is the role, and the understanding that emerges is all.

Huff (2009) explains this both as the conversation we are engaging in, and that the scholarly role is both as sense-maker and as sense-giver. We are contributing to the advancement of the knowledge, but we are also restating clearly what has been said before. We are conversing, and revisiting the discourse that has been had. The reader of our work is both being offered what is new, but being given a chance afresh to validate what understanding it adds to. And by extension, to have clarity of the many other conversation it could be, but is intentionally not.

⏰time you need x3📆🔍🧮📚

So here I am, the scholarly wannabe. Not yet able to articulate my problem. Still shaking off the default setting of problem solving, not defining. Not yet familiar with where the one conversation runs parallel to the next. Not even close to the understandings which oppose, which align, or how conversations may intersect or just confuse. Already a month into speaking with my peers and my supervisors. Yet with each new guide I read; with every re-reading and new connection found to academic work; all these conversations are going on – and for me now just the first hint of a whisper as toward what grounding all their words juxtapose.

It matters that I still know what it is to listen. And why it matters so much to follow the conversation a while, and not simply try to jump in. Landing knowingly and landing well, but first working out the next conversation to read. And of my planning, as a peer said today, “...whatever time you think each activity will be, multiply it by three…

Recognisable language from understood ground. All necessarily a means to listen better, long before seeking to be heard. Another lesson found.

…to be continued