Jargon in Academia

I’m having a little brainstorm over here about my frustration with jargon in academia and the way disciplines borrow from each other and then deposit that jargon on students as though they already know what these things mean, and it’s not all coming together yet so I thought I’d just throw some words out here and some of them will have notes on my understanding but others won’t yet.

space and place – this is what launched this brainstorm, because I was reading about bringing a spatial perspective to the internet and because I’m doing work on affinity spaces. A quick Google tells me that this comes from geography, from the work of Yi-Fu Tuan, and I have heard people throw this around so much in educational research and to a lesser extent in information science research, and I think it’s probably a really useful concept but at no point did anyone offer me an introduction to it as though it were a new thing.

Paulo Freire – I really ought to have read this guy’s stuff. I haven’t yet. Maybe I’ll get there one day.

Habitus (Pierre Bourdieu) – SAME. In my second semester of my doc program, John Martin was all “Bourdieu’s habitus” and, like, I know, he was right, this is a thing I should know, because I’m researching practices, and practice theory is a thing, and this is another one where it’s like, okay, I’ll get there someday I hope.

Bakhtinian carnivalesque – I ran across this because of cosplay but I first came across Mikhail Bakhtin‘s work when I was doing a paper on expansive learning, and guess what, I could probably stand to read some more Bakhtin.

semiotics – this comes up a lot for me right now because Gee’s work is all over semiotics and Discourse/discourse and blah blah discursive practices blah.

hermeneutics – Ran across this one in an English class that I thought was about Digital Editing, which it technically was, I just didn’t know that editing has a different meaning in academic English circles than it does in the circles where I ran prior to starting a PhD.

I’m a fourth-gen postgrad and I struggle with this jargon. I don’t know how anyone makes time to deeply understand theory, especially theory translated into English from other languages, and I’ve taken two theory classes and three qual methods classes.

All of this language, in my experience, serves the purpose of gatekeeping and alienating people who could be doing phenomenal work. (Epiphenomenal?) How do we fix it? Can we fix it?

I kind of want to make it my job to fix it.

Why I Have Trouble Fanning These Days

I’ve been listening to the latest episode of Fansplaining, with guest Emily Nussbaum, and it’s led me to sort of a revelation.

[First, an aside: Emily Nussbaum mentions in the episode that in her Buffy days she was on the Bronze. It’s no secret that that was my first fannish home. It’s so nice to hear about Bronzers in the world. I don’t know if Emily would call herself a Bronzer, but my definition is just somebody who spent time at the Bronze, so she counts.]

Since I decided to do my dissertation on the information literacy practices of cosplayers, I’ve been reconnecting with fandom. For years now, I’ve had trouble staying connected to any particular fandom specifically, and fandom itself in general, for a number of reasons:

  • my fannish home being in diaspora
  • burnout after a failed Save Our Show campaign
  • the proliferation of social networks
  • grad school
  • parenting

W. has repeatedly suggested that being fannish is easier in your teens and 20s when you have fewer responsibilities than it is in your 30s when you have a kid, and that’s fair. But I always feel like none of these explanations are quite enough.

Listening to Emily Nussbaum say:

“…the situation in which somebody produces an entire show and then releases it to the audience changes the way that people talk about TV when it doesn’t come out week-by-week.”

…gave me a little lightbulb moment.

My primary fandoms have all been week-by-week TV fandoms: Sailor Moon when it aired as an afternoon show in the 90s, Buffy the Vampire SlayerAngelFireflyWonderfalls (yes, Wonderfalls!), The Inside (I’m here for Tim Minear’s most obscure work), Veronica Mars, 30 RockNew Girl. The intensity of my participation in fandom for each of these varies, but other than a brief flirtation with Star Wars fic in high school because Sonja was doing it, and some heavy time spent reading Harry Potter fic and playing in related RPs, weekly television is my medium of choice.

And the way we talked about weekly television in the late 90s and early 2000s is how I know to talk about things as a fan: what is the significance of what just happened? What will happen next? What do we wish would happen next?

You can do all of these things after bingeing a season of Stranger Things, and I do (though mostly only with W.), but it feels different somehow.

I’m going to try and crack it. I’m going to figure it out with Glow.

Anyway, this has not gone very far, but it’s just something that I thought about and wanted to write about a little bit.

The Space Between: Reading, Writing, and a Third Thing (Thinking?)

I’m not a very efficient writer.

I have 20 hours of childcare a week, and usually lose two or three of those hours to late arrival (mine), getting settled in, and winding down.

It feels like I ought to be spending every minute of that time either reading or writing.

But I actually spend a lot of it giving my mind space to process what I’ve read or reorganize what I’ve written.

Brigid Schulte writes about realizing that many of the world’s great male artists had women (wives, housekeepers, mothers) who protected their time for them. They used this time not just for the physical act of producing, but also for taking long, silent walks where they thought through their work. Schulte points out that throughout history, women’s time has been fragmented, and they have carved their work time out of these little slivers.

My time is extremely fragmented, though less so than when my son was an infant. He sometimes blesses me by taking a long nap, which I inevitably use as leisure time rather than work time because honestly, my brain is just usually no good for work at the time that he’s napping. (I also can’t rely on these naps, so I’m afraid to plan to work during them, because sometimes he doesn’t take them.) My mother-in-law also helps out by spending several hours with him every week, and my partner takes care of most of the things that those great artists’ wives, mothers, and housekeepers did, in spite of having a full-time job himself.

So, I’m blessed.

But I still feel wrong when, instead of churning out my own words or filling my head with the words of others, I take time to stare.

Even though that’s where my words come from, that space between reading and writing.

I need to reconceptualize this space as part of the writing process.

What about you? Have you successfully given yourself permission to view thinking time as productive time?

Life online and losing and finding my faith in it

Get ready for some rambling, stream-of-consciousness, blogging-as-thinking.

As a member of the Oregon Trail generation, I came of age alongside the Web. I had access to much of it a little earlier than my peers, because my dad’s work provided home access for him. As an adolescent, I had this sort of constant feeling of the immense potential of my life ahead of me and of the Web, and as a young adult I really leaned into that, blogging starting in 2001. It’s not a big leap from me to this rando kid on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “I Robot, You Jane” who says, “The only reality is virtual. If you’re not jacked in, you’re not alive.” I feel this visceral connection to the Web that I have a hard time putting in words.

As I shared last weekend, I’ve been looking at Pierre Levy‘s writings on collective intelligence and cyberculture. I shared in the IndieWeb chat that I was reading Collective Intelligence and it was making me deeply sad. I actually had to put the book down several times and hit a bit of a wall in my plans for my comps because I just didn’t know how to recover from this sadness. The French edition of Collective Intelligence was published in 1994, and full of the kind of technoutopian rhetoric that I believed for years, that kind of still hums in my veins a bit. And reading it made me so sad about what I imagine we’ve lost, the weird internet Vicki Boykis talks about. Specifically, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that the kind of collaboration that excited me about the web, and that Web 2.0 promised to make more accessible, is so much harder to find now, perhaps nearly impossible, because of silos and the proliferation of advertising.

And maybe it’s because I’m 38 instead of 18 that I’m feeling this way, maybe it’s something else, maybe I’m wrong. I just felt immensely defeated, even in the face of examples to the contrary. I just felt sad and overwhelmed and to be honest, this feeling hasn’t gone away entirely.

But then I was poking around the Vaporwave subreddit, which of course is a brilliant place to be if you’re feeling disillusioned by the false promises of and simultaneously nostalgic for 90s-era technoutopianism, and found the thread for VA:10, a project resulting from collaboration between 88 creators, with plans to create not just an album, but also a film and an art book, documenting this digitally-born musical genre and aesthetic. With plans to donate all proceeds to the Internet Archive.

And my faith came back a little.

Other stuff from this week:

Podcasts that are making my afternoons

M. and I have an agreement, proposed and enforced by me, after we spent months with him as a tiny audio tyrant during our commutes. Now, so that I don’t have to listen to Pharrell’s “Happy” on Repeat-1 for 40 minutes a day (or, as it would be now, “Belle” or “For the First Time in Forever” or “My Superhero Movie”), he chooses what we listen to on our morning commute (usually one of those songs above on Repeat-1, and he actually knows to ask for Repeat-1), and I choose what we listen to in the afternoon. He won’t begin a nap anywhere except in a moving car right now – ironic since we never had to do that with him when he was a tiny baby, but I guess it’s because we could always bounce him in the Boba and he’s too big for comfortable front-wearing at 33 months – and podcasts are more likely to lull him to sleep than music, and also I really enjoy podcasts, so most afternoons I put on a podcast.

For a while, we were listening to Fansplaining and The Mermaid Podcast, both of which are super fun, and which I intend to get back to. They’ve got huge backlogs, and also are a little distant from my current experiences in life, so I decided to check out some podcasts that are more relevant to my day-to-day and would be easier to catch up on. It’s made a huge difference in my quality of life. Here they are:

The Double ShiftThe Double Shift Podcast Cover Art: “a reported, narrative podcast about a new generation of working mothers.” Every mother works, host and journalist Katherine Goldstein points out. This podcast is huge for me because it’s not about parenting as an activity and it’s not about kids. It’s about personal experiences of being a mother and how that impacts your whole life. I loved hearing her talk to a punk rock future rabbi and women who work in Las Vegas brothels. I want more media like this: acknowledging that being a mom impacts everything you do, but doesn’t have to limit you to activities and ideas that center exclusively on motherhood. It’s sort of the impetus behind my (dormant but I’ve got the next issue in draft form) newsletter, Genetrix.

Acadames LogoAcadames: “a biweekly podcast that explores whether being a woman in academia is a dream, game, or scam through interviews with a diverse range of women.” This is hosted by two scholars in the health sciences at my university. They address lots of issues that feel deeply relevant for me, though I do sometimes bump up against the differences between health sciences and social sciences, for example when Dr. Whitney Robinson was talking about how she thinks the study of knowledge is called epistemology and I thought, “What a luxury, to be uncertain of the definition of epistemology.” (Her definition is one: epistemology as a branch of philosophy that deals with how we know what we know. In the humanities and social sciences especially, but also I think in the natural sciences, epistemology is also a scholar’s or scholarly community’s set of beliefs about how knowledge is constructed. Your “epistemological stance” is your personal take on this. Mine is that knowledge is constructed, that there are multiple ways of knowing that include but are not limited to both empirical and experiential ways, and that anyone can create knowledge.)

Motherhood Sessions Podcast LogoMotherhood Sessions: Dr. Alexandra Sacks is making matrescence, a concept with which I am obsessed, a more widely known idea. In her podcast, she talks to moms about all kinds of things, and basically does recorded therapy sessions. (The guests are people who volunteered to be on the show. She’s not secretly and unethically and maybe illegally? recording patients or anything.) Some of these are closer to my experience than others, but I found it especially valuable to hear from a mom of one who has mixed feelings about the fact that she’s okay with only having one kid, and a PhD student who has had her dissertation on hold for years and needs to talk through whether she wants to bother finishing.

Who will I be this year?

My friend Little Willow doesn’t make New Year’s Resolutions in January. She makes them on her birthday, which is not in January.

I like to set intentions lots of different times: in January. In March, when the astrological year begins. At the start of the school year. With each new moon. And, yes, on my birthday.

My birthday was yesterday, and I spent it packing up the last stuff from my brother and Mom’s apartment to move them back into the closest thing I have to a childhood home (where I lived from ages 13 – 18), having lunch, playing video games, and having a much better day than I feared I would, but I didn’t have the oomph to set intentions.

Today I’m asking myself who I want to be this year.

I want to be someone who takes care of herself, unapologetically, and who understands that there is no one in her immediate environment who would deny her the ability to take care of herself. (It’s easy for me to think that self-care needs to fall by the wayside because I’m a mom, but I’m at a point where that’s just not true anymore, so I need to not let it be an excuse for neglecting my own needs.)

I want to be someone who simultaneously understands that she is a person of value just by virtue of existing, but also contributes to keeping her family and household going.

I want to be someone who is invested in her community. (My family gave me a membership to the Durham Co-op Market for my birthday and shopping there and participating in the Co-op is one way in which I can really support my community.)

I want to be someone who makes things for pleasure.

I want to be someone who continues to live a life that is more for living than for documenting, but also be someone who documents her thoughts and understandings both to share with others and so that she can reflect on them later.

Who do you want to be?

What would you like me to write more about?

I love that Ton Zijlstra asked his readers a few years ago

What would you like me to write more about?

I want to blog more and to use the time when I need a break in the middle of an academic writing sprint to write other stuff. So I’m asking you to answer the same question for me. You can answer publicly or privately, and you should feel free to include fanfic prompts in your suggestions.

(And a note for Sandra, you don’t have to answer, because I know and I promise I’m working on it.)

I should mention that it’s my birthday today and answering this would be a great gift from you to me.

I’ll update this post with answers as they come in. Let me know if you want yours to remain anonymous.

The Kimberly Hirsh Eating Plan

Hello, friends! Today I’m going to write up an idealistic eating plan for myself based on what I’ve learned over the past four years about what’s manageable for me. This is as much to remind me as it is to share with you, because it turns out my primary audience for my blog is future me. So future me, here’s what you need to eat.

Requirements I’ve placed on this eating plan:

  • Must be gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free, soy-free
  • Needs to distinguish between warm-weather and cool-weather foods
  • Needs to have options for both low-energy and high-energy days

Tricky things:

  • I’m really particular about vegetable textures and can never remember which ones I like or how I like them prepared.

Warm-Weather Eating Plan


  • Smoothie: non-dairy milk + fruit + greens + protein powder + fiber powder + greens powder + ice (homemade or storebought: e. g., Smoothie King’s Vegan Dark Chocolate Banana or one of Jamba Juice’s Plant-Based Smoothies)
  • Dairy-free yogurt and granola (on a high-energy day or a day when I have plenty of time, yogurt from a big tub; on a low-energy or rushed day, yogurt in a small package)



  • Grilled meat + rice/quinoa/sweet potato + veggies
  • Something in the Instant Pot

Cold-Weather Eating Plan


  • Oatmeal with fruit and nuts
  • Toast with nut butter and fruit


  • Soup (homemade or Amy’s brand)
  • Leftovers from dinner


  • Baked meat + rice/quinoa/sweet potato + veggies
  • Something in the Instant Pot

All-Weather Snack Options

  • Nuts and fruit
  • Larabars

All-Weather Beverage Options

  • Still water with ice
  • Sparkling water
  • Chai tea + stevia + non-dairy milk
  • Coffee + stevia + non-dairy milk
  • In true desperate times when caffeine is required and tea and coffee don’t appeal, Zevia
  • As a rare treat, Izze

Next Steps

I’ve struggled in the past with actually eating the salads I prepare and figuring out how to incorporate more vegetables into my diet. My next steps are to begin trying different vegetables prepared in different ways and tracking how I like them.

This is an ever-evolving meal plan, so expect to hear more as I update it!

Constructing websites as constructing ourselves: Thinking out loud

This is just me, thinking out loud, so expect it to be rough, incomplete, unpolished. But I thought it was a train of thought worth stopping, so here we go.

When you’re driving down a city street at a cool 35 mph while “Belle” plays on repeat one for the 1000th+ time in recent months and your toddler is in the back seat sulking because Daddy has to go to work today and separation from Daddy is painful, your mind wanders. It does if you’re me, anyway. Mine wandered to the way in which the only thing I seem interested in besides sleep lately is tweaking my personal website. Then I thought:

As I’m building my website, it kind of feels like I’m building myself.

Identity construction is kind of an obsession of mine, specifically the idea that we create our own identities through narratives we tell about ourselves. Sure, there are identities the world forces upon us, but our narratives interact with those. Most of my work in my doctoral program has touched on identity in one way or another:

  • I wrote about the maker movement in libraries and found Breanne Litts’s Activity-Identity-Community framework, which posits that the development of maker identities is one of the pillars of the maker movement.
  • I wrote about how libraries can leverage tabletop roleplaying games to support teen identity development (in revision for Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults).
  • I touched on the process of developing an identity as an improviser as a key part of participating in the improv comedy community.
  • I wrote about how horizontal learning enables young people to leverage their out-of-school identities for academic success.
  • I wrote about how young people imagine their possible future selves.

And my favorite fictional works often have to deal with reconciling different pieces of one’s identity: Spider-Man, Sailor Moon, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all come to mind. (And the X-Men; I was just reading an old Chris Claremont book – Uncanny X-Men #129, 130 – somewhere in there – where Nightcrawler thinks about how he’s decided not to disguise himself as a normal human; I think there’s something to unpack there.) So, I guess superheroes are what I’m talking about, and I’m sure lots of work has already been done on how superhero identity plays out, including Brownie & Graydon’s book.

So I was thinking about how building my website feels like building myself, and I thought… hasn’t this been true since I first started building websites in 1995? I got my first personal domain in 2001, and building an online space to represent myself has always meant choosing what I want the world to know about me, who I want to seem to be, and by defining who I want to seem to be, am I not defining who I want to actually be?

Then I thought about social media and all the ways we’ve used them to represent ourselves, and all the ways that has gotten away from us. Before we knew how bad Facebook was, when my husband would add a new friend on Facebook, he would immediately peruse their profile to find out what books and movies they liked; what we like contributes to the picture of who we are, but what we want people to know we like does even more so, I think.

My train of thought loses steam here, but I’m definitely interested in digging into the intersection between technology and identity more. Our tools shape not only how we think, but who we are.

Project READY is live!

Still blogging infrequently and mostly absent from social media, but this is a huge piece of work. I hope to write up some reflections on what I learned through this process before too long.

Dear Colleagues-

Today, we are excited to announce that the Project READY (Reimagining Equity and Access for Diverse Youth) online racial equity curriculum is live and accessible at ready.web.unc.edu. Learn more at Booth 2650 at ALA Annual in Washington, DC.

A historic milestone was quietly reached in the American public school system during the 2014-2015 school year: for the first time in history,youth of color made up the majority of students attending U.S. public schools. Creating inclusive and equitable school and public library programs for Black youth, Indigenous youth, and Youth of Color (BIYOC) requires knowledge about topics such as race and racism, implicit bias and microaggressions, cultural competence and culturally sustaining pedagogy, and equity and social justice. Research shows, however, that few library and information science (LIS) master’s programs include these topics in their curriculum.A recent survey focused specifically on early career youth services librarians found that only 26.8% of respondents said that social justice was included in a substantive way in their master’s curriculum; 37.2% said that cultural competency was substantively included, and 41.8% said that equity and inclusion was substantively included. Related to these findings, a majority (54.08%) of respondents said that their master’s programs did not prepare them well for working with youth of color and other marginalized youth.

In 2016, The School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the School of Library and Information Sciences at North Carolina Central University, and the Wake County (NC) Public School System (WCPSS) were awarded a three-year Continuing Education Project grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to develop Project READY to address this existing gap in professional development opportunities for youth services library staff.  The curriculum aims to:

  • introduce youth services library staff to research in areas such as race and racism, critical theory, and culturally responsive or sustaining pedagogy.
  • establish a shared understanding of foundational concepts and issues related to race, racism, and racial equity.
  • encourage self-reflection related to race and racial identity for both BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and white library staff in public and school libraries.
  • amplify the work of practitioners and scholars who are providing inclusive and culturally responsive services for youth of color and Indigenous youth.
  • provide concrete strategies for creating and/or improving library programs and services for Black youth, Indigenous youth, and children and teens of color.

The curriculum consists of 27 modules, designed to be worked through by individuals or small groups. Modules are organized into three sequential sections. The first section (Foundations) focuses on basic concepts and issues that are fundamental to understanding race and racism and their impact on library services. The second section (Transforming Practice) explores how these foundational concepts relate to and can be applied in library environments. Finally, the third section (Continuing the Journey) explores how library professionals can sustain racial equity work and grow personally and professionally in this area after completing the curriculum.

The curriculum represents the work of 40 researchers, practitioners, administrators, and policymakers, and youth from a variety of racial and cultural backgrounds. It is grounded in the work of scholars of color and Indigenous scholars who have thought and written about issues related to institutional and individual racism, equity, inclusion, and social justice.

We hope this curriculum will benefit and inform the work of the many organizations and individuals that are working to improve the quality of life and educational opportunities for BIYOC.

We will be promoting the curriculum on the exhibit hall at ALA’s annual conference in Washington, DC – Booth 2650. We invite you to stop by and preview Project READY!


Sandra Hughes-Hassell, PhD

Casey H. Rawson, PhD
Teaching Assistant Professor

Kimberly Hirsh, MAT, MSLS
PhD Student