I Can Engage Publics Me
This summer, I’m enrolled in one summer school as a student, and in two as a teacher. (The term ‘summer vacation’ is not one which applies to PhDs as far as I know.) This week, I’m a student: today is day two of the TORCH Public Engagement Summer School, which is intended to teach us how to communicate better with, among others, you who are reading this. So we are all sitting in classrooms right now typing away: we have just been given a WordPress crash course and the folks from the summer school are really keen to find out how good we now are at pressing words.
Who are ‘the public’? And who are not? Yesterday, we concluded that potentially everyone could be considered as a member of ‘the public’. Except your supervisor, perhaps.
So here are a few highlights from these past, packed days:
- At our visit to the Museum of the History of Science, we learned how long it can take for a museum exhibition to be put together, from its initial idea to the funding bid to the opening. The MHS plans its exhibits about two years in advance, but for bigger museums, this can be up to five years. Most interestingly, it turns out that they’re putting together an exhibition on light for next summer – hmm, might they be interested in the input of someone studying literature and modern physics?
- There are so many brilliant opportunities for combining academia with public engagement! Especially for people slightly later in their PhD career than myself, but of course it can’t hurt to start early. Knowlege Exchange fellowships, or being a BBC New Generation Thinker…
- I’ve started using TweetDeck. I always thought this was a separate website that was trying to make a profit off Twitter, but according to its link, it’s part of Twitter. And if the University of Oxford is using it for their official Twitter account, as they told us today, it can’t be too bad, right? It’s an amazing way to keep track of scheduled Tweets, hashtags, and multiple Twitter accounts at the same time. This’ll be a great one for conferences.
The summer school has an ultimate, higher purpose: on Friday, we are expected to pitch an idea for a public engagement project ourselves. I’ve been thinking quite hard about this. Which part of my research is the most awesome? How would people like to engage with it? It’s a bit hard when my own research is about other people’s public engagement! One idea I’ve had so far is to create a MOOC, a Massive Open Online Course (such as can be found on Coursera), on literature and science. Would there be any takers? Please let me know in the comments.