Apr
2017

research fellow

So, yeah…to update the world on my post from nearly 6 months ago, I didn’t get that sabbatical. Once again I was ranked in the top 10 but the university could only afford 7. Or 8? I can’t remember now.

However, I did turn that sabbatical application around into a Faculty Senate-sponsored Research Fellow course release. And that I got!

What does that mean? Well, combined with my course release for being Program Director, it translated into only teaching 2 classes. And both are online!  So I’m referring to this semester as my “fake sabbatical.” I will admit that I’m about a month behind on certain projects because I was struck with a really bad pneumonia for all of December [CHRISTMAS WAS CANCELLED], but since late-January I have been crazy productive.

Editors have been contacted, CFPs have been answered, IRB paperwork has been filed, and collaboration is happening!

In fact, I’ve lined up so many projects beyond the one I initially proposed that I applied for another Research Fellow course release for Fall 2017 and got that too!

Here’s some of that application so you can get a better sense of the work I’m doing and how timely it all is:

Since my hire at UW-Stout, I have established a well-regarded record of publications and conference presentations on the topic of social media. As a current research fellow, I have used the first few weeks of this Spring 2017 semester to re-prioritize this scholarship and have already communicated with three sets of editors—one for the Voices from the Floodzone manuscript I originally proposed, and the others for a book chapter and journal article[1], both of which explore online identity.

All of these projects rely on virtual ethnographic methods and prioritize public writing spaces such as blog posts, Facebook feeds, and Twitter timelines; however, as the authors of Digital Research Confidential have noted: “Because the digital environment for scholarship is constantly evolving, researchers must sometimes improvise, change their plans, and adapt” (Hargittai and Sandvig). For example, in my research fellow proposal last semester, when describing my book project as one “that will provide a new perspective on the use of web 2.0 technologies during and after times of disaster,” I offered statistics that supported the observation that “The share of Americans for whom Twitter and Facebook serve as a source of news is continuing to rise” (Barthel, Shearer, Gottfried, and Mitchell). While this was a trend that I saw as positive when it comes to information-sharing at times of crisis, the current proliferation of claims about “fake news” being spread across social media platforms has prompted me to scrutinize citizen journalists’ online activities even more closely. And if I, a seasoned Internet researcher, feel the need to question if my own bias is getting in the way as I analyze my primary sources, shouldn’t our students be taught to do the same?

For this reason, I am requesting a Fall 2017 course release to help me a) finalize my manuscript, Voices from the Floodzone, and b) pursue two projects that have emerged from my continued work on that project:

  1. A book chapter for an edited collection that analyzes the more subjective aspects of “life online.”
  2. A collaboratively authored General Education course proposal on “media literacy.”

[1] Only the book chapter will be discussed in this proposal because the journal article is about fan communities’ practices and interactions via the Tumblr blog platform. I will be meeting with the editors of this special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures at the upcoming Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in March 2017 to discuss my contribution.

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Oct
2016

Happy in Harvey Hall

FB words

See that big “happy” in the center? I had no idea that would show up as one of my most used words. Unless this goofy word generator thing took into account all the “Happy Birthday” posts I received last month?

But what’s funny is that all weekend I had planned to write a blog post about how happy I’ve been. Want to know the main reason? I was told, based on x-rays, that the bones in my right foot looked like that of an 80-year-old woman!

Yeah, that’s right. The tendons are fine, which I have heard before, but the x-rays showed clear signs of osteopenia. Given how sensitive to touch my ankles still are, it could also be complex regional pain syndrome. Don’t be freaked out by the info on those pages though because the treatment is pretty much everything I’ve been doing already. Even if I never fully regain the former folk dancer spring in my step, if I keep strengthening my muscles and weight-bearing, I’ll maintain what I have.

And something about knowing I’m not one step away from tearing a tendon has totally liberated me! I’m already much more active and independent. I’m kicking ass in both my Pilates and Zumba Toning classes, and hope to finally drop a few of the pounds I picked up during my inactive time.

So that, coupled with a new office in a beautifully renovated historic building, has made the start to this new school year amazing!

Here’s an older video that shows a bit more of the process:

And here’s the view from my new office:

summer view

My online classes are going well and my in-person Digital Humanities class has 11 very smart and creative students in it. Speaking of DH, here’s the finished product of the Harvey Hall game.

My program director work is keeping me busy but that’s to be expected. And in one week I should find out if I’ve been awarded a sabbatical.

My 10-min presentation last week went very well, so here’s hoping I’m ranked high enough to earn one of the seven they’re funding this year. Last year it was half of that, so I’m optimistic. And after a couple of years of very low morale on campus and my personal chronic pain depression, that’s major.

Gonna finish 2016 like a boss!

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Apr
2016

tomayto tomahto tendonitis tendonosis

And the beat goes on… with the feet not improving much

Since a rheumatologist ruled out arthritis and fibromyalgia in February, my podiatrist [4th one I’ve seen] thinks my flat feet are the root cause [a mechanical issue] despite my wearing custom orthotics and living a life of limited activity. According to last year’s MRI, there’s not much in terms of inflammation, no tears, and no thickening of the tendons, which would change things from tendonitis to tendonosis. But given what’s described below, I really think this is term I should be using:

Symptoms can vary from an ache or pain and stiffness to the local area of the tendon, or a burning that surrounds the whole joint around the affected tendon. With this condition, the pain is usually worse during and after activity, and the tendon and joint area can become stiffer the following day as swelling impinges on the movement of the tendon. Many patients report stressful situations in their life in correlation with the beginnings of pain, which may contribute to the symptoms.

Swelling in a region of micro damage or partial tear may be detected visually or by touch.

Yet I managed to get another order of physical therapy, and the therapist says that no matter tendonitis or tendonosis the treatment plan would be the same, so this time I’m focusing on calf raises and hip strength. I’ll be honest, though: I don’t see myself ever returning to all the activities I used to do, not even walking. If the tendons haven’t healed by this point…and since all the docs I see are puzzled by how long it’s taking…. Ugh. I just want a pain-free life.

I know I’m repeating myself, but while I’ve been in a good mental place about a “new normal” in 2016, my recent trip to Seattle for a conference [which will get its own post because it was awesome] made me see how limited I really am when it comes to travel. I’m not sure why, other than a beat up pair of Keen boots that perhaps didn’t offer enough support, but I had a major flare up on my travel day and that made me anxious during the entire 6-day trip. Even with my husband traveling with me and knowing I could take an Uber wherever I wanted, the burning ankles drove me crazy since I hadn’t had that sensation in a few months. It’s also feeling like shin splints, and when it hurts more in my strong foot, leftie, I really start to freak out.

I don’t think anyone can really understand how chronic pain feels unless they have it. We’ve all had an injury or two happen, but this is something that I’ve been dealing with since September 2013.

Think about that.

Nearly 3 years.

Every day I have to put shoes on before I can take one step. Every day I count how many steps I’m taking to make sure I don’t over do it. Every day I need to plan out when I can stretch or eat so I can take my meds and supplements. And I’m not exaggerating when I say every week this year I’ve had some sort of doctor, PT, acupuncture, or chiropractor appointment.

All of that takes time and is mentally exhausting. Even though I know I should “rock what I got,” I can’t help but notice people moving in ways I can’t. Yes, I can typically get through my day with only minor aches and pains [although that’s because I hardly do anything weight-bearing if I don’t have to]. Yes, I have a renewed focus on my academic research agenda and I happily continue to teach Zumba Toning from a chair, but I can’t help but ask, Why won’t my feet heal? Other people with flat feet go about their lives. Why are mine so different?

I don’t know what this is, but I want one! Better yet, turn me into Gazelle from Kingsman: Secret Service!

Blogging about this, of course, helps, and I recently read about the chronic illness support network Suffering the Silence in “The Social Media Cure”:

Social networks “offer opportunities for people without pain to better understand the experience of having pain,” but they also offer chronically ill people the chance to convene with others who understand what they’re going through. They offer relief, if not from the symptoms of pain, then from the burden of explanation. (emphasis mine)

That final line says it all, and might be why my trip to Seattle was so problematic. I had some time to see friends I hadn’t seen in about a year and I know they noticed my lack of progress. Worst of all, some remarked, “You’re still dealing with this?”

With that, I need to end this post. I’m not angry at anyone, and if I weren’t experiencing chronic pain I probably wouldn’t comprehend it either, but I just wanted to give everyone an update.

Given my “day job” as an internet researcher, I know I’ll spend some time looking at the #spoonies, #invisibledisability and #sufferingthesilence hashtags.

P.S. If anyone with SAGE database access can get me full text of The thing about pain: The remaking of illness narratives in chronic pain expressions on social media,” I’d be forever grateful!

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