change::always been

The fulltimeness of my new job feels weird.

With my actual work, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to get done. I say, “See you tomorrow” to my co-workers. I make sure I have enough work to do as I know I shall finish my work quickly. I had to check to see if I get paid for public holidays. It felt exciting when I was told I had time off over Christmas as the office shut down for five days. I get holidays, which are days I don’t work but get paid.

Everything feels new; I want to know what happens next. I am really bad at playing computer games because I will often play the easy level of difficulty just to see how the game designers weaved the action of play into the structure of the plot. This is similar. I am discovering I get a little tired by about 3:30 in the afternoon. I know I get tired by about 3:30 in the afternoon as that was the signal to me before to go to the gym. Now I go outside and stretch my legs and come back and work for another two hours.

I am about 90% finished on my fourth story and I should get another two finished by tomorrow. I am figuring out the work I can do without really thinking and the little tricks to writing a story. I am not sure how or if they like my style yet, but I am drawing on my PhD when writing. I focus on the challenges of the build, discover what inspired an enthusiast to work so hard and spend so much money, then I translate this through the affective timbre of the socio-technical discourse of modified-car culture so, hopefully, readers can also share in this experience and appreciate the enthusiasm required.

When I go to the little greasey spoon eateries near the office (there are two, I have tried both now), I am greeted as if I am a long term customer. The people serving me know that if I am buying lunch and look like I’ve come from work, then the best way to gain me as a customer is to make me feel like I’ve always been a customer. They inquire about how my day is going, make the requisite joke, ask if I won any money yesterday on the horses and today acquiesce to whatever view I put forward regarding the US election (whether they agree or not, I am not sure).

Walking around Silverwater is a little bit like walking around the suburb I grew up in, Balcatta. Both have light and heavy industries. There are limited retail outlets. Suburban strips of houses abut main roads and freeways.

I need to fix my car up. it is embarrassing.

first day off

As most of my facebook friends will know, I accepted the magazine staff writer position on Friday.

I found out Friday morning after my first class, so I still had three classes to teach, and I felt sad as I explained to each that this was going to be my last day, possibly ever, teaching at university. Similarly, I worked Saturday night at the bookshop, which was also my last shift there. It was the same as any other shift, yet different. My immediate boss, Morgan, seemed to be almost as sad as I was! She said to select a book as a going away present; I chose Niall Lucy’s Derrida Dictionary. I am currently doing a close reading of Derrida’s Spectres of Marx, and the Grundisse is my night time reading.

Anyway, does this mean I have evacuated myself from academia? Not entirely. I tend to think of it as a strategic retreat. Perhaps other casuals can use my movement as an example, or perhaps not. I am not one for simply whinging about shit conditions however. As a casual, my greatest strength is my mobility. I do not have the capacity to change any of the structural conditions of the university. If universities want to have 25 students to a class and ensure that casual staff are suspended by the contradiction of being continually stretched and then under-employed, then that is their business (model). Rather than the institutionalised stupidity of the university, I want to reflect on two satisfying qualities of my teaching experience this year.

For the first time, after five years of on and off teaching at various universities, I actually taught some of the same students for two semesters in a row. I found this to be particularly rewarding for a number of reasons. My personal relationships with some students strengthened beyond them merely being personable avatars of a marking load. If I had had another semester or two with them, then I think we could have eventually become friends. I also discovered the joy of helping and witnessing students I had taught last semester develop from being basically slack and uncommitted to their education to becoming self-disciplined and willing to perform at their best. Marking assessments of students who I knew had improved over the course of the year was a special feeling. I think this is what the ‘has its own rewards’ means in the annoyingly smug axiom ‘teaching has its own rewards’. As a casual I had not previously experienced or witnessed student development as they progressed through university. I am pointing to non-classroom affects of teaching. It is not strictly organisational, nor is it strictly practical, but something in between.

The second dimension relates to the content of the unit (Consumer Culture). There have been some fantastic responses to the challenge posed by the readings. Did I ever imagine I would have a student describe how a re-usable hair extension, advertising in a ‘girl’ magazine for the hair extension, and the material conditions of the ‘Scene’ subculture would effect an ‘incorporeal transformation’ of the student? No. I have enjoyed reading responses and interpretations to my own work. This is the first time I have had my work included as a reading in a course I have been teaching. This is another joy I have not had the opportunity to experience before. It is very satisfying to see some of the best students I have ever taught engage with my research.

I am still due to edit the special issue of M/C Journal on Enthuse next year, and I am looking forward to this. Plus I have a co-authored chapter coming out next year and hopefully my first journal article actually based on my research (awaiting referee reports!).

This blog may need a revamp to signal the career shift. Not sure yet.

Oh, and the blog post title comes from the fact I am now fulltime, for the first time in my life, so not working on a Monday actually means I have a day off. My first day off. I start tomorrow.

writing skills co-op

Here is an email I sent off to my university’s main student association about a student-run writing skills co-op:

I am a casual tutor and lecturer at UWS in the humanities and I had an idea that I thought might be useful for the association and for the student body in general.

A serious problem we are facing is with general literacy levels. We basically don’t have enough time to help every student who needs it, and there are quite a number of mostly first year (but also higher level) students who need it. I know the university apparently runs sessions through student services helping students with their writing but I thought a more flexible approach would be better suited. This is because students often need help at specific times during the semester (i.e. when assessments are due), not when student services are able to run sessions.

The basic idea is to run a writing services co-op through the association and staff it with older second/third/honours year students. Students would pay some nominal amount (maybe $10 for a 30 minute session) for another student to read over their work and go through it with them. I imagine most students would require 2 or 3 sessions per assessment. Space to have such sessions would have to be negotiated with the university. The university could also be approached for some seed funding to run it on a small scale at one of the campuses. If you set up an online booking system, then students could book a place ahead of the day. It would give the other students employment that is worthy of being put on a CV. Various protocols would have to be put into place regarding how much ‘help’ can be provided as you wouldn’t want situations where students expect their assessments to be written for them or the like.

Maybe you have thought of such ideas in the past, if you have then I encourage you to implement them as there are a number of students who need help (and others possibly that need work!).