Research and the pressure cooker

2 Oct. Everytime you think, ‘after this one work, I will be free,’ more work comes up. And busier you get!

With politics all around and I in search peace, I expected to be much freer this academic year and focus on research – both the College research and my own personal research.

But something triggered a landslide. This May, one international journal (SAGE) sent its Call for Papers (CfP) on social media. And I was quick to respond with an abstract. Just as I was completing this paper abstract, another international journal came up with a CfPs too! It was on New Media Technologies in Higher Education. Another of favourite topics. And I could not resist the temptation.

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My second abstract required me to collect field data, traveling to various parts of Karnataka. So, to utilise and to exploit the time and resources I would have to invest on New Media and Higher Education project to the hilt, I thought of another research project on social media and relationships with friends and family to go with my second plan.

And I started reading and taking down notes, discussing with my colleagues in the Department and the College. And the classes for the new academic year started. I was to teach two four-credit modules, in addition to teaching a seminar for a class of 30. That was too much! You how I make my students present seminars? Make them read, and read, and read! And everytime discuss their progress with me, and then revise plans and work. Only upon four signed sittings and an additional demo of the same by them, are they permitted to present their seminars. No doubt, most of my students love their seminars, even though many of them don’t like the grind it entails. No doubt, the discussions and debates they generate can put anyone on cloud nine!research2

In spite of all this melee, all was going on well. Just then, another local college requested me to present a paper on impact of social media on society. Though I knew where it was coming from (the man who contacted me didn’t know me, and he was tipped by a politician). They wanted to publish the papers, he told me. Yet, I accepted the request, since I was already researching on social media and family and friends.

Gradually it became clear this college seminar was very different from the typical seminars, and chalk and cheese vis-a-vis my social media project. So, extra work! Never mind, I said. “I will make it!’

Come September, and our Department annual conference (MediaCon-2016) team was worried that they were not getting sufficient abstracts for their planned conference in November. Then, I said, why not I? I have presented papers at other college seminars and submitted to others’ journals; why not to mine own?

So, another paper on Media  and Political Transformation. This time I decided to write in the area of my expertise – films. That made four papers! And two more of my students have been keen on reworking on their well-prepared seminar papers. It’s a good idea, me thought. Why not work with them? I could rework. I am yet to begin my work these two – that means, working afresh.

In the meantime, someone got a bright idea – why not St Josephs College apply to be upgraded to Deemed University -DU? Though someone else was put in charge of the DU committee, it was shifted to me. Now, that was a huge job!

A few weeks into the committee, two committees -masquerading as one- came looking for me. Did I have a choice? Did I give in without a thought to myself? Probably, yes!

In any case, these Committees were top priorities with deadlines – that is the problem when some managements appoint you. They get ideas very late, but deadlines too soon. And these took almost all my time they took away all my time and energy – from mid-July to late August 2016, with no help coming from anyone to whom it concerned – except from three faculty of my own College – Drs Etienne Rassendren, Michael Rajamathi, and Ronald Mascarenhas. There was Dr Cheriyan with his wholehearted support, though he was not in the DU committee.

After I submitted the reports – there was some relief. So, I got back to my research. And then we started by encouraging our College faculty to apply for College-funded seed money for research (which also we completed the formalities of shortlisting, finding internal and external referees, presentations, and sanctioning!) One more – we planned (are working on) a research workshop for our faculty, in the first week of October! Thank God, we have some good and zealous faculty who have been solid supports and shouldering the responsibilities.

Last week I managed to complete a paper on New Media and Higher Education; submitted too. Within next two days, I presented the paper on impact of social media on society. That was sort of a ‘ok’ project given the confusion of that seminar. I don’t think publishing this work interests me!

With two down, and this odd-semester in the College over, I am looking eagerly for these few ‘revision holidays’ for students – during which I can focus on some of my planned research work.

It is pressure cooker. No doubt, in a climate in which people simply don’t understand research, its exigencies, and implications, and think education is nothing but having teachers dictate their teachers’ and ‘grand’-teachers’ notes collected at Masters level, what more can you do? May be repeat, ‘research!’

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