Reflecting on my Academic Niche

As we develop our professional niches, do we take enough time to reflect on what we are learning?

JAMcArthur in Knight-Crane Convergence Lab at Queens University of Charlotte
As I’ve been reflecting on my “academic niche,”I’ve realized that several recent experiences have uniquely shaped my scholarly agenda:

  • Sed Ministrare 2010
    I was humbled to give the Sed Ministrare address to incoming freshmen at Queens in August 2010. My speech combined the Queens honor code with a focus on what it means to live honorably in a digital world. During the speech, I built a binary dichotomy between the physical world and the digital world. This thinking has shaped my research as I am now focused on assessing ways that we use digital tools to bridge physical communication boundaries.
  • Community 2.0
    In Fall 2011, my seminar on digital communication in the Knight School, I embarked upon an e-book project. It was at once a teaching experiment, a publication challenge, and an innovation in classroom management and design. The end result was an e-book, available in print, that addressed the use of information design to create, shape, and develop communities. We had the opportunity to publish it with an academic press, but the students voted to make it widely accessible through Kindle instead. The book project re-affirmed for me that my academic roots in information design and user-experience can lay a firm foundation for scholarly research into physical and digital spaces. The project also challenged me to examine my assumptions about what might be considered “academic publication” as we move into a more digital society.
  • Knight Grant
    Through my work with the Knight grant, I have learned the power of using academic expertise to inform and engage our communities. Our society’s needs for the current, fast-moving, and technologically-minded must be balanced with a responsibility for accuracy, judgment, and personal connection. These aims are not mutually exclusive, and Queens is leading the way in combining these ventures.
  • Public Voice
    I have discovered a calling toward and a passion for using my voice to teach not only in the classroom, but also in the media platforms created in our community. Perhaps this is a result of my teaching public relations at Queens for four years, in which the blend of theory and practice requires me to “practice what I preach.” In the past year, I have published four op-eds which each inspire people to think about the choices they make in the digital world, imagine their relationship to the physical world, and consider for themselves what they are learning.

I hope we all take the time to reflect on the experiences that make our vocations worthwhile.

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