The photo

Too many questions about the default header image of this particular WordPress theme (the cactus-like plant). So I quickly found something presentable from my archives. The photo that’s there in place now was taken on the island of Atløy in Norway some two hours on a fast boat north of Bergen.

Note to self: find something more appropriate.

Update, 11 May 2019

This was the original photo referred to above.

Postscript on equality

In between fiddling with the settings of this blog and completing the first entry, I attended the meeting of the University’s Equality Committee where we discussed the action plan for the Equality and Diversity Plan 2017–2018 (unfortunately not available in English yet) that the Rector had approved over the summer months. One thing that I brought up as something worth developing are the University’s recruitment practices.

The background is this. The Finnish Universities Act 2009 changed the status of higher education institutions. Universities were formerly public institutions (and University employees civil servants), but they now belong to the private sector. At least for the most part. Formerly the recruitment of University staff was regulated by the rather formal and stringent rules that apply to civil servants. Now apparently the understanding is that these rules of administrative law no longer apply (although some public law experts claim otherwise).

Be what may, Universities have rather abruptly shifted from one world of recruitment practices to another. And all is not well.

First, the selection criteria according to which research and teaching staff are shortlisted and recruited are not as clear as they could be. Instead of having a tick-box set of qualifications that the recruiter has to go through and address one by one, we have more general descriptions about research and teaching qualifications that leave too much room for interpretation. The criteria in the calls that I have seen are, in fact, so rounded that I find it very difficult to imagine how a potential candidate can frame her application to match the required qualifications in the call.

Second, there do not seem to be uniform instructions for the committees that prepare the appointments both in terms of shortlisting and making a recommendation to the Rector. Because of the lack of such instructions, the committees have been known to move the goalposts during the selection process emphasizing one criterion here and another there. This makes it even harder for the applicant to frame her application. The lack of such instructions also allows for different interpretations of the selection criteria in different cases.

So far what I have said is based on anecdotal evidence. But the amount of dissatisfaction with recruitment decisions points to a lack of clarity. An applicant should be entitled to know in advance the criteria against which her application is measured and to what extent her application did not satisfy those criteria. Rejected applicants have no recourse to appeal, and the University’s ‘culture’ does not require responses to requests for feedback.

So plenty to be done.

Sort of a newbie

I can’t really claim to be a newbie to blogging. In addition to this personal site, I manage several others, as well. One is dedicated to my teaching, another to the research project that I co-direct with colleagues from Sweden. During the course of this year, I’ve opened two further WordPress sites. One marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Roland Barthes’s Mythologies that I translated into Finnish quite some time ago, and the most recent one, still under construction, is an attempt to initiate a socio-legal agenda at the Faculty. In addition, I am webmaster for the site of the Finnish national section of the IVR. So plenty of sites, all on the WordPress platform (and a few dormant Tumblr sites, as well).

But I think that that is the issue: they are all sites, not blogs, even though I use a platform which is usually associated with blogging. This realisation came to me yesterday when I read Jo Shaw’s entry on her future research agenda and had a look at her blog more generally.

Three observations.

First, Jo uses the self-reflective style of a blog entry to bring structure to her own work. As much as it’s a message to the rest of us following her, a blog entry also provides an opportunity for its writer to bring ideas and observations within the confines of a framework. The lovely thing about a blog is, of course, that you can always revisit that framework. You can always change your mind about priorities, emphases and relations. I guess the ideal is that the framework is ‘alive’ and develops in pace with the actual research that one does.

Second, Jo strikes an ideal balance between, for want of better terms, the ‘public’ and the ‘private’. Usually in academic writing I tend to distance anything taking place in relation to work from my private life. Someone once noted that my social media entries (I have a Twitter account) are ‘made from a distance’, so to speak. Even though I may have strong opinions about one thing or another, my person is usually a bit further away. Or at least this is the impression some people get. Jo, on the other hand, inserts observations of a more personal nature into her blog entries because, I guess, they matter. This is something I need to learn. And this is why my sites have been just that: sites rather than blogs.

Third, Jo is an excellent photographer. She visualises her blog entries and other social media messages with photographs that she has taken about the environment in which she happens to be at the time of writing. Some entries are even specifically about the visual aspects of a photograph. Now I wasted a whole youth in dark rooms printing from 35 mm black and white film. But after photography became digital, I sort of lost interest. Apart from the snapshots taken with smart phones and mediocre compact cameras, I didn’t really feel the need to capture my environment with pixels. But my wife gave me such an expensive camera body as a birthday present that I have to change course. So I’ve started an introductory course in digital photography at community college hoping that by the end of it I’ll master my camera rather than the other way around. Film and digital are two very different beasts. With this in mind, I’ve even chosen a WordPress theme for this blog that works best with a wealth of imagery. The first thing on my to-do list is to shoot a new header image for this site. But for now I’ll stick with the default.