Work time is no time at all

What’s a student to do? Since Christmas I have been filling time with having no time at all. So many jobs to do, there’s no time for any of them. Making a start on one, you’re behind on the last… and end up with eight problems and barely a touch made on any of them. In a working environment this is pretty easy to fix by collaborating (or – conspiring) with fellow workers: we used to spike the instruction manuals we wrote for leading, here-to-be-unnamed British mobile telephone company with pictures of family members’ cats and Electric Wizard lyricsBut as a student it’s tricky. We work in little invisible boxes. And the only way to escape, sometimes, is to break out. Play darts. Get food.

who would have thunk Beavis and Butthead would spin off a cartoon that was, like, good, and stuff

At least you get pizza when you stop to get pizza

I’ve made money from jobs on the side. It’s getting to the point where I want to cut everything out and focus on work. I want work to stop being work, and start being enjoyable again. There isn’t time for work.

I predict a riot! Talking young people’s politics in the UK

I’ve had so much interest from folks at Uni, around town, internet people, even the media about the Open Café about young people’s politics on Monday. People have been asking: what do you think about this?

nervous cat is nervous

Mostly I think: “Oh God what have I got myself into”

I haven’t blogged in a while, so I wanted to share a draft of some ideas with you. And if you like it, you could always come along Monday and buy me a pint…

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Alone in the UK this Christmas

In-country visa applications should take about 20 days. UKBA are holding onto them for more than three months; leaving thousands of students stranded alone in Britain this Christmas.

UKBA’s poor service has left thousands of students stranded this Christmas

Sure, Britain isn’t perfect. But we do have things we do well, and university education is one of them. Our universities are among the best in the world, and according to UNESCO, somewhere near 400,000 students and researchers come to Britain every year to study with us.

If you’re an international student here and want to extend your visa – for example, if you are a Masters student beginning a research degree – the UK Border Agency accepts an “in-country application” for visa extensions. The procedure costs £394 and crucially, the UKBA requires every student to send all original documentation as well as their passport with the application. Documents are returned when the process is complete.

UKBA’s own target for returning a successful visa is 20 days. But UKBA isn’t doing what they promise. According to the Border Agency’s own independent inspector, only 12% of applications meet this target. A freedom of information request made in September found the average time for processing such a visa is currently 108 days.

The National Union of Students reports that thousands of international students are at risk of being held in the UK, unable to go home this Christmas because UKBA are holding onto their passports for – according to the Financial Times – between “four and seven months” (FT article here – £). At the University of Bath, of 151 students who submitted applications within the prescribed time – and paid the £394 fee – only 11 have received timely service from UKBA. Another international office responded to the NUS that of 300 visa applications made in September and October, only 30 have been processed.

This means that, if you have a university in your city, you can expect hundreds of international students to be stuck here this year through no fault of their own, having paid £394 to UKBA in the autumn, and often hundreds of pounds out of pocket on a return flight they can’t take, because their passport is being held by the Border Agency.

So whatever your political views on the matter do please remember: there are thousands of students, here, unable to see their families at Christmas this year, even though they have followed the proper procedures for visa applications, simply because UKBA can’t get their act together.

If you are running an event over the holiday period please let your local University’s students union know. They can forward details to those who may be here alone this Christmas.

The NUS is urging people to write to their local MP. Let’s make sure this level of terrible service isn’t suffered by international students again.

On young political narratives of hopelessness, and Franz Kafka


Poverty – a flashcard from my focus group methodology

The following is an adapted excerpt from a thematic literature review, following a pilot study, that I carried out last spring. I proposed the finding that young people’s experience during the contemporary transition to adulthood challenges researchers with a complex, dualistic relationship between narratives as young people make reflexive, self-narrative transitions to adulthood. The accepted narrative is something like Horatio Alger Jr.’s ‘bootstrap’ novelle about the heroic self-made man. I drew examples from Nayak and Kehily’s studies of young masculinity and femininity during the dual transition of individuals from childhood to independence, and, as a period effect, the transition of British society from an industrial one to a neo-liberalist economy (Nayak and Kehily, 2008) in which making one’s own way in the world represents both a newfound freedom and new post-industrial shackle.

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Working the Google spider

I had a shock on Google Scholar when I put in one of my usual search terms, young antipolitics, found an unread article, and found that it was mine. My name in lights! Well, Google lights, anyway. The paper is a literature review I wrote for a master’s course and I had placed it on my University website to point interested folk at a conference towards it. I guess the Google scholar robots stumbled on it and figured with a address it must be legit.

noone reads alt text these days

It’s automatic (source:

The paper has been graded now – it was alright – but for a good month or so the top result for young antipolitics on Google scholar was some old junk I had parcelled onto a uni website without any reading or review. I reckon the Google robots must check references with some accuracy – you can surf through articles that cite each other – but in the end, it turns out like Wikipedia. Can you really be sure who writes what you find on the internet?

Of course, we’re all good students and take web papers with a pinch of salt. You check the name of the journal, you recognize the major citations… and so on. What’s interesting to me here isn’t the potential to fall foul of Google’s robots but ways we as students can play the robots at their own game: juice up our papers to look good to robots, get the top spot on Google scholar, cross-reference our research blogs, and so on. Coming up with a cracking neologism – antipolitics is an accidental one – and stamping your name on it as a search term might be one way to do it.

And wouldn’t that be great, if some day, some stranger typed your name into Google and got a wonderful academic treatise, rather than the Facebook account of a dude in Iowa by the same name…

Conceptualizing Facebook as a city

As a visitor to Facebook and not a resident – I don’t maintain an account there myself – it’s been interesting to see how people interact with you when you say you’re not on the site. Usually they say “good on you” or “I will leave it myself, some day…”

What’s striking to me is that people say similar things about living in the countryside rather than the city. Leaving Facebook is a plan for the future, an idealistic thing, maybe something to do for your kids.

This got me thinking about conceptualizing Facebook as a city, and how it relates to that old dead metropolis Geocities. Urban planning isn’t something related to my research but the principles around identity and belonging are not far off, at least; and I found it an interesting thought experiment. We live online, with our friends and colleagues. What kind of a place is the internet – as an accumulation of people working and living together – turning into, should it follow Facebook’s model?

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Now this: this is a city.

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Hands up who likes bees?

One thing I really like about student life is the conferences, and the way ideas cross-pollinate when a conference is set up right. That is, when there are spaces at a conference to ignore the conference and just shoot the breeze with some other student you’ve never met, from wherever, doing whatever. It’s best not when you find someone doing a whatever that’s similar to yours, but one that’s totally different but using the same framework, or language, or technology for understanding. What can we do to promote this kind of productive collision between ideas?

My secret plan, which I’ve been cooking up for some time, is to set up a collaborative blog, primarily for postgraduate research students, but inviting others along for the ride too, so that people can share their ideas whether thought through or not, and get that oh-so-important “web presence”. Even if it’s just to copy out a couple of sections from a paper they’ve already published, even only to point to a seminar group to check out the blog. Sounds good so far, right? And everyone says: yes! A lovely idea. Yes! I’ll write for you and that sounds just terrific and yes, yes, yes…

We all like positivity, yes?

If I organize it, will you come along? (Actual turnout not shown)

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