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Read The F*** Manual

Read The F*** Manual

Photographer:Fotograaf: Nalini Kotamraju

It’s the beginning of the academic year, so time for some ‘new year’s resolutions’. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Students: ‘I will not get angry if my tutors don’t respond to my emails within minutes.’  This could be expanded to resolve not to send emails two hours before a submission deadline, nor to ask a question to which you could easily find an answer if you spent a few minutes to RTFM (the abbreviation used by IT helpdesks around the world – Read The F*** Manual).

Academic staff: ‘I will not assume my students are ignorant because they don’t understand the significance of the Den Uyl Cabinet or Dolly the sheep. I am old – for me these are vivid recollections, but they might have happened before the students were born.’ For them it is history.

For many students and academic colleagues: ‘Respect those whose work you cite. I will check carefully before I submit something for assessment or for publication. Referencing software is NOT magic.’ Continuing with the IT abbreviations – GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out. It does matter that you reference properly, and others shouldn’t be landed with cleaning up your mess.

Again for both students and academic colleagues: ‘It’s not only about me. I will be grateful for all the work done by librarians, technicians, cleaners, secretaries, administrators who make it possible for me to study and do my work.’ 

Of course, it’s easy to be self-righteous and to make resolutions for others. And I’m not sure I’d like my students and colleagues to make suggestions for me, so I’ll end with two resolutions for myself. The first is to read more, with the necessary corollary that I will write less. I spend too much time reading drafts and giving comments. It would be nice to have a year of reading published work that someone already thinks is as good as it can be. This does not apply to my own PhDs and students – I love reading their drafts.

The second is easier to keep. Eat more ice cream! When I was a child, my parents would take my siblings and me for ice cream on the day before school started if we had everything ready for the next day. After all these years in academic institutions, I still think ice cream is the best start to a new year.

Sally Wyatt, Professor Digital Cultures at Fasos



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