Introduction to Tropical Angel Harps Youth Group

Tropical Angel Harps Youth Group

Exploring the newly invented PHI pan Exploring the newly invented PHI pan

Tropical Angel Harps Youth Group is a nongovernmental organization. It was founded in January 2000 and is located in the central area of Trinidad and Tobago. It is a youth group in my community that uses music to help the youths off the streets. The community is usually riddled with many social ills such as crime and poverty. Therefore the youth group serves as a positive outlet for young people in the community.

Educational and Life-skill workshops Educational and Life-skill workshops

The target audience is individuals between the age of 15 and 22 that usually drop out of school, home alone after school or do not have a job. An objective of the organization is to teach the individuals skills and good behavior to be better citizens in society.  Another objective is to form a band to play music (steelpan) for events that are broadcast on television or…

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The benefits of attending & presenting @Academic conferences

In an earlier blog, I outlined what an academic conference is, and my first academic conference experience. In this blog, I talk about my Five (5) approaches to academic conferences. I also highlight some of the general pros and cons of conferences as discussed in many other blogs.

  1. Use conferences to practice presentation techniques

I used to be one of the most daring girls I knew growing up singing and doing poetry etc. I mean you just name it – I was super active. However, for some reason or the other, I began to retreat into my shell over the past ten years. As a result, I realised that I had difficulties presenting in public especially at events where people knew me. So during my PhD, I began utilising public engagement (conferences, etc.) events as a way of trying various presentation techniques. For instance, I first used a well-structured presentation; then I moved to semi-structured presentations. I even started presenting without powerpoint assistance. For me, it all depends on the type conference and discussion you want to generate. The following chart provides a list of things I do to prepare for my presentations. My nervousness and fear of presentations have decreased drastically. Now I need to focus on active thinking and listening.

Screenshot 2016-06-27 09.47.35

  1. Meet scholars in my field and pose questions that emerged during your own study time

At my very first conference I thought it was much of a fan – superstar phenomenon. I remembered attending my very first academic conference and seeing Clemencia Rodriguez right before my eyes. I  had been using several quotes from this scholar since my undergrad years, and I got so shy that I was barely able to ask her some important questions. After a few conferences, I realised that most scholars welcome the idea of discussions about their work at these events. So, I started utilising conference spaces to ask topical questions or matters of grave concern in my field of study. This strategy has proven useful regarding developing my ideas in various parts of my thesis.

  1. Leads on future work or interesting research that’s relevant to your topic

Conferences typically facilitate multiple panel discussions and keynotes. I think a more important aspect for me was listening carefully for interesting quotes or soundbites that could augment my research. Particularly in a case where the topic was quite close to one of my PhD chapters, one of my broader research interests or something just some fact that was quite new to me. In instances like these, I approached the speakers and asked for further information on their quote, etc. This move would often result in the exchange of business cards or ongoing dialogue via email on the subject that was intriguing. Though this approach sounds like a game of dominoes, the end result is that I would leave the conference with a useful additional resource that has so many implications on the way I think or write about a topic or research.

  1. Form mutually-beneficial relationships with conference attendees

Before attending a few conferences, I would map out what I intended on achieving. Especially, in cases where my university is funding my accommodation and transportation cost, demonstrating the usefulness of a conference is often a requirement. Some of the times I thought of innovative ways in which I could develop a partnership with some of the conference attendees that have similar research interests. In one instance my colleague and I developed a research seminar that was hinged on the idea of feeding back views from academics. These views were obtained through sound bites provided by academics at one of the conferences I attended. Just having more purpose-driven discussions with academics have allowed for me to partake in subsequent activities alongside these other academics.

  1. Reflective Retreat

A conference can be quite heavy especially a three-day conference filled with various parallel presentations. So often I’d take some time during the conference to think about the subject, the angles that are being discussed, and determine whether these ideas can provide a useful structure for my own research. Or can I actually think of a similar structure? More significantly, are these new ideas and how do these new ideas disrupt the organisation of my own work? Is this new information relevant to developing my own thoughts?

The graphic below provides general pros and cons of attending an academic conference:

Screenshot 2016-06-27 09.58.05

Should older academics be forced to retire?

The Thesis Whisperer

This post was written by an ANU colleague, in their mid 40’s, who would prefer to remain anonymous – for good reason.

The post articulates the inter-generational resentment brewing inside our universities. It expresses sentiments I have heard often from my peers in their 30’s and 40’s in the tea rooms of academia. Rarely however, does this resentment find its way into the public sphere where it can be discussed and debated.

You may disagree with this post – or violently agree with it. I’ll be interested to hear what you think in the comments.

The University where I currently work has recognised an age imbalance in its workforce, which is skewed towards those over 55. It is now taking active steps to rebalance – including encouraging retirement of aging academics at one end and entry of fresh new talent at the other.

Some may scream about ageism – but…

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Thinking aloud: what does community media mean?

Community media are “of, for and by the people.” – Lewis 1976

Have you ever came across the term community media? And are you still trying to figure out what it means? Most people just assume that it has something to do with much of the obvious – ‘community‘ and ‘media.’ In this blog, I re-introduce this concept, because it remains an important area of media and I have a personal interest in this subject.

Screenshot 2016-06-21 22.54.13Community Media – Screenshot was taken by Rachel-Ann D. Charles

The term community media emerged in scholarship as early as 1977, where Frances Berrigan first introduced ‘Western Models’ of community media in her edited report titled: Access: some Western models of community media. In this article, the authors present mainly broadcast models of community media from The United States of America, Canada, and Europe. In a subsequent UNESCO report ‘Community Communications the role of community media in development’ she defined the term community media. In this report she identifies the significance, function and key features of this. Take a look at Berrigan’s definition of community media below.

“Community media are adaptations of media for use by the community for whatever purposes the community decides. They are media to which members of the community has access, for information, education, entertainment, when they want access. They are media to which the community participates, as planners, producers, performers. They are the means of expression of the community, rather than for the community.”

(Berrigan, 1979, p.8)

We see words like access frequently mentioned in the description above. This idea of access relates to the provision of a platform for amateurs to produce media content rather than media professionals providing and constructing content for the public. Berrigan further qualifies the notion of community media by claiming that one of the primary objectives of community media platforms is to make two-way communication possible for communities. Mostly, community members are seen here as both senders and receivers.

Within the last decade, community media has received more attention and since then, further theories and concepts of community media have been proposed bearing common characteristics similar to previous ideas. However, some of these views on community media have also proven too general while some have provided interesting debates on this subject matter. If you would like to examine more definitions of community media you can take at look at the following works:

I am sure some people may wonder whether or not there is an operational definition for this media sector? The fact is that community media has different labels throughout the world. For example, community radio is referred to as “popular or educational radio” in Latin America, while within some parts of the African continent community media is termed “rural or bush radio,” and in Europe community media is commonly referred to as “free or association radio (Jankowski, 2003).” So how can any one definition explain this phenomenon?

What about the word ‘community’ doesn’t that term complicate the meanings of community media? The term community also does not have a fixed meaning as it can be representative or unusual. Like many other media scholars such as Downing (2008) I too believe that the term “community” problematises the concept… because of these conceptual issues community media is then seen as lacking a boundary or parameter – but is this a good or bad thing?

Another question is whether or not community media has a place in a globalised world? Or is this an appropriate media form? In my view, community media has a major role in articulating the voices of the voiceless. Much of these voices are often excluded from the mainstream media platforms. However, with the advent of social media, there are increased opportunities for the marginalised voices in the community to share their views. However, issues such as disempowerment, etc. often rears its ugly head amongst these groups. Legitimising this field i.e. showing the benefits of using community media is one of the ways to overcome these matters.


NB: This post was updated to reflect current thoughts on the subject matter.

Don’t get pregnant. If you can help it…

The Thesis Whisperer

This post is by Walter Reinhardt, a PhD student at ANU’s Fenner school where he is investigating demand management policy for residential water and electricity use. Walter is now at the pointy end of his degree, but he took time out to play with the stats and tell you what the likelihood is of you encountering a major life event during your PhD.

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with my PhD supervisors. Gave them draft chapters, chapter outlines and results enough for a couple more. I asked them, in their experience, if they thought it could be submitted by mid next year and what advice they’d give me if I went for it. Straight off the bat, one of them remarked: “Don’t get pregnant.”

We laughed.

It’s kind of hard for me to do that. I’m a dude with an unappealing mo’ for a start. But…

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My first Conference Presentation

Since I was a child the term conference was quite familiar in our Christian household. As a member of the African Methodist Episcopal religion, everyone would dress in formal apparel for conferences, and this event almost seemed like the battle of the churches. I used the term ‘battle’ to mean contest because each church would spend weeks preparing their departments for week-long conference activities – in an attempt to outperform each other or so it seemed. While the primary aims of these conferences were far deeper than a competition, it was during these activities members became familiar with those who were the best singers, preachers, evangelists and so forth.

A few years later I received a scholarship to attend the AIDS conference in Vienna as youth journalist and that experience was enlightening for various reasons. The first was that there were countless A-listers (politicians, billionaires, entertainers etc.) from around the world at this event. In my view, the challenge was keeping my cool while interviewing these ‘celebrities’ in an attempt to get some serious questions and concerns addressed. The second was that although they were famous some sessions were well attended while in others sessions the audience was sparse. But how did these previous conferences help me to prepare for  the onslaught of academic conferences I’d be attending during my PhD journey.

Since the start of my PhD in February 2012, I never presented my work at an academic conference. So, I decided to present a summary of my research at the RESCON 2013 conference on December 17th. RESCON is an annual research conference held at Birmingham City University and it is a space for staff and postgraduate students across all faculties to talk about their research.  I decided that it would practice at this internal conference, in preparation for my first External academic event MeCCSA 2014 Conference. I was a tad nervous while presenting my research journey at RESCON. I think I always get a bit anxious about the way the audience receives my work and I sometimes allow that anxiousness to control my presentation delivery. So I intend on using my conference presentations as a way of gaining control of my nervousness.

So I’m sure some of you may be asking how is an academic conference different?

“An academic conference is a conference for researchers (not always academics) to present and discuss their work. Along with academic or scientific journals, conferences provide an important channel for the exchange of information among experts.”

Academic conference. (2016, February 5). New World Encyclopedia, . Retrieved 10:26, June 27, 2016 from

Some of the main differences between academic and the non-academic conferences include:


  • Audience members participate in post-presentation discussions where they react and sometimes debate interesting points raised by the presenter.
  • Other scholars get an opportunity to interact with scholarly work in progress or debate existing claims.


In a later post I will talk about the benefits of presenting at Academic Conferences.

NB: This post was updated to reflect current thoughts on the subject matter.