Tous les articles par Lévana Eckert

FREE SPEECH IN THE COMMUNITY

By Thomas Donato,

As it stands for one of our most cherished values, we often take freedom of expression for granted… We use it all the time, sometimes wisely, sometimes not. Being at liberty to say what we think without punishment is a feature of Western democracies. The devastating terrorist attacks which occurred in France in 2015, targeting cartoonists who exercised that very freedom, prompted people all over the world to reaffirm their commitment to freedom of speech and conscience. But why do we hold free speech to be so important? What function does it serve in society at large?
Tolerance of dissent has not always been the norm, and still isn’t in many places. Indeed, if history teaches us anything about human nature, it is that the first instinct when dealing with heretics is to burn them. Whether it is a scientist making unorthodox claims about the nature of the universe, a novelist writing candidly about sex or a radical political activist undermining patriotism during wartime, the drive to censor endures. European Enlightenment, with its emphasis on reason as opposed to superstition and obscurantism, allowed for the gradual acceptance of freedom of speech and inquiry as a way to get to the truth and spread knowledge. In the late 18th century, the United States of America was the first nation to officially recognize freedom of speech as paramount in the First Amendment of its Constitution. Throughout the 20th century, the American Supreme Court has repeatedly reinforced protection of a great variety of speech, even the most hateful.
There are several reasons why free speech is vital. First, it is a core aspect of democracy. It allows all ideas to be heard so that citizens may make informed choices about their future. Crucially, it enables marginalized groups to bring injustices to light. In addition, it guarantees that people in power are held accountable for their actions and are prevented from banning uncomfortable ideas from public life. Free speech teaches humility; often there is much to learn from opposing viewpoints. What is more, freedom of expression is especially important for universities. In the sense that it is intimately linked to academic freedom, the belief that scholars should be able to freely to determine what they teach and to communicate on controversial topics without fear of repression. By the same token, open access to academic research is democratic free speech in action.
Finally, the main values communicated by freedom of speech are those of tolerance and inclusion. Free discourse means that one will inevitably encounter idiocy and ignorance. But by letting people express ideas we find offensive, we let them know that they are legitimate members of the community, entitled to the same rights as everyone else. It may be difficult to see views we find abhorrent being openly disseminated, but driving them underground does not make them disappear, it makes them stronger. Repression breeds hate, not harmony. Tolerance towards the thoughts we hate is the price to pay for living in a free society.

Farber, Daniel. The First Amendment. New York: The Foundation Press, 1998.
Lewis, Anthony. Freedom for the Thought We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment. New York: Basic Books, 2007.
Walker, Samuel. Hate Speech: The History of an American Controversy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

Research, or keeping up the desire to read

Going into research implies a strong inclination towards acquiring knowledge and highly developed curiosity. Being a researcher takes time and effort, yet not everyone is willing to spend that much energy acquiring knowledge, sharing discoveries, as well as doing a lot of reading.

We are constantly being told that new generations read less and less, that they spend their time otherwise, and that even if their curiosity has no limit, the written word is dying out confronted with the new media. If the world stops reading, the world will run out of researchers, or so one might think.

As I read Comme un Roman, a book by Daniel Pennac published in 1992, I realised that this book, which is as old as I am, voiced the same concerns about people reading less and less, preferring TV while books are being kicked to the curb. And yet, the author explains that the desire to read is linked to the desire for knowledge, and that this desire has not disappeared, it has only been displaced. He reasons that a young person, once nourished by fairy tales and clamoring for bedtime stories, does not reject reading as a teenager because of television, but because of how he or she was brought up. When reading is presented as a lonely chore to the child and other forms of entertainment as a reward, books are turned into objects instead of stories made of magical words teaching wondrous things, thus a change is wrought and young people are made to rebel against books.

As research students, we are asked to read constantly and profusely. Not only novels but research papers, articles, essays, anything that can help with our work, so that for most of us, what was once a pleasure becomes a chore. Being forced to read, with little time to do so and demanding assignments, it seems that our love of reading withers away in the exact same way. However, it appears that the phenomenon can be reversed, that people can be made to love reading and learning again, if their perception of it is changed. Because actually it is our conception that is false: young people, nowadays, read and write more than previous generations. Technology has made people use the written word without even realizing it. When only a handful of people use to write letters, everyone now texts. When only a small portion of the world had access to books and literature, an ever-expanding portion of the world has access to the internet, and all those people read, and consequently learn. The ways and means have changed, but the curiosity is still out there and so is the will to learn and share.

As students, and future researchers, we are aware of these changes. We know we read more, and we know the mandatory reading we face is not always easy to get through, and sometimes we would rather do something else. However, we fight our own misconceptions every day, and we keep on reading, because in spite of it all, we do still love it. And if as a researcher you feel your reading habits could use a boost, do read Comme un Roman

Creative writing, or the importance of creativity in an academic environment

As a practice creative writing is, to say the least, under-appreciated in France. It is a discipline that thrives in other countries, though it is largely ignored inside our borders. As if here it were fractured into two different activities: on the one hand, academic writing which is valued for its structure, and on the other: creative writing which is sidelined, and supposedly does not lead to a full-time job. Hopefully, the trend is slowly changing.

The model, or what is happening next door:
In other countries, creative writing has been introduced in schools and universities as a new way to learn and develop oneself. As an Erasmus student I have spent time at an Irish university and participated in two different approaches: a class entitled literary composition and a student group: The Writer’s Society, both based on the concept of creative writing. At the university level, creative writing is encouraged as teachers push their students to learn how to write stories and to expand their vocabulary in a non-academic way while in an academic atmosphere; students also devote some of their (free) time to practicing and discussing writing among themselves. This way, students learn to be creative as well as structured.

French advances towards creative writing:
Inspired by the emergence of creative writing courses abroad, the French have also changed their habits and feelings towards writing at the university level. As of 2016, a few Masters programs have opened their doors, as well as a « Doctorat Pratique et Théorie de la Création littéraire et artistique » being created at the Aix-Marseilles University. Thus creative writing is slowly being developed and accepted in French universities.

Creative but not only:
Creative writing is not only a means to help students unleash their creative side and feel more comfortable when writing in and about everyday life, but has also been proven to improve language learning. At our very own university, creative writing has been used as a new approach to mastering a foreign language. For the past eight years, it has been a part of the English studies, implemented by Sara Greaves and Marie-Laure Schultze, both researchers teaching at Aix-Marseille University. Their workshops are designed to offer an alternative method to learning and practicing English by appealing to the student’s imagination and feelings. The dissociation of form and meaning has a way of “revitalizing language relationships” and thus improving writing skills1. By writing in a creative way instead of an academic one, students have to adjust their skills to make the language their own and open themselves to the otherness of the tongue (2015). The creative writing classes taking place at the AMU operate at the nexus between language, literature and translation classes.

Creative writing at an academic level is more than just an asset: it is a flourishing discipline, helping students with their personal writing as well as academic writing, and has also proven to be very effective in language learning, which still has a long way to go and much more to offer.

1Greaves & Schultze, 2012

Why you will not necessarily finish reading this post!

By Geoffrey Gosa

On average, users read less than one third of the text on a web page, according to the report:  »How Do People Read on the web: the Eyetracking Experience » written by the Nielsen Norman Group. Only a small number of you read all the way through articles on the web. Ever wonder why?
The first reason that springs to mind is the difficulty of remaining focused on an article. External links are numerous, inviting you to go and see another article or even another website. They certainly do not help you focus. People rarely read web pages word by word; instead, they scan them, picking out individual words and sentences. Studies have shown that only sixteen percent of users read word-by-word.
Secondly, the wide variety of Internet websites certainly does not help. When surfing the Internet, users are constantly assailed by thousands of websites. They have to switch rapidly between pages to avoid spending too much time on the Internet. Consequently, readers cannot stay focused and rarely make it all the way down the page—as a matter of fact, many people do not even make it halfway.
So why do users click on a page to read an article, if in all probability they will not finish it? Credibility is crucial for a web user since it is unclear in his mind who is behind the information and whether it can be trusted. High-variety is not the same as high-quality. The quality of the article will make the user scroll further. In fact, credibility can increase the reading thanks to good writing or outbound hypertext links.
In order to attract readers, websites use different devices such as highlighted keywords, typeface variations or colors. The choice of the subheading is quite important: it has to be meaningful and catchy. The structure of the article has to be relevant and ordered: one idea for one paragraph, and the very first sentence of the paragraph has to retain the main argument. Contrary to an essay, a post has to start straightforwardly with the conclusion and above all, it has to be short.
People generally share links from articles they have not fully read. If someone recommends a page online, we cannot assume the page has been read entirely. In other words, there is little correlation between sharing and reading. On the contrary, articles read deeply do not necessarily generate a lot of shared links.
For instance, if someone had any inkling of sharing this post, they would probably have done so after having read only the first lines or even after having read the title and seeing the picture at the top.

The Internet has changed our reading habits: there is always something else to read, to look at, to watch. In other words, the Internet has brought upon us the age of skimming.

 

-Johnson, Louanne. ‘Ten Reasons Nonreaders Don’t Read.’ Scholastic, n.d. Web. 16 February 2016.
-Manjoo, Farhad. ‘How People Read Online.’ Slate, 06 June 2007. Web. 16 February 2016.
-Nielsen, Jakob. ‘How Users Read on the Web.’ Nielsen Norman Group. 01 October 1997. Web. 17 February 2016.
-n.p. ‘How People Read on the Web: The Eye Tracking Experience.’ Nielsen Norman Group. n.d. Web pdf. 16 February 2016

Explore Lermastériales 2016

By Lévana Eckert & Tiffany Robert (2016)

Need some help organising your conference? Here is what you need to know if you want to be a part of AMU’s Lermastériales. Have a look at the 2016 recipe and check out what our committee was able to achieve.

Ingredients (the essential): Seven committee members

1 Valentine
1 Heidi
1 Geoffrey
1 Lucie
1 Alice
1 Séréna
1 César
Lots of patience
A strong sense of humour
Just a dash of perseverance

Preparation (you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs):

Similarly to the PhD students, each committee member volunteered to organise the annual DEMA event. The preparation included designing a poster, handling the budget, preparing a menu, getting the food, making, storing as well as transporting meals to the conference room, and trying not to panic.

The whole thing starts with accepting a large amount of unknown since you have to start organising the day without all the variables. When the committee met in February, right after being elected, they first intended to attribute clear-cut tasks to each member. In the end though, only two students were given a specific role (respectively designing the poster and handling the budget). All M2 students actually voted for the poster they preferred among the three that had been designed; but after that, it was the committee’s role to visit On’copie and get a cost estimate in order to print the posters and programs before collecting them and handing everything to Anne Page. As far as planning a menu was concerned, it was taken care of by five committee members, who faced two main difficulties: special diets and undisclosed budget. While they thought they would have a whole month to prepare the event, the most important tasks (like shopping and cooking) were carried out in one day: the day right before the Lermastériales (told you that not panicking was of the essence – and wait until you read the rest).

Before going into more details about the menu, let us underline the committee’s participation to editing the book of abstracts and standardising all the propositions. Their efforts and attention were also caught up in the very time-consuming task of finalising March 4th’s schedule. Séréna explains how never-ending the list of little corrections and adjustments was (whether on spelling, standardisation, or running order), and Geoffrey points out that more than fifty e-mails were exchanged between the committee members in twenty-four hours, on February 24th, the day before a final version was sent to Anne Page. This is just one among several examples on how easily the pressure was increasing as D-day was approaching.

Continuer la lecture de Explore Lermastériales 2016

Lermastériales : « Une affaire qui roule »

By Lévana Eckert & Tiffany Robert (2016)

This is how Christelle Klein-Scholz described the Lermastériales when we met with her and the PhD students who helpfully contributed to the organisation of the conference. This year was the fifth edition of a successful project: the result of a great amount of work, mainly carried out by Anne Page through her commitment, time and effort. Five young researchers were at her side this year: Justine Dupouy, who is a PhD student in English literature and has been taking part in the Lermastériales for three years; Florence Floquet, a PhD student in linguistics, who has been contributing for two years; Christelle Klein-Scholz, a doctor in American literature and ATER at AMU, who has also been involved for three years; Jean Missud, a PhD student in linguistics and phonetics, who has been helping with the Lermastériales both as a PhD student since 2015 and as an MA student for the second edition, and Emilie Mitran, for whom it was the first time being involved as a PhD student (in American civilisation), although she did participate as an MA student in 2012.

In previous years, at least one session was devoted to a less formal encounter with young researchers who then presented their field of research and educational background. Those sessions and the time allotted to the preparation formed a stronger bond with the students, Jean Missud lightly remarked, expressing how he felt like a coach supporting his team. Students had the opportunity to spend more time on their proposals and worked over three drafts before the final version. This year, scheduling issues resulted in less time for researchers and MA students to meet, discuss, and prepare their communication — they met only twice. Proposals had already been written and the focus was on form rather than content.

Perhaps the most challenging part for the researchers was sorting out the communications into workshops; they noted that all of our papers tackled the given subject, « Confluence(s) » , in very different and unexpected manner and it was not simply a question of regrouping papers from the same field but rather to see how each student dealt with the main topic. After reading the proposals, Christelle Klein-Scholz and Anne Page both suggested a possible programme for the day. Following from the first session with the students, a final version emerged, which was then edited by the committee.

On D-Day, March 5th, they noticed how we soon fell into a good rhythm, punctuated by the many questions of the audience which brought momentum to the day. One couldn’t tell it had been prepared in only a few sessions. According to the young researchers  we have to thank the pressure that was put on the students, who were not only serious about their work, but also showed real professionalism.

‘C’est un apprentissage, c’est formateur de devoir penser à tout’

Florence Floquet remarked. In the end, the main role of the PhD students and reseachers, according to them, is to reassure the students, who know that if anything goes wrong the PhD students are there, thus being a benevolent presence.

Picture by Heidi Fausel of some of the students and PhD students, at the end of the day.

Lermastériales 2016

By Lévana Eckert & Tiffany Robert (2016)

The fifth anniversary edition of “LERMAstériales” was held this year on Friday 4th March 2016. It was an all-day workshop organised and held by the second-year Master students of the English department at Aix-Marseille University. Launched in 2011 on Professor Anne Page’s initiative, the project always looms as a terrifying challenge for ACMA students who stand both on and off stage all day long – however it seems that it was not an impossible task and we unexpectedly enjoyed it.

While students are encouraged to attend academic events organised by their professors during the year, the LERMAstériales offers a unique and new perspective on all the work and effort that go into such events. So the big day, as Mme Monique De Mattia-Viviès pointed out in her introductory speech, gave the students the opportunity to become researchers. In the professor’s experience, it is a transformation that happens every year on this occasion, when those who are usually only part of the academic audience become active professionals in the spotlight.
First thoughts of gratitude go to the seven members of the organizational committee who put an impressive amount of work into the preparation of the day. However, no student was without their task: everyone had to take part in the event by exploring its theme, answering the call for papers on “Confluence(s)” as well as writing and timing a ten-minute communication for the big day. This implied not only individual work, but rehearsing the presentation with members from the same working group in order to do one’s best, both as a single speaker and within a group.

TimeFood breaks

When facing multiple challenges such as having to make a program, create posters, prepare lunch and so on, one becomes aware of all the mechanics involved in setting up an academic event.
While the whole day revolved around the central notion of Confluence(s),—the theme of the annual conference of the Société des Anglicistes de l’Enseignement Supérieur—the students kept switching places, either to speak or to listen, to take notes or to raise hands, to either ask or answer questions.
Being part of the university curriculum, the LERMAstériales are not a one-sided process where students are in charge of everything and receive nothing in return. In fact, as a student, an organiser and a speaker, you are truly rewarded as you learn much from and about the research of others, their methods and their points of view. So in the end, one gets as much out of the LERMAstériales as one puts into it.Conference room

One of the most delicate parts of this academic challenge consisted in being able to confront and deal with the main topic in a professional and appropriate manner. The notion of Confluence(s) was not to be used as an excuse to expound one’s own personal research. On the contrary, the exercise aims at focusing primarily on the given topic, exploring it in depth and using one’s research only as a tool to shed some original light on the subject matter. This implied fine analysis, impeccable structure, coherence, writing and rewriting – all achieved thanks to the precious help from the doctorate students of the LERMA.