Saturday, 29 August 2015

And so farewell to

And so farewell to

Two semi-conscious entities, my own brain and the University of Bradford's computer system, have, quite independently, come to the same decision - it is time to close down my email address at the University of Bradford...

Which I have sometimes written as

This in an attempt to make O'Sullivan visible in an email address, after a discussion with the original email guy at the University of Bradford.

I will leave it to someone else to track the long discussions about apostrophes in email addresses, and in database entries...

The University's computer system has decided that I have 'left'.

I have been associated with the University of Bradford, in many different ways, since the 1980s.  I did an MA in Social and Community Work Studies at the University of Bradford - a very significant step.  Behind much of what I do, especially my confidence in developing an interdisciplinary approach, is the influence of that MA.

I have occasionally taught for the University of Bradford, within the Department of Applied Social Studies and the Department of Interdisciplinary Human Studies.  For some decades I was able to concentrate on the development of interdisciplinary Irish Diaspora Studies, using the University as a notional base.

In 1997 I founded the Irish Diaspora list, the email discussion forum for Irish Diaspora scholars throughout the world.  This was originally based at the University of Bradford, using the University's version of the Majordomo software. 

And I will leave it to someone else to write the history of Majordomo - though, at one point, I had to sit down and write a Guide to Majordomo, a piece of software you made work by sending emails to it...

In 2004 I moved the Irish Diaspora list to Jiscmail, the UK’s academic Listserv - Bradford's email address helped there.  Jiscmail's rules stipulate that at least one list 'owner' has to have an email address.

With the help of the technicians at Bradford and at Jiscmail, and friends at the University of Leeds, I was able to preserve the archives of the Irish Diaspora list.  Through many vicissitudes.  All now archived by the British Library, and by Jiscmail, and stored on discs held by the Glucksman Ireland House, NYU, and by the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, Omagh.

For a  while my Irish Diaspora Studies web site was hosted by the University of Bradford.  The original design and coding for that web site was by my then very young son, Dan.

Much of my work was done under the umbrella of the notional, ‘paper’, Irish Diaspora Research Unit at the University of Bradford.  Where the notional Irish Diaspora Research Unit was especially useful was when I wrote references, research reports, book reviews, acted as a clearing house for information, made connections and introductions, and so on.  We were thus of service to the wider Irish Diaspora Studies research community - we were instrumental in getting very large sums of money for other research projects and bodies.  It seems to be especially useful to funding bodies that we stood outside the fray.

It is easy to demonstrate – with page scans of books and articles – this connection, between Irish Diaspora Studies and the University of Bradford.  I often use as an example, of what can be done with limited resources to change the landscape, our intervention into the study of the Irish Diaspora in Latin America – we published and then further developed an online Bibliography, which allowed us to help and encourage scholars interested in that field.  Again, it is very easy to demonstrate this achievement, with page scans of books and articles giving thanks and acknowledgement.

But now the University of Bradford's computer system has ended that relationship, and I cannot see any easy or obvious way to restore it.  I no longer have any influential contacts within the University.  I would be struggling to find anyone who remembers who I used to be - let alone anyone willing to work with the University system to grant me a favour.

So we are in agreement, that computer and I – let it end.  I will leave this message on my blog at Fiddler's Dog, so that if you are looking for the entity formerly known as you can find me.

And I will leave it to someone else to raise and explore issues around the vast quantities of knowledge and research hidden behind universities' passwords and academic publishers' paywalls...  We paid for all that - why is not available to all of us, as a matter of course?  Can we not, very easily, imagine a better, and more democratic, use of resources?

Patrick O'Sullivan
August 2015