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Reflection and sanctuary post-writing: idiosyncratic practices to get my head on straight

Elation, euphoria, and exhaustion: music for (post) e-learning by Elektronicheslernenmuzik on Mixcloud

This post is merely an excuse to demonstrate that writing, the actual action of putting text to document (digital or otherwise) is but one stage on a larger continuum of activity. Those pre-writing gestation periods of daydreaming and internal dialogues leading to research and outlining, tinkering and maneuvering into a structure, followed by procrastination and delay (further gestation, if I want to sound optimistic about it), followed by the writing and then the post-writing activity. This is the activity I am addressing here.

The post-writing psychology is a mysterious beast. There is elation and trepidation, melancholy and mourning, reflection and consolidation. There is a natural nostalgia. For me, I rarely look into the future at these moments (an oddity for me) as I can’t envision it past the world I just created in the writing. When the writing is finished, I want to sit there with it and mourn its passing. We had been friends, traveling companions for so long. And then the next day I begin to chart a world, a future, without it. I push the finished writing further into the recesses of my Dropbox, only to be stumbled upon by accident, in a folder entitled Finished Writing. How arrogant. It is just a trial or temporary separation as nothing is ever finished. Everything is always reflected upon and made anew.

So post-writing I sit here and scramble for purpose without letting myself just wallow in the purposelessness of rest and reflection. I find myself turning to the same things: media I have created in the in-between-ness of this life, between assignments, deadlines, and responsibility. Just when I had a smartphone and I couldn’t care less about productivity for the rest of the day. Sunsets and sounds, travel, isolation and sanctuary. A retreat.

So this is what I look at. Listen to. Rebuild from. I have collaged a thousand sunsets but only present a few here. I have recorded thousands of audio samples from the exotic and the banal (which can be one in the same when your physical home isn’t your emotional or intellectual core. I have sequenced a thousand playlists, discarding the songs that were too personal, too related to the last piece of writing, just like a breakup. I sit and breathe and remain still for as long as I can, because tomorrow I will be wired up and ready to tackle the next challenge. Writing never gets old that way.

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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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