All posts by Sun Kaushik

Week 3: Lines in The Sand Always Wash Away

It’s been a pretty brutal week, between putting in my 2 weeks’ notice at one job, trying to keep up with everything else that’s happening in school, and in my life, and of course, with my feelings. I really took the phrase “when one door closes, another one opens” to heart since I started planning ahead for how I’m going to fill my spare time. I think this is my Renaissance period as a human, and I hope it doesn’t just pass me by! It’s also been a week of massive change externally; for the first time since I was in kindergarten, Travis Zajac is not a New Jersey Devil. Seeing him retire has me feeling a little more at ease with my decision to quit the first job I ever had; it’s like a cosmic sign that sometimes, it really is over, and that’s OK! Besides, if I’m posting this less than 12 hours before a class there’s no telling how much more difficult balancing school and work and life would have gotten. There’s no song better fitting for right now than “Dream Life, Life” by Colbie Caillat since I’m searching for that ease of mind and good vibes! So, with all of this out of the way, let’s dive into actual thesis things! 

I was tasked this week with beginning to think about what sort of articles I am going to need to look at for my literature review and the academically oriented written portion of my thesis project. I was able to take the broad umbrella term of forensic linguistics and narrow it down to wanting to focus on instances of linguistic violence, linguistic injustice, and linguistic bias with consequences relating to judicial issues.  To be a bit more specific I looked at linguistic violence from the perspective of using language to intentionally hurt someone or their credibility, linguistic injustice through the lens of discrimination that many individuals face if they speak with a certain accent or dialect, and linguistic bias as the idea that if someone does speak with a certain dialect they should still be able to transition to a more “desirable” dialect, to make their speech appear intellectual or palatable for others. It’s a very problematic belief that I cannot wait to combat!

With everything going on this week I was not able to find 2 articles but I haven’t had the time to thoroughly read, annotate, and reflect. But, I’m figuring out that life is much easier when you’re able to stop and compromise with yourself rather than ruminate on shattering your dreams of perfection, so I decided to make myself a list of tasks and a weekly agenda that’ll get me back on track, and keep me there. 

  1. Every week I should commit to finding a minimum of three relevant articles and be able to read, annotate, and understand what is going on. For this, I will dedicate two hours to finding the articles on Fridays, and use Saturday and Sunday to explicate them. My goal is to have a minimum of 12 solid sources in terms of looking at instances of linguistic violence, bias, and injustice. I would also like, if time permits, to look at the use of forensic linguistics in the judicial system. Good thing databases, truncated searches, and good folks will be there to help with this!
  2.  I am going to set up a separate Google space, a shared folder, that will be visible on a different page of my website to show how my progress in accumulating articles and understanding them is going.  Updates will be provided regularly on Twitter and screenshots will be used in future blogs to avoid repetitive content or overly long future posts. 
  3. As I am working on gathering my articles, I recognize that the methodology that best suits my approach would be a case study, as I am researching and examining how the field has grown and evolved, but if I am able to look and analyze the actual application of forensic linguistics, I can also incorporate protocol analysis. I’m hoping to have a rough outline of how I’ll organize my lit review prepped by mid-October, and it’ll be a living document that will run parallel to my research. 
  4. As I do my academic, official research,  behind the scenes I’m also going to have to work on expanding my skills with applications like Flash and Twine, and look into other mediums, so that way come the spring, the creative component of the project, which is an e-lit piece, will be facilitated smoothly.
  5.  I’m going to remind myself that it’s OK for me to walk away when things get overwhelming and pick it back up later. I’m also going to take the time this semester to actually enjoy what I’m doing beyond just thinking about the academic aspects and merits of everything. Things are looking up! 

Admittedly, it is hard to step back and say I didn’t get what I wanted to or needed to do, and I can feel my inferiority complex kicking in! But, I can also appreciate having the space to grow. Here’s a lovely TED Talk that inspires me to think about why it’s more important to strive for internal honesty, bravery, and improvement over perfection. I might have started out with a foundation like a house of cards, but I’m definitely evolving into an origami masterpiece! 

I’m going to leave you with the wondrous, and seeking track “Seems So” by The Apples in Stereo, and I’ll see you on the other side! Oh, and happy fall! 

This Ain’t A Rodeo

Content Warning for Sensitive Topics Discussed Later in the Blog Below. Please proceed with caution. 

Life really is only ten percent of what happens to you, and the other ninety percent is how you choose to react to it. Right now, setting up a schedule to accommodate all my responsibilities and other activities has me feeling more than slightly overwhelmed. Eighteen-hour days are just going to have to be the new normal! There’s also this drop-off in terms of personal growth that I saw within myself, where all the acceptance and appreciation for who I am was about to just vanish after a few scenarios where it was made painfully apparent that I’m just conceptually weird if that makes sense. Thankfully, I’ve got great tracks like “Cowboy in LA” by LANY to remind me that there’s nothing wrong with doing things at your own pace in your own way, fitting in isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and it helped to recalibrate my mindset. So, yeah, I’m still working on it, but I’m going to flip from tired, to wired, inspired, and most of all, enjoying what I do rather than being passive and a guy going through it.

So, moving into actual thesis things, I know that I already declared my idea in my previous blog: An interactive, pick-your-own-path/RPG-style interactive electronic lit piece that uses discourse theory to shed a light on conversations around care and equity, and how there are shifts and subtle, personal variations for a number of intersectional factors would encapsulate a lot of my research interests and personal values. I know that sentence is a lot to take in, but basically, I get to fold in theory, gaming pedagogy, and linguistics with a creative component. Like Hannah Montana, I’ll have the best of both worlds! But, this blog post is also meant to explicate some of the other ideas I explored before deciding this one is the one, so I’ll walk you through a few of the other ideas that I considered, full rationales and all, and maybe, just maybe, might get folded into or overtake this one! 

However, some of the content I am about to discuss here is of a sensitive, and to some, upsetting or triggering nature, so please proceed with caution, especially when reading about the second and third ideas. 

Idea #1: A Personal Interest and Possible Career Path

It’s no secret that there are three sports teams I cherish; the New Jersey Devils, the Metropolitan Riveters, and the New York Mets, and I thought that there were several different ways these organizations could play a role in my thesis. One possibility was to have my thesis be a living website where I post articles covering the outcomes of each team’s games, player stats, analytics, etc., and also create a guide to understand section, to help grow the games and bring more fans in! And of course, toss a podcast element in.

The other idea I had would be trickier, but it would be a dream realized to be able to interview the players, figures, reporters, and everyone else who brings these events to life! (If you ever stumble across this, I love you, R. Renee Hess!) I also thought about putting a possible theoretical framework around the over-reaching effect sports teams, specific players, and fanship can have on individuals, and for that, I probably would have explored phenomenology. I also thought about maybe mirroring the work of those I admire, such as the Black Girl Hockey Club, and looking into issues of equity and diversity in sports, because there is still a long way to go in that area.

I can confess that I am securely attached to the Mets because they’ve always been the underdog team, the gritty hard workers, and their slogan “Ya Gotta Believe” are words to live by. Just like how there are times in the program where I feel like social comparison makes me look inexperienced or less than my peers, I remember the generation of Miracle Mets from 1986; the guys who drafted low, who were traded and laughed out of their old clubs, the ones who nobody thought were going anywhere fast. I remember Mike Piazza’s feel-good home run after 9/11. I remember being that wide-eyed sixteen-year-old, mesmerized by seeing my team in the finals, and crying with them when the outcome wasn’t what I hoped for. 

I refuse to give up on the New Jersey Devils no matter what because, again, I grew up watching guys who innovated and changed the game, like Scott Stevens with his smooth skating, Scott Neidermayer who defied all the doubts people had about him being a defenseman at his size and age, and of course, by getting to see Martin Brodeur become the GOAT. I remember screaming when the call of “HENRIQUE! IT’S OVER!” confirmed we were going to the Stanley Cup Finals, and twelve-year-old me felt starstruck. In a broader sense, hockey has definitely helped me when I’ve had those moments of I don’t belong here in this program, because I remember that Patrick Roy, another notable goalie, wasn’t drafted until the third round. Chris Chelios was number forty in the draft. Both are Hall of Famers now. Heck, Ron Hainsey took over a decade to make the playoffs. So, if it isn’t happening now, it’ll happen soon.

The Riveters not only showed me that gender isn’t a barrier to pursuing your dreams and greatness, but that there are shades of humanity in the players and everyone behind them that are just like mine. Seeing Madison and Anya Packer speak candidly on their experiences as pro-athletes and members of the LGBTQ+ community and consistently push for inclusivity and equity is amazing, and seeing Saroya Tinker and R. Renee Hesse campaign and make it clear that diversity is a cornerstone and not a performative activity parallel to that is what keeps me engaged and hopeful. They have all also proven that you can be a professional and still have a personality and show kindness and genuine excitement and be just as successful. 

I know those paragraphs might be overkill or childish, and the ideas presented might not be thesis material, but looking at life like that is part of what makes me who I am. So, I guess either beat writer or sportswriter could come out of this.

Idea #2: An Autoethnographic Piece

So, this is where that content warning comes in really handy. It’s no secret to anyone who has met me that I’m pretty close to my family, but what people don’t realize is that being close with your family comes with a lot of benefits, but also a lot of pressure, some internal and some external. For context: my parents, my Dad who I’m closer to, in particular, is only getting older every year. And it is so hard to see it unfolding before your eyes. Every year, the alarm gets set for a little later, and the snooze button gets a little more use. There’s less jumping up and saying “Let’s go” when it’s time to do something, and more “Maybe another day.” The same stairs you would race them on suddenly become the steepest mountain and now they need the railing. There’s a new wrinkle near the eyes or on the forehead, and little more hair seems to disappear. And then there are the hushed conversations that aren’t meant for your ears that you overhear, about health, about worries, and everything in between. And through all of this, you feel yourself becoming splintered. There are just some things in life you have to face, prepared or not, and the fact that even the most loved and loving people being temporary is one of those things. 

On one hand, I’m 22 and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what life can be. I want to take my time growing up and going through things; I want to go out with friends, experience hockey and baseball games and concerts, find my career path, and take my time with the more personal stuff, like finding someone (if they exist). On the other hand, I’m terrified that if I don’t play life on expert mode and get to things as fast as I can, he might not be around to see it. I know it’s a fact of life that everyone has to die eventually, and George Harrison crooning, “All things must pass, pass away” helps me to deal with that. So, I thought that maybe my death anxiety could be resolved, or at least explored constructively through a thesis project. 

One way I thought about putting this idea into action was to frame it as a journal of sorts, where I could chronicle specific special moments and try to forecast all of the good stuff that is yet to come in a creative manner, full of emotion and with added resources, like the music I remember playing at the time, pictures, etc. (I’m also thinking it would be a good gift in this format!) Admittedly, this is a lot more vulnerable than I normally would want something I write for other’s viewing to be, but I’m all about trying new things and expanding my horizons. If anyone remembers from a year ago, I would probably do this in a manner similar to Queer Skins, and even fictionalize it.

There is, of course, the creative and fiction writing route I could take with this, where I envision a collection of short stories, each detailing a developmental stage in the parent and child’s life, running parallel to one another might be intriguing. For instance, the first chapter could be the parent’s first memory, and the next be the kid’s. Or, I could have one set of events, and have the chapters alternate viewpoints. Decisions, decisions…

No matter what though, if I choose this idea or any variation of it, I would definitely want to fold in plenty of the theories and facts from the course Human Development Across the Lifespan, which just lends itself to this concept.  

Idea #3: A Darker Creative Piece

OK, the trigger warning applied to idea two, and it most definitely applies here. I have no idea why, but as far back as my memory stretches I have always had reoccurring nightmares, and those have been far more memorable than any nice dreams I may have had. Like many others, I also struggle with certain dimensions of my emotional and mental health, and I’m comfortable with sharing that mood, socialization, and intrusive and racing thoughts have been the big dimensions. Oftentimes, there is an overlap between the two. And I know that a lot of people say, “But you always seem so, you know!” The truth is, yes, I am genuinely thriving most of the time thanks to preventative measures and other tools that help like counseling and journaling and having a strong support system. But, sometimes it takes that one comment or looks, sometimes not even directed at me, and I feel a lot of my progress slipping away. And then when night falls, I either can’t sleep, or my nightmares decide to pay me a visit. Neither option are great, but the latter is definitely worse; it often leads to sleep paralysis, waking up screaming, and a lot of trouble functioning the following morning. 

I know that I’m not alone in either half of this two-fold issue, so I thought tackling this from a creative angle might bring a new dimension of understanding or open-ended closure in a way. And what I mean by this is, I know that my issues are not going to vanish overnight just because I wrote about them; if that were the case, my journaling would have taken care of all these years ago. So, one way this could go would be to just focus on my nightmares and bring them to life in an anthology of short stories. (There’s definitely enough material.) Of course, I’ll have to negotiate authenticity and what is digestible, but I trust myself to navigate that task. I’d also look for peer-reviewed sources that might offer deeper insight into what might be the culprit behind these recurring, unpleasant dreams. And with all the free, open-source tech tools at my disposal, I could definitely put together a corresponding audiobook.

In terms of the latter, I could go the autoethnographic route, or at the very least, take some of those thoughts and feelings and craft a story around them. I know there’s a plethora of feel-good stories about the weird kid who goes on to grow into who they are, or at the very least, comes to terms with who they are and stops caring about what others think, but I’m more inclined to approach the darker side of things. It’s easy to talk about mental health in the sense of self-care, but oftentimes, there is little to no discussion of mental illness and the more debilitating aspects of it outside of a research or clinical orientation. When you live with intrusive and racing thoughts, or feel like someone else is in the driver’s seat of your mind and body and there are moments where everything can be sensory overload and get under your skin, it can be more complicated trying to get people to understand it’s more than just “an overreaction” or “nerves” or “an excuse”. Maybe a creative piece, perhaps presented in poetry form can rectify that? Otherwise, I would also love to take this idea down the research route, and using

(Also, please don’t read this and get overly worried or concerned, or think anything different about me! I genuinely am in a very good place, and if I do go down this road, I know I can handle it. What I go through and went through has shaped me, yes, but I can assure you that I am just as capable of making it through this class, working a job, or doing literally anything else you can think of.) I know everything you just read between idea number two and this was pretty heavy, so please take a break if you need to, and maybe put on “The Warrior” by Patty Smyth while you finish out this post.

Idea #4: A Research-Based Approach

My fourth idea for a thesis project was to take my work from Dr. Nelson’s class on the idea of algorithmic bias and linguistic profiling and bias of individuals and how it plays a role in the web search engines execute results for individuals differently and examine this phenomenon through a mixture of protocol analysis and discourse theory. It’s admittedly a lot drier, and I’m not feeling overly attached to it, or feel that it needs to be explicated further.

Idea #5: Another Similar Research Idea, but Not Congruent 

Basically, taking the same concept of algorithmic bias and linguistic bias and profiling of individuals that results in varied and biased web searches, but as they pertain to the specific topic of mental health. 

Idea #6: Another Fun Little Thing

If you’ve read this far down into the post, thank you! I promise this is the last idea I’ll share. (At least in this post!) I don’t know if this is the right class for it, but I really love the idea of forensic linguistics and examining the intent and transmission of language in a retrospective manner. In the judicial system, this practice usually applies to analyzing things like threats, ransom notes, etc., but I want to really look at the interpersonal and digital side of things. After all, there’s already so much writing on and feelings about whether tone and intent can be pinpointed and truly identified in intrapersonal communication, let alone in print, so why not offer digital correspondence the same scrutiny? I’d love to design an interactive e-lit piece where the user has to act as a “forensic linguist” or “language pathologist” or “linguistic detective” and piece together clues from different characters in the form of things like emails, DMs, and assorted journal notes to figure out what has happened. And on the side, little tidbits about linguistic forensics and the various techniques and applications can pop up. Once again, theory, gaming pedagogy, and creativity can be compounded together. 

I revealed a lot more than I normally would here, and while I’m extremely terrified of what outward, radiating effect, or far-off in the future effect this blog post could have on how I’m perceived, my chances of getting a job, or other things, I know that there are uncomfortable conversations and topics being brought up that need to be addressed, and I won’t apologize for that. I can’t control how folks will perceive this any more than I can control the weather. I know that for right now, I’m really considering one of my more creative ideas, like the one I originally proposed about a dialogue-driven RPG or having the mystery-driven forensic linguistics game, but I guess we shall see! My final thought after writing all of this and leaving it out on the field is that I should probably add another page to my website for all my planning, resources, paper components, etc. I mainly used this blog post as a rough idea dump-and-change.

I leave you with “Keep Pushin’” by REO Speedwagon, and I’ll see ya on the other side!

Sunlight in a Jar

I just can’t believe that come this May, I’ll actually have the word master follow my name into a name in terms of my education. It’s so surreal knowing you’re right at the brim of the end of something; on one hand, I’m more than ready to move on and finally get started on the next chapter of my life, my foray into adulthood, and pretty much figuring out who I’m going to be and everything I can become over the course of the rest of my life. This is my World Series, my Stanley and Isobel Cup, and above all else, a dream that so much of my life has been a build-up for. On the other hand, September might not mean the start of school for me after this, I might not stay in the same town, let alone state, and I might have to face my fear of “falling behind in the human race to hit all your major achievements by a certain age.” But, I’m committed to making the most of things, and moving beyond the “what-ifs” and worries of my mind! This is going to be a year of laughter, peace signs, and energetic leaps and bounds creatively; because yes, I will stumble and get a little scrambled here and there, but I’m going to do my best to stay sunny side up!

With all of that out of the way, I guess it’s time to kick around some of my thesis ideas since I know that right now, my XP bar is pretty low compared to my peers. For me, the best ideas come after naps, bike rides, and trying to decipher whatever cryptic advice my Dad or a song lyric I decided to hyper-fixate on having to offer. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how there seems to have been exponential growth in both positive and negative directions when it comes to attitudes regarding empathy, care, and equity in the community, for a variety of reasons. Every day, there’s something that shakes and realigns all of our worlds on both macro and micro scales, and we don’t have nearly enough time to sit down and digest what is going on in our fishbowls, let alone the ocean. But, we do communicate with others and construct dialogue and relationships. 

It’s easy to join in with the strangers in your vicinity and start complaining about the long wait times in the coffee line, or speak to a classmate solely in the classroom but never exchange so much as a wave outside of the classroom, but it’s also just as easy to smile and compliment someone’s outfit as they walk past, or maybe even just say “thank you” when a stranger holds a door open for you. Discourse theory and linguistics have proved this matters beyond just the push for “good manners!” 

Of course, a thesis isn’t written in a single night, so I’ll leave you with the song I’ve had on repeat for this entire blog post, cap this off by saying that I want to use discourse theory, explicate and explore this idea far more in depth than I can currently articulate, and use an interactive electronic literature piece to bring it to life! 

See ya on the other side!