Salmon swimming upstream: a cross-disciplinary online encounter about autoethnographic research and thesis writing

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Nahrung, N & Rowe, S 2012, 'Salmon swimming upstream: a cross-disciplinary online encounter about autoethnographic research and thesis writing', in A Point, P West, K Johanson, C Atherton, R Dredge & R Todd (eds), Encounters: place, situation, context: the refereed proceedings of the 17th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs, Geelong, Vic., 25-27 November, Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP), Geelong, Vic. ISBN: 97809807575361

Peer Reviewed



Responding to Savin-Baden’s (2008) argument that scholars must reclaim learning spaces within their institutions, this paper presents a case study of how online environments existent within many Australian universities can be used as spaces for cross-disciplinary dialogue. To achieve this, it discusses an online encounter between two researchers undertaking autoethnographic research projects from different academic disciplines (Business and Arts) within the same tertiary institution. The site for this encounter was a wiki (a website in which pages can be collaboratively created and edited by multiple users) that was used by the authors for the asynchronous sharing of perspectives on autoethnographic research and thesis writing. In this endeavour, form and content were interlinked to create a space of potential for encounter without rigidly predetermined parameters. This collaboration involved an ongoing, evolving and dynamic written encounter between the two authors for a period of four weeks. This writing was supplemented with synchronous web-based audiographic conferencing to facilitate the writing of this paper. All stages of this project used tools available within the Southern Cross University online environment.

This paper discusses the role of online, collaborative tools in research journeys and identifies the benefits of grass-roots cross-disciplinary encounters. It examines how the online space impacted upon the written dialogue that emerged between the authors and identifies how differences in disciplinary background, age, career stage and gender shaped their interactions. In presenting the encounter as a case study, this paper shows a possible model for facilitating cross-disciplinary conversations while arguing for the value of such encounters. It explores how online spaces can facilitate alternative modes of academic writing and collegial connection, arguing that such encounters are vital for scholars working within an academic culture that is increasingly informed by economic imperatives. As online tools and environments now hold a central role in many Australian universities, this paper provides insight into how researchers can use the online spaces available within their institutions to facilitate mutual support and engage in constructive dialogue with a wider range of colleagues. In doing so, scholars may share the struggles and triumphs of the frequently arduous research journey swimming upstream: learning from others while offering the self. They also provide themselves with invaluable, low-risk professional development in adopting online technologies.