Monday, August 29, 2011

Displacement activity

So I'm writing this essay. It's about the way modern academics use online sites and activities like blogging, facebook, etc. and so I thought I'd do a little research amongst my readers.

What does the term "displacement activity" mean to you. I've done a little reading around some behavioural/psychological texts, but I'm interested to know what we/you mean when we/you use the term, if we/you do. I can remember the exact place when I first heard this phrase. It was used by Sue Martin (the one in the middle of this picture) in the departmental kitchen, and she used it to describe something I was doing: cleaning my office instead of marking essays, I think. It struck me because I immediately knew what "displacement activity" must mean, without really knowing why it meant that. I now use the phrase with ease. Thanks, Sue!

Is that what blogging is? What other forms does displacement activity take? What do you understand the phrase to mean? Can you remember when you first heard it? Or when it was first applied to you? Is my question to my own blog about displacement activity a paradigmatic example of the phenomenon?

No promises your answer will appear in my essay, but it will be given full credit if it does. Thanks in advance!

P.S. I should say: this essay is due tomorrow. Do you think that's relevant?

8 comments:

elsewhere said...

Quick comment--speaking as a para-academic, if I'm allowed that moniker--to me, blogging is not a displacement activity but part of a continuum of thinking and writing. I often found in the past that blogging would help me clarify my thoughts or take me off on an interesting trajectory in ways that consciously sitting down to write an opinion piece or public policy paper on a defined subject would not have done. It also allows for the development of other forms of voice in distinction to academic writring or in my case, public policy-speak.

Perhaps blogging is a form of online flanerie. Its status is higher to me than that of cycling, lap-swimming, tram-catching--other activities that often throw me into a space for thought (in a way that picking cats-fur from the couch doesn't). The reason for this is that you actually write your thoughts down (with fluctuating awareness of your audience)--and can self-edit as you go. (Any paper journals I keep these days are certainly more scrappy and difficult to read.)

Mindy said...

Guilty as charged. I definitely use crusing around blogs as a displacement activity. Sort of like the little gift that you give yourself to get motivated to actually do what you should be doing. But instead of rewarding myself after I do it to avoid what I should be doing.

zcat_abroad said...

Reading blogs is definitely 'displacement activity' to me. (The ultimate in 'displacement activity' - repeatedly trying to click a link [stupid dial-up] to allow you to comment on someone's blog-post about 'displacement activity', when you should be writing essays!) However, my husband tells me that displacement activity is much more serious than simply procrastination. I'm not so sure.

I know that when I have essays to mark, the house get cleaned, and all the little things I've been putting off, like ridding the windows of spiders, or tidying that pantry, are finally appealing enough to be done.

As far as writing essays/articles - well, there's always more reading to be done. Some of that may be useful, like that book which has been sitting in that pile, which you've been meaning to read for months, and now obviously have to, because it might have some vital bit of information to help your argument. Other reading will be more like this: trawling through the internet, trying to find things which you can comment on, so as to put off writing your own work...

So saying, I really should get back to my articles. I have a bare 2 weeks to finish up half-formed arguments into two solid pieces.

dtkline said...

Time waster - in that you''re 'supposed' to be doing something else but displaced your energy in doing this rather than that?

Christine said...

I remember reading Paul Gallico's novel, "Jennie". It was about a cat who, amongst other matters gave this piece of displacement advice: 'When in doubt, lick'.

Having watched many cats er....'changing the subject' I am convinced.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Heh. Christine gets the prize for perspicuity, as I'm thinking of making "When in doubt - wash" the title of this essay, and Jennie is currently on my desk!

It is of course, the best example:

"If somebody calls you and you don't care to come and still you don't wish to make it a direct insult — wash. If you've started to go off somewhere and suddenly can't remember where it was you wanted to go, sit right down and begin brushing up a little. It will come back to you. Something hurt you? Wash it. Tired of playing with someone who has been kind enough to take time and trouble and you want to break off without hurting his or her feelings — start washing."

Suse said...

Very late to the party, but you might like this essay on displacement activity, by a Stanford academic.

crapcyclelanes said...

According to Kathy Fitpatrick of Pomona College (and an MLA Director), there will soon come a time where academics are assessed on their 'contribution to knowledge' in the round, rather than exclusively on their individualistic contributions to scholarship. Then, all our contributions to Blogs and so-on will be more valued and not considered timewasting. Bring it on. http://tinyurl.com/6eookjs