Early Career Researcher Highlights:
Tara Jane Copplestone
Name: Tara Jane Copplestone
Title: Doctoral Researcher
Institution: University of York and Aarhus University
Field of Study: Archaeogaming (a combination of archaeology, computer science and game studies)
Bio: Tara's research explores how the process of creating videogames can challenge our way of thinking about and communicating the past. Her research has seen her conducting embedded research across the scope of videogame production, interviewing gamers to unpick how playing is shaping and challenging their views of the past, working on critical assessments of videogames for heritage settings and most recently taking the dive into creating videogames herself as part of a reflexive investigation into the role of media in archaeology.
What was the most difficult hurdle you had to overcome as a researcher?
Unconventional research often has a hard time fitting into the traditional work-flow and publication process in academia. A great deal of the arguments I have started to craft in my most recent research are bound to the media forms they were produced in – for example, being multilinear or interactive, needing to be played to be understood – which leads to problems when trying to publish given that the majority of traditional outlets are bound to static textual documents. To this end, the most difficult hurdle I have been faced with is twofold. Firstly, trying to distill and shape the arguments forged in different media forms into a text document whilst retaining the core of the argument and secondly, opening up a dialogue within academic institutions and publishing bodies to discuss how different media and approaches might be better facilitated. Whilst both these challenges are ongoing the process of questioning how we produce, understand and communicate knowledge has been intensely interesting and indeed has pushed the impact of my work beyond its niche within the archaeological discipline to open up a discourse about the academy more generally.
Did you feel you had enough resources at your disposal when you were crafting your research and submitting it to an academic journal?
I was lucky to have an exceptional editor and co-coordinator for my first publication – they went out of their way to keep me in the loop with the publication process and ensure I had access to (or understood how I could gain access to) the resources that I required. As an early career researcher it can be hard to know what to expect or what resources you will require whilst crafting an article – having transparent guidelines, friendly editorial staff and a mentor who has been through it all before goes a long way to ensuring the process is as smooth as possible.
What advice would you offer the early career Humanities researcher?
Be critical, continuously ask “why?” and surround yourself with supportive peers. The most exciting and important parts of my research have been the ones that required the biggest steps into uncharted territory, often pushing against the ingrained work-flow of a given research area to do so. Making these steps was made possible due to the relentless support and critical feedback from exceptional peers – finding people who support and challenge you can make a huge difference in how your work can develop. Likewise, whenever you find barriers or hurdles to your work it is important to ask why they exist – sometimes there is a good foundation and this should be respected, but more often than not the answer is “that’s the way it has always been”. Being willing to ask why and to challenge the glass walls is a surprisingly efficient way to break into exciting and often uncharted areas.
What do you wish someone “in the know” would have told you earlier in your career about the publishing process?
That it is a long process! Going from the publication idea to the first draft and finally to the polished, printed end product takes a surprising amount of time, effort and dialogue between yourself, editors and reviewers. I wish someone had told me to that being patient and persistent throughout this process will not only help you deliver a high quality paper, but also that the fresh perspectives and critical feedback received throughout the process is invaluable for pushing your own understanding and developing the clarity of your academic arguments.