A Crystallized Blog

Welcome to my brand new blog and website!

They are both part of my 2013-2014 sabbatical adventure in which I’m committed to (re)creating a multi-faceted crystallized self. For me, this means I am not only fulfilling my already-pledged sabbatical research projects, but engaging in a whole range of other activities–travel, fitness, family, fun, and food, among others.

Some of you may be wondering what I mean by a crystallized self. 

Angela Trethewey and I came up with this concept about ten years ago, and wrote about it in a Communication Theory article (Com Theory – Tracy & Trethewey).  The article is mostly a theoretical analysis of identity, but the point I want to make here is that it’s easy for people today to have “flattened” identities that are shaped by messages that come from just a few different sources. This can happen, for instance, when we immerse ourselves only into our work or if we surround ourselves with people who have the same beliefs, backgrounds, or ways of being than we do.

Flattened identities have unfortunately become all too common in the United States.  As discussed in the books, Bowling Alone, and Alone Together, Americans suffer from having fewer meaningful relationships with friends, neighbors, and fellow community members. Meanwhile, niche television, journalism, and social networking makes it all too easy to only converse with people who are similar to ourselves. I’m not immune to this.  I tend to regularly get lost in my work, and I admit to being guilty of quickly shutting the garage door to avoid chatting with the neighbors (although Brad and I recently realized how great our neighbors are–even the one we labeled as a troublemaker)!!

I believe that one ameliorative to these disappointing trends that flatten our identity is to actively seek out a variety of experiences, in different contexts, and with different people. This is a key part of creating a crystallized self.  As one of my favorite researchers, Laurel Richardson, explains, “Crystals grow, change, alter, but are not amorphous. Crystals are prisms that reflect externalities and refract within themselves, creating different colors, patterns, and arrays, casting off in different directions. What we see depends upon our angle of repose (Richardson, 2000, p. 934).”

In other words, crystals are beautiful precisely because they have so many sides to them. This year, I am committed to living a crystallized multidimensional self–the more facets, the better. This will (and already has) put me out of my comfort zone–as I’ve traveled to foreign lands where I definitely don’t speak the language (including France and the cross-fit gym just a mile away).  But I guess that discomfort is kind of like the blistering hot conditions that shape real crystals.  So, I say, bring it on!

This blog will be part of my journey. I envision it as an oasis of inspiration, where I can discuss a whole variety of topics–including different aspects of my research and teaching, but also life philosophies and approaches, fitness, food, fun, family…who knows?

I invite you to join me on the journey and forward posts to anyone who might be interested–and feel free to offer any feedback or thoughts along the way on the blog or the website under construction.  Indeed, part of creating a crystallized self is creating opportunities for dialogue with all kinds of people–including YOU.

Sarah Swing              Cheers, Sarah

Richardson, L. (2000). Writing: A method of inquiry. In. N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 923–948). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Tracy, S. J., & Trethewey, A. (2005). Fracturing the real-self↔fake-self dichotomy: Moving toward crystallized organizational identities. Communication Theory, 15, 168-195. Com Theory – Tracy & Trethewey [Article protected by copyright laws and provided for educational use]

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