Although it’s a shame it’s mid-January now.
Still trapped in the house (more or less) with the big freeze, and reflecting today as I spotted people on twitter getting snow days that for me a snow day means a normal working day. Ah well, there have to be some drawbacks to this student lark.
Today I decided it was high time to start knocking off tasks for the RPC course once again. We have to write two book reviews, couched in the analytical frameworks of the variours philosphers we’ve been stufying. Luckily we do at least get to pick the books we write about so I’ve gone with the very first book I dived into at the start of the course. Partly because I enjoyed it so much, and partly because I think that reviewing things I’ve already read periodically is going to be crucial for developing my subject knoweldeg. On some levels I’m a bit annoyed that having to write this, and the short form research proposal, are eating into nearly all of my study time at the moment. It frustrates that I want to be reading more around my subject, I want to be reading philosophical works and I want to be starting to synthesis new thoughts on the aggregation of this work; but I just can’t spare the time. As I’ve mentioned before we’re into the season of deadlines a-go-go in the run up to the Easter break.
That’s right, mid-January and already I’ve got an Easter hat on!
While book review one is still in an embryonic first draft, I’m quite happy with a large part of the content. Needs a lot of spit and polish, and probably a word diet as well, to bring it down to a more digestiable and apposite size for the course. I also need to beef up my use of Foucault, Wittchenstein and Hegel that I’m using in it (and maybe a smidgeon more Marx?), but that will come when I write version 2 later in the week. For now it’s a good first stab at the topic and probably has broken the back of the hard part. I might even have time to read something new later this week all being well. But please don;t be holding your breath in this regard. I should be okay at book reviews, I’ve only been writing them for the journal Reference Reviews for the past decade, but I don’t want any complacency to creep in. I want to do a solid workmanlike job on this, so eyes down and time to type up the rest of today’s editing notes.
Rounded off the day with a discussion on twitter about referencing the same work in an article at disparate points in the text. Something that’s been bugging me, and I keep thinking there really must be a more elegant way than (Surname, YYYY) each time. But I can’t use ibid as generally each time I refer to something, it’s after a number of other cites in the text. *sigh* And since I’m using Harvard, can’t see an easy way out of it. Ah well, thank you @CriticalSteph, @Budsmam and @Librarygirl79 – your insight was warmly welcomed!
Damn, but I love twitter sometimes!
Started off the day a bit late due to a rough night’s sleep (thanks insomnia, please do come and visit again!) and ended up doing a bit of copy editing for a fellow PhD student on a short piece they’d written. Hopefully my suggestions were okay, although at times I worry about other’s relying on my “sophisticated” knowledge of written grammar. Especially since I couldn’t spell sophisticated, knowledge or grammar on the first try in the last sentence. Thank the Maker for spell-checkers embedded in my browser.
The rest of the day was spent in combat with my book review. Heard back from the course tutor that they should be around 1,000 words (+/- 10%) which is good news, nice to have a target. The less welcome news is that at the start of the day it was around 2,300 in length. But no matter, by mid-afternoon I’d trimmed it down to a lean 2,700 words. No, wait, that’s all wrong. Arg, how can I have made it longer in the editing? Think at this rate I’ll be writing it in NewSpeak or Nadsat, so DoublePlusGood all round then, eh my droogs?
The morning spent once again in battle with the book review, which is getting there. I am beginning to feel like I wished I’d not stuck so slavishly to the template as suggested in the module handbook as it’s not really helped my prose style much. Slightly later kick off to the RPC today with a half session looking at what we have to do (technically and practically) for the PDP bit of the module. PDP bits for the philosophy course (B) are not-mandatory but for the research methods (A) course they are, so there’s been a bit of confusion. Must admit that the session did slightly convince me to make use of the ePortfollio part of the NOW VLE to store research notes, although Google Drive is still my location of choice for working across multiple locations. Also discovered that it’s possible to submit this blog as evidence of my reflective research practice which is handy; especially considering that’s the whole point of this site – to help me reflect on what’s happening in the PhD process and engage with the odd fellow traveller on the same road.
The following session was the weekly philosophy module, this time looking at Gilles Deleuze and vitalism. I will confess that when we touched on vitalism at the start of the module last year I was not exactly blown away by the rather mystic connotations that seemed to be around it, especially those stemming from Henri Bergson. However, since we had my personal favourite of the philosophy tutors (Neil) to teach it to us, I was hopeful there might be something I could take away. An interesting point Neil made early on was the difference between the UK and France in terms of philosophy outlook. In a crisis on TV over here you’re going to see an economist. In France they’ll bring on a philosopher. As a result he said the empiricist cynical English aren’t big on the apparent mysticism of the French originated vitalism, and yet it is having a resurgence especially in those working in art and design research. He also managed to cite both Star Wars and Green Lantern (film) as examples in fiction of a vital force or energy underlying the universe.
As much as anything I took away this session as an examination of concept of creativity within everyone, and the different ways and means there are to recognise and tap into it. There was also a fair amount of discussion around decision making processes being driven emotionally with rationalisation as an afterthought. In the world of Open Access advocacy I do often wonder if too long is spent going down the logical road, when advocates might be getting more traction on a purely emotive or feelings route (affect as Deleuze would have it), and this might be something that I’ll come back to within my research if I can fit it in. And if not, it’s going to sit there at the back of my mind as something to explore more later.
A few of us resolved in the discussions during the RPC sessions that we’re going to make a concerted effort to use the NOW discussion boards a bit more to try and spark and continue more of the conversations we have in our weekly meet up. Given that we’re over half-way through it, maybe we’ve left it a bit late, but all the same I think there will be some value we’ll be able to take. The big issue though is getting the rest of the class to post on there as the majority of them haven’t said a great deal (or I suspect anything in some cases). I know I’ve heard about this issue on chat boards and education before, so if anyone has any advice about how to get the silent majority talking I’d be interested to hear them. As it is, I worry I’m in danger of flapping my virtual-mouth off on there a bit too often.
After lunch I finally finished editing down my book review for the philosophy module. Honestly, I had to jettison around 60% of what I’d originally written in order to get it under the word limit. I think it’s a better piece for it, but at times it really has felt like I was pissing blood trying to lose the odd word here or there, just to fit it into the artificial limits. 1,000 words is far too brief a span of words to really give you the essence of a book AND then try and include a philosophical critique of the ideas. But there you go, these are the hoops I have to jump through. I guess since it’s the first piece of school work I’ve had to write in 15 years it was always going to be a challenge, though as someone who writes something most days come rain or shine, I was a bit shocked about how hard work it was. I think I might have to approach the second review in a more systematic and pragmatic way, as I can’t afford to devote the best part of a week to writing it.
I also don’t ever want to lay eyes on the book I analysed for at least a week. We’ve spent far too many hours in each other’s company, and I’d like to go back to reading Game of Thrones over the weekend thanks.
Also finally heard back from my supervisors today (thought they might have gone under a train or been buried by snow – it has been seven days since I emailed them the latest version of my proposal). Meeting them next Thursday for their latest critique of it; hopefully they’ll have some positive comments – really don’t want to have to take such a hatchet to it again.
As I finished work on the essay around half four, I lost the will to do any more work – and ended up chatting and playing Portal with one of my best mates (who is working in Qatar for a couple of years) over the net. The total highlight of my day, even if I did rather kill his robot a few times just for kicks.
A positive rash of posts on the discussion boards, I think that people must have been spurred (not by me, but by one another). Huzzah. It’s almost like we’ll get a bit of a community before we split up into our individual researches and never see each other again. After knocking off early yesterday, today I’ve ended up working til well after 6. When I was a wage slave, I’d have been horrified to work that late on a regular basis, but now I’m finding it’s more and more the way I like to work – start late and work later. I do have to start thinking about knocking off when Mrs Llama returns home and demands attention (she’s very needy but I can, like I did tonight, lock myself in my room and just plough on with typing things up.
Today, joy of joys, I got to read a good half dozen papers. I’ve felt like the past couple of weeks that I’ve really not found the time for reading, even though I’ve been slowly accumulating copies of papers and new books to read (not to mention the helpful book suggestions I’ve gotten from some of the researchers at NTU). I also decided to start making backup copies of the notes I write on everything I read on NOW (the VLE bit of it). I’m always a bit paranoid about making sure I don’t lose data, so now it’s in two different cloud locations, and also in my own scruffy handwriting too. Finally read Garrett Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons, which has been referenced and critiqued in loads of things I’ve been reading; so thought it was high time I went back to the source. Very accessible and I can see why it’s such a popular reference – even if the digital commons avoids the tragedy!
And hello to anyone who’s tracked down this blog via my old chum JJ, who was tweeting about it today. I appreciate the linkage! And on that note as the clock ticks towards 7pm, I’d best go find Mrs Llama and apologise pre-emptively for that crack about her being needy…as it’ll be a long cold night on the garden bench otherwise!