I thought I’d try a different approach to blogging the week for this post, so I’m going to be writing and updating this entry each day in more of diary style. Don’t be surprised that you haven’t seen this until Friday, as I’m doing this offline rather than live – this time. Next time, if this works, I might make it a daily event!
At the computer and kicking off my week before 9am in order to knuckle down to it. Can’t quite kick the feeling that maybe I could have done some reading over the weekend, but frankly I needed the downtime to work on house related projects (and catch up on season 1 of Homeland!). First order of the week as it’s been for years in the working world is to sit down with my to-do list and review it. Especially I needed to add in some of the extra action points and deadlines that arose from last week’s introductory sessions to the Research Practice Course. Most (not all) are in 2013 so I’m not going to let them worry me for now.
Did consider working on campus today as it’s Mrs Llama’s day off work, but it appears she’s happy for me to work here undisturbed “doing your own thing”. All the same I’m going to decamp to the chilly realms of the conservatory as it worked well in keeping me focussed reading. It also removes me from the temptation of spodding off onto the internet for “5 minutes” that rapidly transforms into a lost 30 minutes. Focus llama, focus! It’ll also stop me looking out of my home office window at the interesting environmental truck that’s just appeared outside. Wonder what they’re doing?
First real task today though was organising all my reading targets into one big list – so I can do a bit of prioritisation on them, and also consider which of them I’ll need to consider tracking down come the end of the week. At the rate I’m reading through my initial batch of a half-dozen books or so I’ll probably be through them all this week, and I need to consider which of the one’s that have been flagged up in the reading I’ll want to follow-up. Tempting to go on reading forever, but I suspect that next week I’ll be needing to think about tracking down my supervisor and talking through some of the concepts that this background work in throwing up. Which was pretty much what he wanted me to go away and think about.
Well it half worked with the Wife being around the house, and I certainly didn’t want for cups of tea. But I think I might still decamp to campus next time she has a day off. So next week then! Today’s been a bit more studious. Finally finished Lessig’s Code 2.0 which I’ve been working my way through for the past day or so. Enjoyable, but not as much as The Future of Ideas or Free Culture. That said I was glad I read the others first as it rather brought some of the concepts full circle. Moved on after lunch to reading a couple of papers by my supervisor on Marxism, culture, IP and access to knowledge. Struggled with the style of one and really enjoyed the second, which is interesting as the first was much shorter. Used these as a spot of light refreshment before cracking open the Access to Knowledge multi-author work I’ve been building up to as a key reading recommendation But only just got into the first chapter as I called time on the day.
Not the greatest of studying mornings today as I was interrupted by the electricity meter man, my window cleaners, a delivery man and the postman. Actually seeing Richard and Russell (the window cleaners) was a breath of fresh air and a nice chance to interact with someone living rather than on paper for a change! However, the interruptions pretty much destroyed any ability to concentrate so I wrote the morning more or less off. Working at home has its advantages (the commute is bliss) but some days it doesn’t work so well. Resolved to stick ear plugs in on Thursday and just plough on with the reading and thinking.
Wednesday afternoons are my Research Practice Course, although today they didn’t kick off until after 3pm. Was on campus by 2 to pick up my NUS Extra card and get a few minutes reading in on my critical theory primer. This week’s philosophy lecture was on Schopenhauer, and unlike last week’s whistle-stop tour made a lot more sense. Probably because we got the chance to debate in small groups a couple of issues (ask me about the nature of beauty or the trolley car exercise sometime!). On top of that this week’s lecturer really strove to bring home the practical application of philosophy.
Followed up by a library session, which despite having 15 years of experience as an academic librarian I went along to see if there was anything new I should learn. Was outed as a librarian even before the class began by the tutor (damn, must be the cardigan) but did learn some useful stuff I’d not realised about the NTU library resources. Continuing to be impressed with the ease of access and functionality of the online environment at NTU (aside from the student profile wiping any customisation or links I set up after I log off each time). Also found a few minutes to set up my researcher ID, so now I have a magic number – shame it seems to only refer to one of my publications so far! Sadly at 6.20pm the library had a fire alarm and we all trooped outside and stood around. Gradually everyone else wandered off home leaving just myself and Jane (the librarian behind). So we had a spot of networking, friendly library gossip and exchange of views. So as it was I was actually late leaving for home – where the very tired Mrs Llama muttered something about take-away for tea. Ah well, tomorrow I’m not going anywhere!
The day started with a quick check of email, and for a change I actually had one or two items to respond to. Seems I have the independent assessor for my first research proposal approval board approved (deadline not until the end of March but I’m already giving serious through about pulling it together by the end of Jan, but we’ll see what my supervisors think first) and perhaps more exciting an invite to a School social event in a couple of week’s time. Be nice to meet some of my fellow departmental PhDs in a less work-focussed environment like the weekly RPC classes. I’ll have to drive in (given the last train for me leaves 90 minutes after the event’s start time) so no getting tipsy and shaming myself at least. Not that I would anyway, but it’s one of the slight constraints on doing a PhD and not living in the same city. I think I can live with it! I also put my NUS Extra card to work and ordered a couple of books with my Amazon discount (ahem and a soundtrack CD that’s got nothing to do with work!). But then with all that sorted it was time to knuckle down and start concentrating again.
I spent the vast bulk of the day working through Access to Knowledge which is a fairly hefty tome. But I noticed that I was making more notes than I had for any other book, as the varied topics it tackles are all very much in the ball park for my research question(s). Of course some of the areas it covered threw up more than a few ideas that might be worth pursuing, but I think I’ll need to discuss them with my supervisor before I start literature researching in the past 30 years of environmental activism (think that might take more time than I’ve got!) – although some of the parallels are striking. By the time Mrs Llama appeared at 5.30 I was actually sorry to down tools, and I’m actively looking forward to tackling the rest of the book tomorrow.
I did take sometime though to sketch out my plans for next week – which largely involve in part carrying on with the reading, but perhaps crucially reviewing what I’ve read to date and seeing if I’ve got the semblance of some coherent inter-related areas to consider. Which will mean it’s time for me to arrange another meet up with my supervisor to talk them over!
Of course what I forgot to relate about Thursday was the 5 minutes I spent looking for my favourite pen. The pen I’d been working with all morning. The pen that I had to write notes just a few minutes ago. Having turned my office upside down I carried on studying…only to rediscover the pen behind my ear! An academic moment for sure, although Mrs Llama found it funnier that I actually had a favourite pen to start with! Today has been all about reading the remaining slightly-more than half of Access to Knowledge. Which I did just before 4pm, and have been typing up my notes on it since. It’s been a good book to finish the week on, as it’s left me with a pile of things to review and think about first thing next week. One of which is to start writing my own glossary of unfamiliar terms (valorization being the most regular occurrence today). It might in time be something that will be included in my thesis, or it might not, but in terms of access the literature I’m using now I think it’s something that will be of benefit for my comprehension. Currently I have a short list on the back of an envelope that was next to the sofa where I was reading, I’m nothing if not systematic in my note taking!
I feel contrasting this week with last that I’ve achieved a lot more, certainly in terms of hours studying and almost certainly in terms of making progress with getting to grips with the literature. There’s still obviously a long way to go, but from the way I started boring for England on various IPR, rights and access to knowledge issues last night for 20 minutes it does seem to be sinking in. Although I suspect Mrs Llama hopes that I’ll soon meet a few more like-minded researchers to talk about it with, as she’s getting a bit of an ear battering as I keep thinking aloud on the topics of an evening. I’ll try to avoid it tonight as I’m more than ready to shut off the higher functions of my brain for the weekend, and do something a bit more fundamentally creative (screen writing and film production in case you’re wondering!). Although we do have a trip to Ikea planned this weekend in buy me a small table to study at in our conservatory – working in my home office is just too tempting to flick the PC on and get side tracked!