One Month In

Time for my weekly round up – and finally giving in and giving up on using single word titles.  Otherwise I suspect they might become a bit monotonous if I keep talking about the weather.

Monday

Start of a fresh week!  Delighted to discover that I could explain over the weekend in fairly plain terms to my family what I’m studying in my research; although I might have bored them a little over dinner on the subject of Hegelian philosophy 101.  Spent the first bit of the morning going back over all my notes from the past few weeks on what I’ve read.  Want to make sure that some of the key areas I’ve looked at don’t dim in memory, and I also want to make sure I’m as on top of my game as I can be when I see my supervisors later in the week.  I also updated my glossary of terms as well.  I’m keeping this as much for my own benefit to remind me what some of the more unusual terms mean, but also so that I’ve got something that might demystify readers of my work down the line.  I also sorted out my home filing a little more with the aid of the tasteful powder blue filing cabinet I bought over the weekend (thank you NUS and Staples for the discount!).  Now my hard copies of papers will have somewhere organised to nestle, rather than just a heap next to my desk.

A wealth of knowledge
Came back upstairs to the computer room to check my email, but also to start reading an eBook by Benkler.  Rather disappointed to see that the planned social event for tomorrow night for my dept’s students has been cancelled due to low levels of potential attendance.  That’s a real shame as I was very much looking forward to meeting some of my fellow PhDs socially, and it would really have helped break down a few of those walls of isolation.  Hope this doesn’t put the dept off trying to organise a future one though as generating this sort of social cohesiveness is vital for helping us all develop our networking skills.  But I guess if people won’t come out, you can’t force them (I know from experience as a social event planner in my various work places – getting people to come out of an evening can be a very uphill struggle!).

Accessing the eBook wasn’t without its trials and tribulations, and rather than clog up this weekly entry I though I’d talk about it separately.  Hence the  rest of my day was spent in close quarters combat with the  hefty ebook – not my favourite engagement.  At least it seems a relatively interesting book in the early sections, although there’s a lot of focus on television and radio that I’m finding hard to see any great any relevance in relation to my topic.  However, it’s (allegedly) a seminal book so I shall carry on regardless tomorrow.

Tuesday

Meh!A less than thrilling day spent reading through another 300 pages of Benkler’s book.  While I’m sure it’s a great book in many areas, for my purposes as a whole it felt less than relevant and certainly didn’t get me anything like as excited as some of the other ones I’ve read recently.  But my supervisor, and a fair number of the author authors I’ve been reading have referenced it so I ploughed on.  Aside from an email or two, and popping into the PhD discussions boards (which are slowly coming to life – hurrah!) that was pretty much my entire day.  Oh, aside from discovering Benkler made the book available as a PDF around 5 minutes after I finished wrestling with the ebook reader site. Gah! Face palm time!  Need to remember that probably more of the authors in my field are likely to have done something like that, given the nature of their work.  Sigh, another lesson learned.  Confess I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s RPC sessions as a break from the reading.

Ended the day glancing at my to do list for the week, written in earnest hope last Friday.  Thanks to the weary pace of plodding through the book it seems I’ve only managed to knock three things off the list (from nine that I’d hoped to achieve).  Beginning to think I’m setting my targets a bit on the high side, but I do need to make sure I keep challenging myself otherwise I still fear that apathy and stagnation might creep in.  Still rounded off the day writing up my thoughts about eBooks, as I really needed to get it off my chest.  Still not convinced by portable eReaders, given that I’m not sure if I can access library books on them (be a bit of a pointless purchase if I couldn’t!).

Wednesday

Went into a mild shock last night on hearing the news about Disney buying Lucas Film.  My first reaction – Disney lawyers (renowned for savagely protecting “their” IP over and above what is rational in some cases) are going to murder the fan film market.  Kudos to the wonderfully talent John Kovalic who put it so much better than I could in Dork Tower.  Who would have thought my research interests would overlap with the mass media so much!

Coventry City have won the FA cup in what years?So, it’s Halloween for some, Samhain for some of my chums, but mostly for me it’s always been my mum’s birthday (happy birthday mum, your card is erm, still in the shop) – hence never been trick or treating.  More importantly it’s my weekly RPC session this afternoon which this week features as our guest philosopher Karl Marx.  Probably the first of the philosophers we’ve done so far that I actually know a teeny tiny amount about, although mostly from Monty Python’s Communist Quiz (which if you’ve never heard – is available for download on Amazon I’ve just discovered!).  I suspect that this isn’t going to be enough for me to sit and look knowledgeable today in class that is very much for sure.  I’ll be heading into class in the middle of the day as there’s a chap coming to pick up his eBay purchases from me (our old mower and a remote control car) mid-morning first.

This morning then is going to be spent going back over my proposal and having a few thoughts about my aims, as well as a reworking of my mindmap for tomorrow’s meeting.  Hopefully I can persuade the library printers to give me an A3 print out this time, as there’s no way it’s going to be able to print out on A4 and be legible.  I know, I’ve tried.

(later) Oh dear, well turns out I didn’t manage to get onto campus until just before my RPC sessions (whilst waiting in for the eBay man who was late!) so the printing will have to wait until tomorrow.  Today’s RPC session was working on our aims.  Interestingly my original proposal has 6 objectives so I started working from them.  It was a good session which I’m going to blog about separately as there was a lot to cover.  Best of all was my little group of Mohammed, Anna and Fella-Whose-Name-I-Didn’t-Catch (nice bloke though) and the chat we had about our PhD experiences to date.  Comparing notes on supervisors almost made my hair fall out (again), and I have to confess my supervisors do seem like the pick of the crop.  Bias, probably, but we do seem to be on a similar wave length.  Anna also scored points for trying to feed me part of her sandwich when I mentioned I’d missed lunch!  Was nice to have that kind of discussion among my fellows; if anything I would have liked more of the session given over to mutual exchanges of experience rather than having it directed from the front.  Just a personal preference, but I feel that this kind of mutual support is the only way we’re all going to stay sane in these early months of the PhD process!

After that we had a slightly foreshortened Marx lecture from a really energised tutor, but then they all seem to be at NTU!  Really, really enjoyed that and I was actually sorry when it ended   Marxism seems to be quite a central part of some aspects of my research into the open and the commons so I was especially engaged I guess, although Mrs Llama is a bit worried she’s come home to a communist   All I said was that I agreed with just about everything the tutor said on the subject…

Tomorrow’s a big day as I hope to refill my enthusiasm tank, and also make sure I’m still on the right course.  Plus I get to pick up my inter-library loan book – huzzah!

Thursday

A new day and a new month, and for me it means I’m celebrating one month of being registered for my PhD.  I’m sure there will be cakes, balloons and a clown along later to help me celebrate.  Actually forget the clown, I’m with Wakko Warner on the subject of clowns…

Actually I can’t believe it’s only been a month as I seem to have packed so much into it.  When I contrast it with the homeostasis and lack of development that I’d go through in a month in my recent post, well this has been a month of thrills, chills and spills.  I’m sure there will be months when I feel like I’m not making as much progress, but I do feel that even in this nascent stage of the process that things have been happening.   Today more importantly was my second meeting with my supervisors.  Having heard some of my fellow students’ experiences with their supervisors yesterday I was interested to see if mine would be any different.  It was a great meeting, very relaxed and in many regards for at least part of it I was leading them through my ideas.  Thankfully though they were there to give me some pointers on reading suggestions and things to start working through.  I was impressed that despite my lead supervisor telling me at the outset that he had to be away to teach before 12noon, and despite my other supervisor reminding him of the time a number of times that we almost talked past the noon hour.  Really good to see my supervisors engaged with my topic, which has given me a serious boost to my own enthusiasm!
When you Skyfall, with a trifle, it might just stifle or a pie full...

Of course I have come away with a range of other reading suggestions, but I feel that in just an hour my topic started to make a lot more sense and I could see a bit more of the structure.  Not the whole thing but certainly enough to be going at for some time to come!  Followed the meeting by scouring the library for a few more books and some articles printed off to read later.  And having gathered those headed off home to type up my meeting and philosophy notes….oh okay, I actually took the latter half of the afternoon off to go and see an early showing of Skyfall.

Can’t work too hard you know!

Friday

I had the author down as Migul Harding
I’d love to report that Friday’s been a whirlwind of reading and research, but I’d be lying.  A rough night’s sleep (thank you insomnia!) left me feeling pretty washed out and struggling to get going with anything productive this morning.  It took two cups of tea, a banana, two rounds of toast and then a cup of coffee to even get some semblance of neurological and physiological response from me.  In the end I spent most of the morning writing up my supervisors’ meeting notes.  My lead supervisor mention yesterday that “Oh did I mention we’re supposed to take a record of these meetings?” Just as well I’m well-trained in meetingcraft as I typed up the first meeting at the time, so I was able to share my recollections of both meetings with them.  Did take me a while to work out what one of the books was they wanted me to read – as it had the title Commonwealth and the author looked like I’d killed a spider on my notes page.  Must remember to take clearer notes next time!  I did, with about 15 minutes of guessing on Google and Amazon, manage to work it out in the end though.

I also wrote up my notes on Marx, and at the suggestion of a contact on twitter I’ve made them public for all the world to see.  Hope no serious scholars come by that entry, otherwise I imagine they’re going to be a bit underwhelmed by my interpretation of Marxism!  Had to pop out after this to pick up some fireworks for tomorrow’s 6th annual firework party (or is it 7th, I’m losing count!) where annually I attempt to detonate Llama Towers with the aid of friends and family who gather from around the country (and occasionally from further afield!)  By the time I got back I managed to make myself sit down and read through a paper on peer-to-peer networking and legality from 2004.  Interesting enough paper, but not especially relevant.  As the light failed, I came upstairs to add the notes from the paper to RefWorks and to make my plans for next week.

Boom!At which point I called it a week, checked my email (which contained suggestion from my supervisor for another book to read), checked the discussion boards (no more postings – boo!) and started writing these blog notes up.  And that’s it for another week on the PhD trail.  Fingers crossed I don’t set fire to myself over the weekend and I’ll be back into some heavy reading next week.  Have a good weekend all!

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