And so we slide into November – a month of crisp frosts and endless terrible Christmas adverts piling up on the TV; all of which encourages me to be in doors with a pile of books in silence. Which is a good thing as I have reams to read through. Mrs Llama was nagging me at the weekend for getting too focussed on my work – reminding me not to burn myself out. Burn myself out? She clearly hasn’t been around to see me forcibly tearing myself away from spodding* at 9.30am most mornings to actually start the day. Although that said, once into the day’s work I almost regret having to take a break at lunch time! Today I’ve been reading through my ILL book (Hess & Ostrom, Understanding Knowledge as a Commons); which is just excellent. Spot on coverage for my various areas of interest and crackingly well written chapters by noted authorities. It also even had a method – Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework – that bears noting down for further consideration and investigation for the empirical phase of my work.
While I did down tools over the weekend, I did find myself chatting in the wee small hours of the night (thank you recurrent insomnia!) with an old academic colleague at Leicester, who’s commissioned me to write a post for their ad hoc research group; in essence a reworking of my earlier post on eBooks. Although they’d like me to perform some of my video magic as well to accompany the post. If you’ve not picked up that video production is one of my passions; well done. But that means you’ve not watched one of my nearly 300 productions over on YouTube. Go on there now, I can wait here for you to come back…
One thing that come in very handy today though was the CamScanner app on my phone. There were various pages in the book that I would ordinarily have marked for photocopying. Since I’m rarely on campus though it doesn’t seem worth my while standing by a copier for (seemingly) hours on end. However, with this handy app I can image numerous pages, and then mail (or download) them as a PDF to myself. Which I can just run off in one dump to the printer. The app is very neat in that you can just trim the image with ease, so say if you just want a diagram and not the rest of the text on the page – then you can just select that. It also has a fair stab at rectifying an off centre image into something a bit straighter. It’s not perfect, but it’s free (well the version I use is) and a real boon to use – better the ability to create a single document than a series of JPGs that I’d have to stitch together in Photoshop or something – my hat is firmly off to the developers! I can still remember when I was first using a big flatbed scanner in the late 90s at work to create PDFs…one sheet at a time and then batch processed into a single document. This app lets me do this in a fraction of the time and effort – and without having to move from my comfy chair!
Spent the morning reading a very relevant but terribly written masters thesis from Oslo. I wasn’t sure what annoyed me more, the wasted potential of the work or that something of this low quality riddled with typos had been presented as part of a successful postgraduate qualification. I can assure you my masters dissertation was a work of art (considering a lot of it was HTML code and websites)! Honest. However, there were enough ideas and references of interest coming out of it to ensure that the time wasn’t wasted. After lunch I started in on Bollier’s Viral Spiral, which for some reason the library only held the LARGE PRINT edition of. Total change of pace as this book is crackingly well written and utterly engaging. Certainly a compliment to all that Lessig and Benkler I’ve been reading, and without a doubt a good follow up to Monday’s book. Didn’t expect to be able to read through all of it today, but did manage a good 150 odd pages. Some it going over old ground which is great for re-enforcement of some of the issues, language and constructs I’ve been studying in recent weeks. But it also means I’m able to read some of the issues (US vs Eldred for example) in a more informed light. Really nice to realise that all this background research is fleshing out my subject knowledge little by little. I’m a long way from being an expert certainly, but I could probably hold up my end of a conversation on some of the OA, A2K and free culture topics for a few minutes at least; before I start nodding stupidly as those more experienced than I keep going!
In other news the temperature has taken a turn for the chilly in recent days with frosts on the lawns, which means my conservatory office (or conservatoffice if you prefer) has been rather frigid. I do have an oil heater in there but I try not to run it too often – the thought being if I keep it cool in there I’m less likely to doze off when I’m reading something more dull. Being a lesser-baldy llama though my head gets cold, so I tend to wear a hat or a hoodie to keep the solar-panel on top of my skull heated. In the last few days though my cowboy hat has for various reasons ended up downstairs and is being worn more and more. The felt really keeps my head warm without over heating it like some beanie hats tend to. Plus it does rather add that air of academic eccentricity I strive towards for any casual observers. Any casual observers that have leapt over Llama Tower’s imposing gates and dodging the free-range guard chickens that is! Didn’t stop me being on the receiving end of an ear bashing from Mrs Llama when she came home to find the house had dropped to 15degrees C. You’d think she’d be happy enough I’ve shaved off my comedy beard and moustache of recent days. Anyway I didn’t think it was that cold myself, clearly I’m getting used to operating in lower temperatures!
Slow start today as I’ve been distracted watching the US election reports. Didn’t stay up to watch it, and still a bit annoyed I couldn’t watch the live Daily Show/Colbert Report so retired to a warm bed instead. As today is RPC day I’m heading in earlier rather than later as I’ve some printing to do in the library and another book to try and track down before class. However, for now I’ll carrying on with reading Bollier’s book in the relative warmth of my computer room – partly because warming up the conservatoffice would take too long and I’m not here for much longer, and mostly because I’ve got it set up for filming tonight and I don’t want to strike the set!
(later) A game of two halves in the RPC sessions today. First up we had a retired (for almost a decade) professor up first to tell us his hints and tips of how to work through a PhD. We’d had this built up in recent weeks by the course leader as a speaker of renown who would inspire us. Unfortunately, the fellow didn’t do a great deal for me. There were a few tips there, but to be honest it all felt rather abstract and not especially applicable to my journey. Especially baffling was his diagram that the talk was based around which “Starts at C as a joke to myself, like a musical scale”. Oh dear, sometimes I forget that coming from a science/social science tradition that listening to someone from very much the old fashioned humanities side of things (he kept referring to The Academy, which while I know is HE sounded more like a nightclub in his quips). So I will confess to coming away from this session partly confused, partly annoyed and no less inspired than I was going in. I will have a glance today over the notes I took just hoping that in the light of a new day that there’s something more to them.
In part due to the dullness of this session, and in part thanks to little sleep the night before I wasn’t my usual sparky self. Which was a shame as the class had a long break between sessions. I got the impression that quite a lot of the class do see each other in between sessions as there are distinct social groupings forming. Certainly I heard a couple of them arranging to meet up “as usual”. Maybe these are the students who have offices on campus and actually get that casual social interaction in between their studies. Maybe it’s because I’m a wee bit older than most of the others. Maybe it’s because I’m not an international student (UK students being a bit thin on the ground in my cohort). Whatever the case while I am getting used to basically never seeing anyone to talk to (other than Mrs Llama) all the time now, it doesn’t mean I don’t miss the opportunity to have a chat for 5 minutes about this and that with real people – especially those engaged in the same quest. Of course if I talked to more people for real I’d have less time to pour out my thoughts on the blog, and wouldn’t that be a shame.
Stop laughing at the back 😉
The second session was the Marxism/Freud session, although the class voted to move direct to Freud and skip over the end of Marx which was a bit of a disappointment to me as I would have liked to have heard more. Another good session from the same tutor (Neil) as last week. I finally realised he reminded me of Alexei Sayle (classic era Sayle that is) in his humour, delivery and energy. Personally wish he’d given both sessions, although my notes from this one are in places what might appear to be a string of sexual obscenities. They’re not, but considering Freud’s work and sexuality are closely interlinked the subject couldn’t be avoided. As Neil said “Everything comes back to poo in Freud“.
Did find myself scribbling thoughts to myself about the ID, Ego and Superego and how they equate to BIOS, the user and your OS (not sure it quite equates but it amused me for a few seconds). Given my thesis does deal with trying to understand people’s motivations and what makes them tick, I do wonder if I’m going to need to read up on Freud a bit more; although I don’t think I’ll be moving quite into the field of psychoanalysis – that might be well beyond what I can achieve in the time!
Having come home on a bit of a downer which hasn’t quite gone away today I found it quite hard to remotivate myself to get going again. Coincidentally I saw this posting on twitter last night Fighting Loneliness as a PhD Student which was rather well timed. It did at least remind me that I do have an excellent collection of friends and former colleagues via my various social networks to support me – think I might go a little odd (yes odd, even for a baby academic) if I didn’t have that outlet at least! And the suggestion to blog…never would have thought of that 😉 All the same though it’s a nice, insightful and above all honest post that I’m sure won’t chime with me alone. So to speak.
I’m also noticing increasingly on the internal discussion boards for our cohort that there’s a lot of people who are speaking very stridently about the methods they’re going to be applying to their research. Certainly makes me a little uneasy as right now I’m focussing more on exploring the literature, developing a coherent framework and considering some possibly applicable methods. I’m not going to let it worry me, as I want to do this research right, on a firm bedrock of knowledge and especially to avoid repeating any work that’s already been conducted. Given that I’ve got to develop some core aims, or rather refine the original ones I wrote, I might give method a further thought over the next couple of weeks. Perhaps it’s a slight fear nagging at me that others seem to be able to name some complex (sounding) methodology they’ll be applying. Then again, considering that my approach is going to be at least in part an empirical piece rather than applying it solely to literature I shouldn’t let it bother me. But on the back of feeling a bit on the fringes of the NTU PhD society right now, it’s not making for an especially happy Llama.
Other than reading the book and thinking a bit about methodology not much else happened of note today. Well aside from having to chase off a flipping fox at dawn and dusk from my chickens. That just tells you what a rock and roll lifestyle I’m leading right now!
Today I took a slight detour from the culture, media and digital commons stuff and delved into something a bit more philosophical and political. To be honest I found it the hardest book I’ve read to date to get into; which might in part be down to the fact that it’s a translation from the French and partly because I’ve never read much overtly philosophical or political works before. I did manage to take away the fact that there were some resonances with mass media, OA and flaws with capitalism that overlap onto my interests, but I can’t say right now that the time spent reading it was that vital. Did conclude that the author was a miserable old cuss, especially given his comments on vacations. Then again he never really travelled anywhere by the sounds of it, so that might explain a lot.
After lunch I had some thinking time, which was mostly spent detailing what to do next week. I think I’d like to do something a bit more active and a little less passive than reading, so I’m going to go back and start reworking my research proposal. I don;t need the draft of this done until the end of January and it may well change shape a few times inbetween then and now; but I think the time will be well spent. It’ll also perhaps address some of the nagging feelings I’ve got at the back of my head that say I’m not making much progress. While everyone keeps saying that’s natural it doesn’t make it any easier to live with!
To cap off the afternoon I filmed a short video about eBooks as a favour to an old academic friend of mine and his mobile learning blog. Once he makes it live I’ll link to it so you can all enjoy my fine hatted performance! And that brought me to the end of the week, and I will confess I am very much looking forward to setting the research work to one side for a couple of days.