Thursday, 7 May 2009

A Virtual Learning Environment Update

The internet really seems to speed everything up, that or I have spent too long working for government bodies or in Academia. What started out as a musing over a drink seems to have snowballed into a real possibility now.

Initially, the idea was that we would have a wikispace where members of a Virtual Theory Group would gather and discuss various texts. Whilst this seemed like a good idea, further research has suggested to me that this is not the way to go, further research and a few conversations with @cscannella and @gselmer (for all my twitter followers)! It would now seem that the right way forward is a blog. A blog that every member of the group has access to and can make their own posts in their own name, as well as be able to comment on others.

It may seem that there has been a lot of time and effort gone into setting this up, but I really feel as does @gselmer that if we can get the set up right then it will be a really interesting forum to discuss the texts for all involved. I will investigate the various blogging options - thanks to all who have suggested possibilities - with the aim of actually getting this up and running sometime soon.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

A Virtual Learning Environment

I can't believe how long it is since I posted a blog on here. I really have to get better at archiving my thoughts - now there is something worth writing about.
Recently I have been thinking about starting up a theory reading group, one that focuses on certain topics each semester, for example, it could start with looking at how and what we archive in the modern world and what that does to us as humanities researchers. I am based at the University of Teesside, and at the moment my department does not have any regular research seminars or any discussion groups set up. It was something I was looking forward to being part of while I was a PhD student and I am slightly disappointed that these structures are not already in place.

Because of this, I am thinking about setting up a theory reading group and have been inspired by some fellow twitterers' to think about the possibility of a virtual as well as an actual reading group.

The idea is that a space, perhaps a wikispace, will be set up and anyone who wants to be part of the group could then have access to this space - it would become a virtual classroom where we could discuss texts week by week and develop any theories that we may have. The commitment level would be down to the individual although we would need a core group to regularly contribute to the site to make this work, and the only time commitment would be a weekly deadline in which you would make your comments on the particular chapter we were discussing.

I like the idea that people could write a blog post on the topic and then link their blog to the 'virtual space' which would provide us all with more opportunity to comment on thoughts and have more space for these thoughts. I also like the idea that unlike a discussion group where unless you take detailed notes thoughts can be forgotten, this would archive our ideas and discussions in a searchable and collaborative way. It allows us to open up the world of thought and idea (the sometimes very closed world of the academic) to others that we may previously not been able to have access to. It removes the time/space boundary for all concerned with people all over the world able to come together and talk about something they have a shared interest in.

This is, at the moment, still in an embryonic stage. I am still interested in having the 'real thing' based at the university, but envisage that the virtual environment will be more engaging and grow much more rapidly than anything I can run in a small department.

Texts, attendees, the virtual space and discussion themes are all still to be decided so any comments or ideas that anyone has would be welcomed, as well as anyone who thinks they might be interested in being part of the core group that could start this off. As a starter, and really because I am interested in reading these people and in some cases have never turned a page of their books I would suggest thinking about:

  • Derrida: Archive Fever, Echographies of Television, Of Grammatology (to name a few!)
  • Zizek
  • Bauman: Liquid Times; Wasted Lives
  • Foucault: Discipline and Punish; The Archaeology of Knowledge
  • Hillis Miller - he has a couple of new books out this year that look very interesting

I am sure there are many more. These are just a starting point and ones that I think would make for interesting discussion if the topic remains focussed on the archive in the modern world. Please feel free to add more to this list or question some of the choices if you are interested.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Research Training

I was planning on writing my next blog post on how irritating and what a waste of time generic research training days are.  The problem with this is that I have just recently been through two days of research training, organised by our Graduate Research School and found them (in the most part) to be quite useful and thought provoking! 
I am sure that a large reason for this is that the chap running them is a Philosopher by training, so did not alienate the humanities students in the way that these things tend do, however, I did find that these sessions made my brain work rather than shut down.  The structure of my thesis, the way I have to think about what I am writing, researching, analysing and where this all leads to, the methods and methodology of my work, all began to become a little clearer, which can only be a good thing can't it? 
I had begun to think that I did not have a clear methodology for this work, when suddenly it dawned on me that actually, I was beginning to form one.  I mention all this in the previous blog post, and at the moment this is still in the embryonic stage in my head - once it is clearer I will try and write about it, however, the fact that it exists was a revelation to me. 
I am now trying to make sense of Archive Fever in a way that will allow me to explain clearly how I see the relationship media technology has with regional identity and society has developed and will continue to develop.  
So, this blog post is a little shorter than it was going to be.  All I can really say is whilst some of it was like teaching your grandma to suck eggs (or some such analagy) it was also a useful process to go through and made me think more about my own research than I had done in a few weeks. It helped me to think of myself as a researcher who has the beginnings of a theory and some evidence to help prove it.  I have also resolved to blog once a week, in an attempt to give my life some structure and to help my thought process.  I hope that by blogging, I will generate ideas and questions that will inform my thesis. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The beginnings of an idea.....

I have been sat in my new office today (just made our big double spare room into a double office - it is really nice) reading some of the literature review that I have been sifting through with a copy of Jacques Derrida 'Archive Fever' in front of me. Maybe it was the book, maybe it was the nice environment I have created, I don't know, but I had a eureka moment, let me run it by you and see what you think.... (who am I writing this to?)
There are several Film and Media commentators out there who have started to probe at the idea that 'television produces culture'. Janet Thumim suggests that television was able not only to 'reflect cultural change in the mid-twentieth century but also to produce it'. I can't help but agree, yet I suspect that there is still more to it than this. I began wondering if television could produce culture (or in my research, regional identity) then what was producing the television? Television does not exist as a separate entity in society, it too is controlled by many forces and it is these forces that interest me. I am beginning to think that these forces, the technology that was available, the political situation, the need for commercialisation of television etc... must play a part in the production of television, which in turn produces culture.
There is more work to be done before I can claim I have any answers, but I think that I may have just hit upon one of the main research questions for this thesis at last - just how much does the production of television produce culture? and more specifically what impact did the sudden explosion of regional television in the North East and East Anglia have on the production of regional identity both internally and externally? I wonder......

Saturday, 7 February 2009

New I phone app

Just found an app that means I can blog from my mobile phone - so, I am trying it out. Will see how easy this is to use- might mean that there is more garbage put up on my blog now!

Went to the library today - had a bit of a panic over the size of this thesis- still slightly freaked at the moment. Will blog again when I have something useful to say.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Thesis structure

Like I said before, this is going to be my external brain! so forgive me for splurging a little (if anyone is actually reading this!) I have just been reading about the social history of broadcasting - and yes it is quite interesting! and I was thinking last week that my thesis was to large in scope - then I talked to Barbara - thanks Barbara - and she suggested that I should not limit things to early on, and I think that she might have been right. I think that there might actually be room for work on the earlier period (1922-1939) and looking at radio broadcasting. There are links between the periods, and I can always do more research on the war years post PhD - if that ever happens! Anyway, I really wanted to just make a note of that thought so that I can come back to the structure of this thesis and remember I thought this!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Writing Stress!

Well, this is my first foray into blogging, actually, into anything IT really! I hope that this is going to be a useful tool for me and more importantly, for the PhD. I do sometimes think of it as a separate entity that I struggle to get hold of at times, but hope that over time this will become easier, and one day I will look back on this whole experience and be glad that I did it. That the dream!
I am in the middle of writing a second piece for my supervisors at the moment, using various media sources (a TV series called About Britain from the 1970's at the moment) to help explain how regional identity has been influenced by the media. I feel a little like I am explaining the obvious at the moment - the importance of source material, the importance of context, of the author/producer/presenter and their influence on the work, what audience this went out to, and why, and finally, how we can best use these sources in our work today. I feel a little constrained and really want to get on with the broad theoretical outline of my work. At the moment that has been put on hold, and I am not very happy about that.

Anyway, we will give this blog a go. I think I will post interesting articles, conferences, book reviews, etc up here and pass comments on them for fun. I hope that at some point, others will join in with this too.