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first round of feed-backs

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As step one of the gradual roll-out of this website I have been collecting feed-back from few friends and tutors.  Interesting enough, the emphasis is not into what I had expected.

A part from the various bugs and missing links, most people seem to be commenting on the PhD Blog/Diary.

“Why are you doing this?” seems to be the most common reaction… Why exposing your moods and personal thoughts, about the process of doing a PhD, if this is not the core point of your PhD.

This is a fair point. After all I am doing a PhD in New Media and Cultural Studies – and not in psychology or ethnography…

Bizarrely enough I had not thought about this in this way. I had not thought about how I would use this section in my PhD. All I wanted to do was to create a space where both my academic self and my “rest-of-self” could co-exist. I wanted to express my conviction that a PhD is much more than what is presented to the Viva, since it is a process that involves self- search and this touches different levels of emotions. All I wanted to do was to document those levels. For me it was a matter of integrity: once I had discovered a reason of frustration, I had to address it. I did not particularly think of the consequences of my acts…

This is where feed-back has already proven to be useful. The observers observing my observations have noticed what I had not seen:

Point 1: I could hurt people. By writing in emotional states that are typical of PhD mood swings (frustration, fear, exaltation etc…) I’ll might write in an impartial or exaggerate way and hurt people. This is not what I want.

Point 2: writing about academics and  institutions could bring me enemies within my own university, which is not very helpful if I am trying to finish my PhD…

Point 3: if people start commenting back on my PhD blog I could end up being hurt myself.

Point 4: managing a blog that will not directly feel into my PhD is a waste of time that I do not need.

Point 5: blogging about moods is all very good but it is self-referential and does not help anybody.

Point 6: if I want to speak about PhD issues and emotional swings I should open it up to other PhD students and make it a platform for potential change and dialogue with the institution. This would be a positive attitude, rather than a moaning one.

Point 7: if I am researching digital interactivity a blog is just not interactive enough, I need to push it further.

Point 8: a personal diary next to a research archive is a strange mix. The diary could diminish the credibility of the archive or vice versa.

Well, well… this is a boomerang more than a feed-back!!!

I have been pondering for the last four days what to do with it… and I find it very difficult.

I do not want to step back for fear of the institution… I honestly think that a debate would be beneficial… students go through so many frustrations while doing a PhD and a lot of it has to do with a system that does not have enough founding to give the appropriate time and resources to its students. University teachers are overworked… shall we hide this evidence? Student often get lost in their journey… a few make it, a lot give it up… why not addressing this issue?

I do not want to delete my PhD Blog/diary  because it takes me time… at the moment I feel it has a space, it is a way for me to know where I am in my process. Obviously I could keep it private and not publish it on the web. This is an option, I am not ruling it out. But for now it is also a way to make a statement: it is OK to speak about the nitty gritty, the less glamorous side of things, it is OK to expose the emotional side of a PhD… actually, this is what makes it a whole…

I take on board the fact that a personal diary is maybe not the best way to achieve my aim… it is just the best I could do so far. I keep my options open; this is after all an experiment… I am happy to transform this diary into something else when I will find the right platform or the right idea.  For now I am searching… and if I see in a few months time that this is really not going anywhere, then I will re-design my website and maybe drop the diary all together.

For now I take a few months to experiment, to see if and what people are commenting, to see if this takes me too much time and, in general, to see where this is leading me.

The last point to address is the fact that I am hurting people with my writing. This is actually a sore point for me.

If I post an entry after a tutorial the chances are that I am so much into it that I do not have the appropriate detachment to ponder my words. If in one way what I write is a documentation of real feelings it is also true that I am partial and that I put the emphasis on what seems relevant to me in that moment, ignoring how this might be interpreted by the person that reads it.

I have already done this mistake a long time ago.

When I passed my Baccalaureate I was asked to write an article for our student paper. I paired with a school mate of mine and we thought it would be funny to write a series of poems comparing each of our teachers to an animal. Our intent was to be goliardic and to use some nice illustrations that I had found in an animal book of the 19th century. We had a lot of fun writing those poems, but we obviously went too far. We ended up publishing a text that was not representative of what we really thought…but it was funny.

We soon realized that the joke was not funny for everybody and a couple teachers took it extremely badly, to the point that they did not ever wanted to speak to us anymore.

I had hurt people that I actually cared about… I was mortified. I had absolutely not realized that once words are written they are open to interpretations and that those escape the intentions of the authors.

I swore then that I had learned my lesson. But apparently I have not.

So… what can I do now?

I am taking the decision to keep in my blog only the entries that speak about me, and that involve people in my private sphere, for which I can take responsibility.

It is my choice to speak about me, but I will try to limit the consequences on others…

So for now, this PhD Blog/Diary will continue for a few months under these new rules… and I will then reassess the whole experiment around September.Let’s give it some digestive time…

Also: thanks to those who helped in this feed-back process… thanks to you things are moving…

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This entry was posted on Monday, March 30th, 2009

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