My first supervisory meeting served to draw a line under what went before and what is to come. Prior to this session, most of what I’d been involved with wasn’t too different from my previous life; attend a few talks, read things, think about them, write a bit. The last week of enrolment, meeting with new people, becoming familiar with new places and culminating in this formal event focused specifically on my next three years, has helped to reify the transition to a different life.
Mainly concerned with the business of undertaking a PhD, we discussed the significant milestones I need to be aware of and how my time might unfold during the three years. It was interesting to project forward to the endpoint of the viva, then trace back through the different possible thesis outcomes – traditional, PhD by Publication, PhD by artefact (a high-risk strategy in this field, but one employed to amazing effect by Nick Sousanis who presented his thesis in comic book format!). Having the end point in mind helps set the placemarkers I’ll need to ensure completion in the allotted time, but all that’s getting ahead of myself to some extent. For the moment, my first milestone is completion of the ‘RF1’ form, which requests approval for the research programme. Most of this was covered within my research proposal, so its completion shouldn’t prove too onerous.
I‘d produced a brief progress report which we then visited to discuss the reading I’ve already undertaken and the directions this might take. I appear to be largely on the right track, but it was useful to hear of other potential theoretical frameworks like critical realism. My concerns over the growing archive of journal articles I’m amassing, but which remain largely unread since I’m focusing on major texts, shouldn’t be considered too troubling. It’s still very early days and the progress I’m making is perfectly satisfactory. One suggestion was that I might consider using NVIVO (a powerful qualitative data analysis package) to record my reading and, since I’ll need to record, manage and analyse the qualitative data I collect in the future, keep all my reading notes and data interpretations in one place where cross-referencing and linking is possible. That makes a lot of sense, but … NVIVO? I’m sure it would be useful as outlined (and doubtless in other ways too), but my proprietary platform hackles have just risen. At $700 dollars, though free to me through the University, it’s not an application I’ll be able to use beyond my studies. However the principle appeals, so I thought I might revisit a tool I used to support my Master’s dissertation – Compendium, the latest version of which I’ve now download and will take for a test-drive.
One area that I suggested might prove tough is perhaps unsurprisingly my decision to use actor-network theory as a methodological lens. Again, it’s still early days, but I was advised that these kinds of concerns and the detailed choices I make regarding theoretical frameworks and methodology are far from set in tablets of stone. As I read more, it’s entirely possible that other more appropriate or interesting possibilities might emerge. With ANT, I was encouraged to look towards the more recent developments and how sociomaterial perspectives might shift the emphasis somewhat. I was advised that helpful ways of grappling through issues that we find difficult are often undertaken in the University by ‘Groups’ – these are convened around interesting threads (like literacies, space and place etc); they meet regularly over a coffee (or beer!) and discuss issues, often taking a particular text as as a focus … a bit like a book club it seemed to me. Several were offered as of potential interest to me and I’ll follow them up, but it was also suggested that there’s nothing stopping me initiating a group of my own and offering it up for membership. Social media appears to be a ‘hot topic’ across several disciplines and from a number of different angles. (So something to consider)
One further mechanism through which my ongoing learning could be enhanced is through attendance at interesting events. Of particular interest would be the International Professional Development Association Annual Conference scheduled for November, so I’ll add that to my calendar and stick on my ‘To do’ list to draft a request for funding. A number of other local events were also offered up and I’ll be checking them out too.
What I took away from my meeting then was that I need to maximise my exposure … to as many different opportunities as possible and through as many different avenues that I can find. Makes sense.