Friday, October 12, 2007

Dissertation blues

Edited version: see comments below.

I don't set out to be a rebel, honest! Yet all my life I've been branded as one, which leaves me in a semi-permanent state of bemusement. I see rebellion as a deliberate rejection of authority. That's not me - I don't spend enough time thinking about power structures and such like to be a rebel.

Instead, I tend to make choices based on circumstance, only to find out fairly often that my chosen course of action is unacceptable. It's at this point that I push back. Why isn't it acceptable? And don't tell me: "because I say so" or "because this is the way it's always been done". Not good enough. Oddly for someone with traditional values, I don't observe tradition for tradition's sake. As a trite example, I don't do either turkey or Christmas pudding at Christmas - look, if I'm going to spend that long in the kitchen, we're flipping well going to have something that we really like at the end of it! If you can't give me a good reason for doing a thing a certain way, then excuse me while I do it the way that makes sense to me.

I've been accused of intransigence, but I reckon that's the refuge of people who can't come up with a plausible explanation for what they want me to do.

So last night I once again found myself on the wrong side of the fence. It was our first dissertation workshop and (of course) I was flying in the face of convention.

I am planning to do an action research project based on the difference that the use of social media has made to my professional practice as a learner and a learning provider - terribly subjective, I know! I didn't embark on the social media road with a view to writing a dissertation about it, but it has proved such an interesting and topical journey. I thought I could also add some narratives from the members of my various communities (that means you, by the way, so be prepared to be called upon to contribute). I'm struggling to come up with some ideas for the inclusion of at least one quantitative data model that won't completely hijack the dissertation (suggestions welcome).

Anyhoo, I had thought that the dissertation itself should be an example of what it sets out to relate. So I would like to publish it primarily as a wiki, keeping it transparent from the get go and opening it to members of my various online communities to comment on and contribute to. I would like to use links where possible (begrudgingly in addition to Harvard referencing, since this is a stated requirement for all submissions). I would also like to embed some Youtube videos such as this one:

If I had my way, it would be only a wiki, but I have to submit a printed version, too - so then the challenge is whether I completely rewrite the thing so that it works better as a flat document, or submit a printed version of the wiki. I also have to think about the issue of authorship - for a book, it's one thing to have co-authors, but for a dissertation?

Since writing that last sentence, I have had a conversation with my colleague Mark Berthelemy who gently (he doesn't have another mode) reminded me that, if I want this institution to award me a Master's degree, I'm going to have to make sure I submit something that they have the skills to assess, which limits my options severely.

I'm simultaneously grateful and petulant that I have friends like that!


AndyR said...

Nah, lots of people have handed in Wikis as dissertations by now, so that's getting a bit old hat. Now supposing you were to submit as an ongoing discourse between twitter streams..... :-)

btw am curious as to what 'reactionary' implies where you come from, because I'm kind of reading it as the opposite, or something.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. You raise an interesting point, Andy. I have always used the term synonymously with revolutionary.

Roget's thesaurus lists the following synonyms: permanent, disobedient and revolter. I had in mind the latter two, but...

The thesaurus in MS Word says: intransigent, backward-looking, die-hard and dyed-in-the-wool, listing activist as an antonym, which would seem to be saying the opposite to Roget.

Collins says: of, relating to, or characterised by reaction, esp. against radical political or social change.

Based on your comment, I am going to substitute with the word rebel. How's that?

Harold Jarche said...

I consider myself a learning revolutionary, as do many others, but it has price - fewer clients.

If you haven't seen Hugh's cartoon, you may need to stick it up on your wall.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that, Harold - a good reminder! I don't like bored, but I don't much like lonely either, so I'll be a wolf cub, faithfully trailing the alpha pair: watching, learning and emulating.

What d'you reckon?

Harold Jarche said...

I reckon you should do what you need to do, not what someone else wants. But then the question is, why are you taking this programme? To learn or to get a degree?

BTW, I did my M.Ed. to get a degree. I've learned much more on my own and use very little of what was covered at graduate school. The thesis option gave me more room to explore areas of interest. However, the Web didn't have all those neat options like wikis and SNS at the time

Wendy said...

I found through hard experience that being a little too far ahead has severe consequences when working on a graduate degree.

The professors are looking for people to disseminate THEIR ideas (as much as they claim otherwise). Think of the number of your professors and colleagues who crow about who they studied with.....

That said - I think it makes perfect sense that your dissertation is structured like what you are writing about.

Good luck with your dissertation - and don't let the b****rds get you.....

Anonymous said...

I embarked on it for a variety of reasons. I wanted to put a framework around my informal learning and fill in the gaps, to assess whether my independent, informal learning had been at the right level and, not least, to open doors by gaining a piece of paper to wave at interviews. No-one in my direct lineage ever got a degree of any sort before, and I'm the first woman in my husband's family to do so, so I'm now a source of great pride on both sides.

This programme was not my first choice, but because I don't actually have a B degree, I struggled to gain acceptance at most other institutions. This programme was the closest fit that was prepared to accept me, which my classmates regard as a bit of a joke, because I'm on track to graduate with merit!

Once I've got the M under my belt, I hope to be able to transfer some credits over to a programme that is a closer match to what I want to learn about. Let's see them turn me away, then ;-)

Sorry - long winded reply!

Anonymous said...

Somehow my comments got a bit scrambled and I didn't get notified that Wendy's was waiting for moderation until a few minutes ago. As a consequence, my response to Harold now appears below Wendy's comment. Serves me right for not indicating who I was replying to!

Wendy: thanks for the encouragement! I'll let you know how it goes.