Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dissertation other colours

Apologies for the title - its a rather trite reference to my post called Dissertation blues, and it serves as a sequel/rebuttal. To be honest, this post belongs more on my Ardent Student blog, but the edublogs server seems to be out to lunch today and I need to get this done so that I can move on with other stuff, so here goes:

I attended my first meeting with my dissertation supervisor on Monday. We had two items to discuss, since he is also my tutor for an independent studies module. The first discussion went fairly seamlessly - especially since he advised me not to get too hung up on the whole peer-reviewed reference thing, that professional journals would do just as well (terms and conditions apply).

Having got the independent studies module out of the way, we turned our attention to the dissertation. I explained what I was hoping to cover, we discussed the question that would form the title of the work and then I dropped my bombshell. I mentioned that I was hoping to submit the dissertation in the form of a wiki.

His initial response was a head-in-hands "Gordon Bennett!" (which, for those outside the UK, is a substitute expletive/blasphemy along the lines of "jumpin' Jehosaphat"). His recovery was pretty immediate, to give him his due. He explained, holding a up a beautifully hardbound A4 book with gold lettering, that "this" was what the university tended to want.

I opened my mouth, but he stalled me with, "However..."

I had been thinking about this for some time and had all my reasons, arguments and justifications backed up in an assembly line, ready to be trotted out. As it turned out, most of them were unnecessary, he was tasting the idea and developing a liking for it.

His thinking out loud went something like this:

You're going to be writing about the use of social media, so it makes sense to use social media. After all, if you were getting an MA in art, you might present a sculpture, or in music, you might perform an original composition. Why should everything always be vanilla? No. We are aiming to accommodate a wider range of student submissions. Why shouldn't you be allowed to submit something that works for you? This makes sense.

Since he would be one of the people marking it, we knew that the skills existed in-house and we could think of another person with the skills to be the second marker.

We discussed the fact that a wiki is by definition a community project and an MA dissertation is most decidedly an individual effort. Potentially, what I will have to do is submit as the dissertation what would be the straw man for a wiki. Who knows, once it's submitted, I might throw it open and make it a proper wiki...

Anyhoo, I left the meeting feeling far more positive than I had expected. Of course, because it represents such a break with tradition for the university, he is going to have to seek advice/approval on the matter, but, by the end, he seemed as positive about the idea as he had initially been negative. At least he didn't turn me down out of hand, and I feel confident that he will fight my corner.

One thing I know: if I am to be the guinea pig, I had better submit a kick-*ss dissertation or the naysayers in the faculty will have grist for the "I told you so" mill and poor John's butt will be in a sling.

And I have to work out the hows, wheres and whys of hosting. Public domain is a must, but the university needs to have unfettered access. And what do I do to guarantee against the host server crashing or the piece getting corrupted?

What have I let myself in for? My brain hurts!

1 comment:

Harold Jarche said...

Good for you :-) You might ask James Farmer to host it as a "special" edublog/wiki. At least his service has been around for a while and it won't crash. Because you are incorporating a little subversion, he might really like the idea.