I have been thinking about… » A new blogging dawn
So, today sees a new dawn in my blogging behaviour - or it should if I actually stick to it. Last week we had two very productive meetings for the PATINA project. The more we talked about the experience of doing research, the more I started to think that it would be useful to keep some sort of diary tracking my experience of doing academic research on a daily basis. I'm going to try and be honest about life as an academic researcher. I'm going to try and focus on more than what I have done in a day, looking to also reflect on my experiences of doing research at a British university. Here goes!
Cycling into work I planned my day, and for the most part my week. This is quite a common thing for me to do on my cycle ride in the morning, but I can't claim to spend the whole journey thinking solely about research. My thoughts are intermingled with wondering about what pedestrians are about to do, whether a driver has seen me, and increasingly whether a cow is going to try and ram me as I cycle through the town moor. This morning I came in quite determined to read an analysis of research written by one of the PIs on the PATINA project, as well as reading over the growing body of literature looking at design probes, and particularly the beautiful work done by Jayne Wallace, who until recently worked in the Culture Lab, but is now over in Northumbria University. It is Monday however, so I actually started the week gently by cleaning my desk, filing away research papers I might want to re-read in the future, recycling those that have served their purpose, and generally clearing off some of the muck that accumulates when you eat your lunch too often at your desk. Once the desk felt clean again I logged on and began my day in earnest. First port of call is my email - and as usual what I receive in my inbox completely changes the course of my day. I am reminded that the company transcribing some recent interviews need me to re-send a file, as well as complete a formal contract. In addition to this, my manager has a few tasks he would like me to complete based on last week's meetings. It is not until lunchtime that I get the chance to really concentrate on the analysis of research provided by one of the PATINA PIs, and it is only after lunch that I start thinking about the Probes literature.
As I sit at my desk and read through some of the literature in HCI on probes, my attention is drawn to the book "Learning to Ask" by Charles L Briggs. This book has been sitting on my desk for a number of weeks, and I have been meaning to start reading it for quite some time, particularly as we're about to start recruiting participants to the first studies in the PATINA project. It's a book that I felt I needed to read based on my reading of the Ethnographic I (the book I blogged about a few months back) which seemed to resonate with the Interactive Interviewing technique described by Ellis in Ethnographic I. For some reason, now feels like the right time to start reading it. I take myself to a nearby coffee shop armed with only with my iPhone, the book, a pen and a set of post-it notes settle down hoping to make some head-way into the book. Sitting with a cappucino, and surrounded by a range of other people, I quietly read the book. I find as I read that my concentration fades in and out from what it written as elements of the book ping off different thoughts. When I find points of the book that I think are important I make a quick note onto a post-it note and stick it into the book. I've started doing this recently, hoping that it might take in more of what I read, as well as help me find parts of books that I may need later. In Brigg's account of the interviewing methodology I am struck by his emphasis on the "indexical function of language" as the notion that the meaning of what is said is found at least in part in the context where it was expressed. This reminds me of a conversation I recently had with a colleague where she was questioning the prevalence of text as a means of understanding the world. If we end up transcribing verbal conversations in order to analyse them do we lose some of the indexical function of language? It certainly will become harder to remember the pitch, the exaggeration, and the emphasis of a conversation.