Monthly Archives: July 2012

Back in the swing of it and the distance learning debate

Apologies for the gap in posting. I spent the last week concentrating on finishing my essay on visual methodololgy and then decided to have a little break from studying before the next module. I was also quite aware that my last posting was a big topic and I felt a little like I have to top that in this one. I don’t think that will happen straight away though.

My essay was successfully submitted on time, after some double checking, proof reading and amending.  I can’t say how well I did but I hope that all the work I put into it will pay off.  I have been told that my next module will not be arriving until next week so I can enjoy the sun while it is here!  I also took advantage of a couple of days off work and going to Alton Towers and Twycross Zoo.  It was like a mini summer holiday.

There is currently a debate going on here, it isn’t a big world changing debate but it is relevant to this blog in a way.  I deal with campus based master’s students in my line of work.  For the most part they are full time students committed to their programme.  I also have a few part-time students who have to juggle other responsibilites with their studies.  They are not afforded any special treatement when it comes to deadlines, but I will say that I spend a little more time with them when they choose their modules and structure their timetable.  This works well, it means that they can manage their time and there are no issues with their timetables clashing with their other commitments.   I am myself a distance learning student, and there is some conversation going on about distance learning students needing to be handled differently to campus based students to take into account their responsibilites outside of the course.   This is mainly in relation to flexibilty with deadlines due to many distance learning students working full time (this is a generalisation rather than the majority).  I don’t feel like I have been given any more flexibility on either of my distance learning programmes in this way, which is not a bad thing.  I also disagree that distance learning students should be treated any differently.  When you sign up for the programme, you make a commitment and I feel that you are expected to meet that as best you can.  The whole point of the distance learning programmes are that you have more time to complete the work and coursework compared to campus based students, which is how you can fit it in around your daily workload.    Distance learning should not be an easy option compared to campus based learning, or it will be devalued.  It should be an alternative way of completing a course when there isn’t an option to study on campus.

Anyway, that’s my two-pence.


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Exhibiting – the National Trust and Creationism

The National Trust (NT) has just opened a new visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.  The controversy that has followed is all due to this statement below in one of the exhibits:

this debate continues today for some people, who have an understanding of the formation of the earth which is different from that of current mainstream science.
Young Earth Creationists believe that the earth was created some 6000 years ago.  This is based on a specific interpretation of the Bible and in particular the account of creation in the book of Genesis.
Some people around the world, and specifically here in Northern Ireland, share this perspective.
Young Earth Creationists continue to debate questions about the age of the earth. As we have seen from the past, and understand today, perhaps the Giant’s Causeway will continue to prompt awe and wonder, and arouse debate and challenging questions for as long as visitors come to see it.

This is the opinion of the Young Earth Creationists.  They are more than welcome to hold this belief but should it be in an educational setting, advocating a theory which has already been disproven?

The NT and Young Earth Creationists have presented this point of view as an alternative theory; however, their theory is just that – a theory.   Having read into some of these theories, there is little grounding for being able to prove them.  So far, I have not seen any declarations of, the Earth is only 6,000 years old and we can see that because of this firm scientific proof.  All I have seen is – the Earth is only 6,000 years old, everyone else is wrong, this is because of something written in the Bible.  If I wrote an academic paper only citing one book – the Bible – I would fail it.

When it comes down to it, the issue here is not the context of the display, but the content of it.  Museums and visitor centres should display all views, legends, myths and theories in order for visitors to best make their decision, based on the facts.  Museums should inspire visitors to think.  In this case, the theory has been presented without any facts to support it.  From what other people have said (in comments on the University of Leicester Exchanges), the myth of Finn McCool has been presented with the reasons that people believed the legend because there is a matching set of rock formations in Scotland.  The story goes that Finn McCool could not swim wanted to prove his mite against a foe in Scotland and so the Giant’s Causeway was created.    But this is a myth, a story, from a book, with as much scientific evidence as the Young Earth Creationists claim in the passage above.  Bring on the facts, the proof, and the analysis.  I would like to see it, and would welcome it.  Bring on the other alternative viewpoints and their facts and theories. 

Another question which needs to be asked is if you are displaying an alternative point of view, where are the others?  Where are the Old Earth Creationists?

On their website the NT says come and see the Giant’s Causeway, learnt the stories and see how this formation has be explained by science.

 The whole thing seems a little ill thought out personally.

This question is being discussed at the University of Leicester here:


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Renewed enthusiasm

So, after my previous down hearted post, I can say that I have been hit with renewed enthusiasm.  I had a day of procrastination and am now back on board.  Saturday was a right off, I faffed and watched tv, although I think I needed that day.

Yesterday, I got a little more done.  I do feel like I have enough material to put together the essay and I am up to 2800 words (out of 5000).  It is making it all flow and sound academic now.  I have a plan to get it finished before the weekend, which I don’t think is too ambitious.


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Feeling Detached

Last night I settled in for a reading/making notes session.  I do this fairly regularly during the week, especially on nights when the lads are playing a tabletop roleplay game downstairs.  I made myself comfy and began to read one of the many articles I have earmarked for my current essay.  I got to the third page, I had made a couple of notes about the piece which seemed useful.  Then, it struck me that the images I was looking at I had seen before, in fact the article was so useful I had found this draft copy of it and was in the middle of reading it for a second time!  *sigh*  I then picked up the next article, only to find that it wasn’t relevant.
I did eventually get to reading something whcih was helpful, but it took some doing.

In light of what happened last night, today I am feeling a bit detached from it all.  I want to write a good essay, not be borderline or satisfactory, a good essay (or even an excellent one).  Not only that, I want to be in the middle of what is going on research-wise and I keep seeing Twitter posts about exciting things happening eslewhere and I feel like I am missing out.  I am sure it will pass.  At the moment I am quite aware that this deadline is looming…10 days to go.

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Can’t quite see it…

I am currently working on a paper about visual research methodology.  This is part of my MRes programme, but also the instigator for my plan for my dissertation.  This whole topic is fascinating (I actually hope that the quantative module is as gripping as this one).  I have read so many articles, case studies and book chapters that I could happily discuss the topic and feel like I am making sense.  Although, in reality, if you put me in a room of experts I find it quite intimidating.  However, the paper I am trying to write is not very forthcoming.  I have now divided it into sub headings to try and tackle it that way.  I will see if this helps tonight. 

Last night I consoled myself by reading On Photography by Susan Sontag in the bath. I read it while completing my BA in Art History, but it seems to make more sense now reading it from a social sciences perspective. 

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The story so far…

June 2012

I originally came up with the broad plan for my dissertation while reading this article:
Clark-Ibáñez, M. (2004) ‘Framing the Social World with Photo-elicitation Interviews’, American Behavioral Scientist 47(12): 1507-1527

The author’s description of using photographs taken by the respondent and then discussing the feelings, reasons and meanings behind the photograph struck me as an interesting method of research and one which could be used to study visitor experiences at museums.  I have also previously heard of some research which was conducted by giving children cameras and recording their viewpoint of museum visits.

I will need to mention this to the course director as I am hoping it will not influence the research I hope to do.  I am going to try and use different methods to do this and the project will not take as long.  

I have been reading about Grounded Theory as a way of developing the project.  At the moment I am not sure on what the exact questions will be so using the photographs in the first instance and then developing the research questions from this point would be ideal.

I emailed the museum today (15th June) to see if they would be open to me conducting my research at the New Walk Museum.  I will have to wait and see what the answer is…

20th June 2012

I went to Prof Sarah Pink’s seminar on Visual Methods for Organisational Studies today.   The talk gave me some more ideas about how I could make my dissertation more dynamic.  She spoke about movement and using video to get a better experience of the participant’s point of view or help the researcher have the same or similar experience.   I think there may be some possibility to working this kind of method into my dissertation.  It will need some thinking about as I have never used a video camera and would need to get some practice.  Or indeed, think about how I could get the best use out of it.

 The thoughts on filming someone’s visit through the museum made me think about how the different people in the museum use the space.   Museum workers might see things differently to visitors.  It might be worth filming museum workers moving about the museum during their day or a few hours, and comparing it to the visitors view.  It might also be worth getting museum workers to take photos of things around the museum in the same way as the visitor will.  This could then be compared. 

26th June 2012

I received this reply from the museum his morning:


I am sorry for not responding earlier. In principle I would be happy with this, however there may be some issues with photographs in all galleries as we have copyright issues with some of the objects. Please can you let me have a detailed proposal with potential dates?

I think it sounds like a good way to research customer experiences and would be really interested in the results.

If you wish to discuss further please give me a call.


This is brilliant news.  As I develop this proposal I can take this into account.  I might go and visit and have a chat about it as it might be easier to speak to them directly and see how I might have to change my proposal in relation to any copyright issues they may have.    As I am not intending to publish all of the photos, it may be a case of restricting the photographs of the copyrighted objects and not being able to give them to the participants.   

27th June 2012

I have been thinking a little further on the copyright issue.  I am wondering if I could get permission to publish the photographs.  I will have to look into this further…I work in the law school so there should be someone here that can help me on copyright issues too.  

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Going for it…

I had my reservations about doing this, and then realised that I was being a wimp. 

I began a dissertation diary last month after having a brainwave about my research project for my MRes.  I have, until now, kept this to myself.  Then someone said I should be more open about it.  So, here it is…

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