Category Archives: PhD

Museums & Wellbeing

So apparently there is a Museums and Wellbeing Week.  This is quite exciting for me as my PhD has taken a wellbeing turn (see below) and now I find a week where museums are promoting wellbeing.

Museums & Wellbeing Week Information

Anyway, I have been working hard on my PhD to the point where I have put in to present at two conferences this year. One with a poster and one with a Pecha-Kucha.  To do this I had to communicate my PhD topic in a more academic fashion than my blog post about is earlier this year.  So I got my head around my literature review plan, and wrote this:

I am exploring how museums can better engage with audiences of diverse communities, such as the communities in Leicester.  Drawing on the work of Chatterjee & Noble (2013), I will be looking at how local museums can better support local communities by creating a sense of belonging.   This will include building on the museums inclusivity in relation to identity and race (Crang & Tolia-Kelly, 2010).

Initially I will be looking into the experiences of family groups from the local Leicester area in the local authority museums focusing on their emotional and sensory experiences (Roberts, 2013; Munro, 2014) to better understand the senses of well-being and belonging in the museum.   I hope that this will be a basis on which museums can better represent their local communities and contribute to wellbeing and create an inclusive museum.

This is what I have submitted to see if anyone wants to hear about my research, and it has been successful.  The poster submission deadline passed and today I found out that I shall be presenting my poster at the Museums in the Global Contemporary Conference in Leicester in April.  The other deadline is the beginning of March so I have a little wait for that one.

References:
Chatterjee, H. and Noble, G. (2013) Museums, health and well-being Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate
Crang, M. and Tolia-Kelly, D.P. (2010) Nation, race and affect: senses and sensibilities at National Heritage sites Environment and planning A., 42 (10) 2315
Munro, E. (2014) Doing emotion work in museums: reconceptualising the role of community engagement practitioners Museums and Society March 2014 12(1) 44-60
Roberts, R.C., (2013) Questions of museum essence: Being, Being With, and finding connection in conversation Museums and Social Issues 8:1&2 pp. 89-101

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Filed under Conferences, Museums, PhD, Uncategorized

Class Reunion and Working Practices

I had a class reunion today, in the coffee shop. My classmate* from my MRes and I met up to chat PhD things.   She began her part-time PhD in October last year and is essentially in the same situation as myself, working full time, studying part time and commuting to see our supervisors every month or so.   She messaged me because I said it was important to speak to others in the same situation and as we both commute to our respective universities meeting up in the middle ground (work) is the simplest option.

I hope she won’t mind me mentioning this, but she said she had hit her first hurdle with being able to concentrate on work. She has a space set up at home to study but finds herself getting distracted.   I was given some advice by my supervisor about distractions quite early on.  She told me to allow some distractions to distract me.  If I am working from home, water the plants if I keep staring at them, put that washing in the machine. Otherwise the small distractions become bigger distractions.  This helped me a lot.  I could shrug off the guilt of moving away from the desk for five minutes and I felt that I was more productive while I was “in the zone”.

We also spoke about where we work. I try and work away from the computer as much as I can when I am at home.  I am mostly desk based at work so coming home and thinking that I might be stuck at a desk for an hour or so in the evening would put anyone off!   I do a lot of my reading and note making sat on the sofa, sat in bed or soaking in the bath**!  I find it hard to work when there are voices on the TV but if the other half is playing computer games it is not a problem (and definitely not a problem for him as he is encouraged to play games!).

Hopefully some of my habits are useful to help her get sorted out. I think we all have to find our comfortable space to work in.

Yesterday I ended up in an interesting conversation with a maths academic about museum visiting. I mentioned my PhD and we ended up discussing class inequalities in museum visiting.  It made me feel quite confident in what I am doing and in what I know.   Hooray for baby steps!

*There were only two of us on the MRes when we took it. We both work(ed) full time and are now both on part-time PhD courses. The stats for progression following our degree must look amazing for our cohort!

** The bath has its downsides, dropping papers in the water and difficultly in jotting down ideas when they come up!

In a twist of fate, the PhDSupportNetwork posted this which is strangely relevant to this post!
https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/38106895/899479777

paperclips and coursework

Numerical paperclips for organising articles, so satisfying!

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Filed under Distractions, Hints & Tips, PhD, Supervision, Uncategorized

Emotions and sonnets to gravel #focussheffield

I have just been to an intriguing conference held at the University of Sheffield on Advanced Visual Research Methods.  I am not going to review the whole two day conference, but just pick on a small part of it.  On the second day we spent a lot of time on one session, we had the choice of which session it was and I chose one called Making Emotions: materiality in visual research.

We began by drawing designs and patterns on paper in charcoal.  We had been discussing emotions and I thought I would try and capture my social awkwardness and insecurity when I am at conferences and talking about my academic work.  This is what I drew-

Original design

Original design

We talked briefly about the designs as a group (it was a nice small group, only about seven of us) and voted on the 21 designs to pick two to make into sculptures.  Mine was one of those picked.  We split into groups to make the gravel sculptures and I was told that we shouldn’t work on our own designs.  I was handing over my design to people I didn’t know and people who didn’t know what it was all about.  What would they do to it?

During the next part I worked on someone else’s sculpture design. I wondered what the story behind it was as I made it, my hands were shaking at times to make sure I was pouring the coal dust accurately.  The gravel sculptures were made from limestone chippings and coal dust.   I kept glancing over to the other, “my”, sculpture to see what they were doing, but I was really aware that I couldn’t say anything. Between the artist and the other delegates they had taken out the lines and only left circles.  However, there was a discussion going on about the lines. To my relief they had put some lines in.

Gravel sculpture

Gravel sculpture

We discussed the production process of the gravel sculptures together, and the acts of co-producing work.  It occurred to me that just listening to someone describe emotion is not enough.  The extent of their feelings is incredibly difficult to capture and so easily misinterpreted or overlooked.  Using materials and creative process such as gravel sculptures provides an additional conduit for communication.  Then, it was taken a step further – we were asked to write sonnets to our sculptures.

Here is mine, to the sculpture above (apologies to poets as it is not quite right):

Your concept makes so much sense to me now
Circles and lines so clear and curved
I understand the why, where, when and how
The stark contrasts of black and white reserved

I worried you were in the others hands
Would they understand what you were about
Could they do you justice made out of sands
Or would they miss parts of you out

But the end result made me see as new
How my research and participants will
Allow me to get a different view
And make me aware that others will fill

My research with some unique perspectives
There is no need to follow directives

It is cheesy – I am aware of this – but in the process of this I realised that I had to think quite hard about the right words to describe things and maybe think around them a little to make them fit in.  I realise I might also be quite late to this party, but it has shown me that methods can be varied.  Being able to actually take part in the methods and not just be spoken at for an hour at a time was also invaluable.  I look forward to the next one!

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Filed under Conferences, Methodologies, PhD, Visual Methods

Juggling and it’s consequences

Juggling... (c) Dr Seuss

Juggling…
(c) Dr Seuss

This last month has been a little hectic.  I am a full time employee and a part time PhD student.  I am not new to studying while working, in fact my two master’s degrees were completed in this way.  I have found though that the workload (which is my creation, rather than anyone elses) is doubled.  I want to do more reading, more writing and more critical thinking about subjects.  I keep getting sidetracked by subjects that are almost the one I am looking at.  All of that is fine – when I have the time.

I have just spent the last 6 weeks recruiting and training the latest batch of student ambassadors for the university.  This involves talks, applications, assessment centres, then three Wednesdays of training to make sure they are knowledgeable and smiley enough to put in front of visitors.  I have managed to get this done within working hours, so no late nights at work to distract me from studying in the evening.  However, as there isn’t any thinking time during the day.  There is always a task that needs doing that requires some brain power.

Now, many people may be thinking that this is what work is always like, but spend 5 minutes contemplating this.  On a normal day I have a list of things I need to do and I work through them.  There is time in between to have a chat to a colleague, someone drops in and so you stop and chat to them, you finish a task and there is some time to think about the next one, you have time to react to the unexpected and change your plans .  There were days in the last 6 weeks when this didn’t happen, one task finished, straight onto the next one.   It left me exhausted, a couple of nights I went to bed at about 8pm because “my brain had stopped braining”.  (I actually said that one night when I ran out of words!)

This impacted on my PhD work.  I could do the reading, that wasn’t a problem at all, but I had a massive case of writer’s block.  I had the information in my head and in my notes, but could not get it onto a page in any sensible fashion.  Luckily that time is done (until next time).

I have come to terms with this, it is alright to have a month where only reading happens.  As long as there is some progress!

I now have my upgrade paper to begin.

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Thoughts arrive like butterflies…

Butterflies coming out of head

I have been reading some texts that I find a little more challenging than others.  I think this is because of the language and concepts within them, it makes me have to read every word rather than skim through and get the idea of what it is all about.   While reading these kinds of texts I get ideas, almost like moments of clarity among the fuzz of information.   I do worry sometimes that these ideas and concepts will just fade away and I will never remember them again.  They do come back though, when I reread a passage I have marked in that book, the idea returns and I can write it down.

I said last night that I needed a beekeepers hat to stop the thoughts flying away like butterflies!  The response I got was Pearl Jam lyrics-

Even flow, thoughts arrive like butterflies
Oh, he don’t know, so he chases them away

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Imposter Syndrome – the cat amongst the pengiuns

This week I admitted that I worry that I am not good enough to do a PhD.  I often think that I don’t have the intelligence or research skills to get anywhere with it.  I feel nervous when going for supervision meetings as I don’t think I have done enough work or work of any worth. Coming out of those meetings I feel reassured and quite good about it all and this lasts for about a week until it kicks back in again.

I told a friend about this and she told me about Impostor Syndrome.

Impostor syndrome[1] is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

Thanks to Wikipedia for actually having the most succinct description I could find.  Although this article really sums it all up if you have the time to read it – The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention

So, here are things I think about myself:

  • I have to work doubly hard to do good work while others just sail through things (this could be true in some cases).
  • I have to work doubly hard to show that I can keep up otherwise I will fall behind and won’t be able to catch up.
  • I shouldn’t take credit for things I have been involved in as others involved are probably more deserving of the praise.
  • If I do promote or recognise my own achievements I am being big headed and selfish.
  • Any feedback on anything I do I expect to be really bad.

There are a bunch of other things (being 5’2″, female, not in an academic role for example) that I think go against other things I do.  I am not sure how many of those are actually barriers or if I should stop reading articles with titles like Short Women Struggle to Break Glass Ceiling.  I often think that I shouldn’t apply for jobs because people in X department know who I am and it will put them off.

Having read more about this, I have realised that this comes into other parts of my life as well.  More interestingly (I think*) is that I don’t tell people about my worries or thoughts on some subjects as the response will be along the lines of ‘don’t be silly, that’s not true’ or ‘hugs** – we think you are brilliant’, or I think someone will tell me I am wrong and stupid***.

However, these positive reinforcements are really honest opinions from people and not necessarily people humouring me as no one wants to tell me the truth about my idiotic brain workings!

i also don’t often tell people what I think as I don’t think my opinion or expertise matters.  This applies to my academic life, work life and hobbies.

So it is out in the open.  I don’t think that there is much I can do about it except be aware of it and that it makes me worried about my supervision meetings and the amount of work I am doing.   It is nice to know it is a thing and I am not on my own.

They still haven't noticed that I shouldn't be a PhD student...

They still haven’t noticed that I shouldn’t be a PhD student…

* There is another insecurity right there, I am giving you the option to disagree with me.
**For the record “hugs” and “squee” are two things I despise on social media.
*** I do appreciate a well reasoned debate though.

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Distractions!

Life is full of distractions at the moment.  I began 2015 with all the best intentions and made a list of rules that I would stick by to make sure I put a generous number of hours into my research.  The list takes into account that I need a social life, but also need to make sure I spend time on my PhD. (I will clarify that I work full time, usually in office hours Monday to Friday, but sometimes a little outside those hours as well.)

Here is my list:

  • Spend a little time each day doing something PhD related – reading an article, making notes or writing something substantial.
  • Have one weekend a month off.  This is social life time, visit someone, get out of the house.
  • On other weekends allow myself to go out in the evening or watch TV, play a board game and be social if I have been studying through the day.
  • Take opportunities as they come, fill in ‘spare’ time with studying if appropriate.

I stuck to this through January and have been incredibly productive, but February has come with it’s own challenges.  These challenges are:

  • Six Nations Rugby
  • Incredibly good TV shows on demand
  • Housework
  • Crocheting
  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Special events with my family and friends

Maybe it is because February is a short month (maybe I am looking for excuses).   My office space is also messy, which is distracting as I want to tidy it but feel it would be wasting my time. Maybe I should dedicate an evening to clearing it properly so it is less distracting.

During my last two degrees I was focused, I had set targets and found it easy to put time aside to study.  Apart from the set targets, which is something I can fix myself and which may help no end with this, I am looking for hints and tips to avoid getting distracted.

The cat is very supportive, she encourages people to read books.

Fatty reading

So, any suggestions or anecdotes on avoiding distractions?  Comments below please!

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