Monthly Archives: November 2012

Late night study tunes: edn. V

A year ago, I don’t think I’d ever heard of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Now, they’re one of my favourite bands, and a constant go-to when I’m studying or writing.

This is my first proper listen through of their latest album, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

(WordPress, I see you have changed your format for uploading media since last night. Sneaky. Very sneaky.)

Also, I will be seeing them in March! For the Perth Festival! Yesss!

Thesis in the background there. About to knuckle down and edit/finish this chapter. Then, I’m really very nearly almost done. Yikes.

This is why I keep going.

The sensory-inscribed mode of embodiment places the subject in a vital role in the writing and practice of history as that which is defined as a present recognizing itself as a formulation of the past. Here, the process of ‘re-membering’ (i.e., the constructing of community history and the battle that ensues over who is able to construct history) is very much an embodied experience. Re-membering is a construction of various pieces that, while not the Grand Narrative of history, is instead an experience of ongoing creation. This type of creation is not simply a retelling of what was, but is an embodied experience of the phenomenology of temporality. The body plays a role in at least two ways here. First, it serves as the metaphor for the self’s constructive relationship to history… Secondly, the body is integral to the construction of history because culture and bodies are indelibly linked to representation and history.

Farman, Jason (2012). Mobile Interface Theory. Routledge: New York; Abingdon, p.125

The past few days have brought more pleasant discoveries and excited moments of learning than the months leading up to this point. Perhaps it’s the fact that I know I’m so close to finishing my thesis, but all I want to do is keep reading and writing and absorbing all this information.

I have been reading about embodiment and place and locative media and mobile phones and networks and storytelling and so much more. I’m so happy that I finally want this.

Hey, PhD candidates-to-be!

You might like to read this before you begin. 

I wish I had.

I will submit almost five years to the day after I began (although I have had about 1.5 years off in various forms of leave during that time), and there are things I know I haven’t put enough effort into.

Networking. Publishing. Conferencing. Setting up my online presence to be research-specific (I’m working on it).

However, things I have improved on: Expressing my ideas. Knowing things. Speaking to people. Speaking to large groups of people. Writing. Staying calm. Believing I can.

Late night study tunes: edn. IV

Some creepy, blissed-out atmospheric sounds for a wet & windy night of study here in Perth.

Shlohmo – Bad Vibes.

The Brainfeeder crew are providing the right kind of soundtrack for my writing quite often at the moment. A brilliant young collaborator of theirs, Austin Peralta, died recently. Take the time to listen to his work; he was an exceptional talent. I listen to him a lot when I’m working.

My contributions lately have been short & sweet. Thesis writing is happening. Perforated eardrum continues to plague me. I’ve got less than 5 weeks.

It will be done, but only just.

33 days.

A health kick // 6 weeks

1. I just returned from spending four glorious days in Melbourne with a couple of my best friends. I ate and drank everything. Now I am healthkicking/adopting healthier life habits – simple food, consistent exercise, limited alcohol – for the next little while … partly because I feel that I need it, and partly because an almost-complete draft of my thesis is due in 6 weeks.

2. An almost-complete draft of my thesis is due in 6 weeks. My supervisor sprung that little surprise on me last Wednesday, so it’s full steam ahead for the next months and a bit. The draft is due on the last day of the year, and then after a couple of days off I will have to write the introduction and conclusion and produce the entire, finished thesis by the end of January.

Holy what.

The first order of business is sorting out my office space, which is next level disgusting, and then really knuckling down and writing. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely terrified by the prospect of having to effectively finish my thesis in the next 6 weeks.

On the upside, I’ll soon be finished.

An open letter to (not all of my current or former) university students.

Dear university student body,

Dudes. Come on.

You are amongst the brightest and most hopeful young minds in the world. Did you know that? If you live in Australia, you’re lucky enough to be part of one of the most educated countries in the world. That’s amazing! Education is a privilege, not a right, and you have access to it relatively cheaply and openly. The fact that you are a woman or from a particular ethnic background or socioeconomic sector does not preclude you from getting a diploma or a degree, if you want one.

There are also an abundance of opportunities for those who do not wish to pursue post-secondary education too, and that’s fine.

The fact that you have finished both primary and high school (to some level, be it year 10, 11, or 12) puts you so far above the majority of people in this world. There are people who fight literally every single day of their lives to be able to get the education that you take for granted. Kids who don’t have the luxury of grumbling about waking up and going to school every day for 12 years, because they’re too busy fetching water or working on farms or just trying to stay alive. Kids who don’t have schools nearby. Kids who don’t have the means to access education.

But not you. You just get to go to school, and even if your family doesn’t have money, your government ensures that you still have access to some of the world’s highest quality education, almost for nothing. And when you finish school, you can choose to go to university, and how’s this? You don’t even have to pay until you get your degree and find a job! How awesome is that?

So please, please, tell me why on earth with all this privilege, all these wonderful opportunities right in front of your nose, please tell me why you cheat on your assignments? Why you plagiarise, or just do damn lazy things like copy and paste assignments from other students who have shared their old assignments on their blogs, or why you submit the same assignment as your friend, and hope I won’t notice?

I will notice. I will notice if you have cheated, I will notice if you have made liberal use of copy and paste, and I will especially notice if I read the exact same assignment twice within a matter of days.  I will notice if the only sources you have referenced are the first three sources that come up when you Google “difference between web and net” because they’re the same three damn sources that the vast majority of the other students will reference, too. Mostly, I will notice that you don’t seem to care. I’m so sick of it.

This isn’t a rant to out any one of my students. I have taught some absolutely brilliant people over the past five years, and I’ve taught a hell of a lot more students that might not be getting the top marks in the class, but they’re always trying and always learning, and that’s all I want as a teacher.

That, and for people to stop trying to take me for a ride.

What is the point of going to university if you’re not going to try learn something? Your degree is more than a piece of paper or some letters at the end of your name. It’s the opportunity to learn that the vast majority of the people in this world will simply never have, and to learn about things that you probably never would’ve learned if left to your own devices. Why not really get involved?

Sure, it takes a bit more effort, but the rewards are immense. Really knuckle down and do some research before submitting an assignment. Really think about the question and what it’s asking you to do, and for goodness sake, ask your teachers if there’s something you’re unsure about! We don’t bite! And yes, there are some truly, truly shitty teachers out there – and for that, I am sorry – but the ones who aren’t shitty will appreciate the fact that you felt confident enough to speak up and ask for help.

If you don’t care about learning, don’t go to university. Get a career advantage in other ways – perhaps by working hard at the office. If you are at university, make the most of it and get your money’s worth. Most of all, don’t be so selfish. It’s challenging because it’s meant to be. If it’s not challenging, perhaps you aren’t thinking deeply enough.

Cherish your education. The luxury of learning is one of life’s pleasures, so don’t take the privilege of your education for granted.

The ethics of aid

I recently applied for a year-long ‘volunteer’ (I say that because participants are paid a living wage in exchange for their services) placement in Kenya, working at a radio station. I didn’t get the position, which was disappointing at first, but it’s got me thinking about aid and what it really entails.

I find the notion of so-called “voluntourism” makes me a little uncomfortable. I have little interest in spending my few weeks of holidays each year helping people dig ditches, which is how so many volunteer opportunities are often framed. In these instances, it seems like the locals really are missing out, as affluent white folks actually pay money to volunteer – and don’t ask for anything in return.

Locals, of course, require an income to live. Why pay a local when a silly foreigner will work for free?

However, I’m totally okay with working in a position where the skills I already have can be put to good use, working with locals – rather than instead of locals – to help out. It’s not entirely selfless on my part at all; part of the trade off for me is being able to live in another country for six months or a year without having to worry about visa hassles and the like.

The program I applied for was run through AusAID, Australia’s government-run aid department. I had, of course, hear whispers prior to applying of Australian international aid projects violating human rights and perhaps being somewhat corrupt (spending a lot of money to improve the situation in a country that could be of financial or strategic benefit to us as a nation counts as corruption, right?), but I tried not to let that worry me.

I read this article in New Matilda over the weekend, though, that has got me questioning my choices – and has also landed me in quite the pickle.

“This is the tragedy of the aid mentality, the belief that any aid is good aid and that aid must by definition be helping poor people. As AID/WATCH has too often revealed, it is often the poor that bear the brunt of the costs of development which is carried out in their name.”

I like to help. It’s in my nature. I’m no mother Theresa, but for someone who doesn’t possess an iota of maternal instinct, I sure got overloaded with compassion. But I can’t knowingly become involved with an organisation that has committed human rights abuses, can I? Is all aid good aid, or is there a serious drawback to development in other countries?

If organisations such as AusAID can’t even be trusted to do the right thing, who can we trust? Is there such a good thing as aid, or does it always come at a cost?

Would we perhaps be better off investing our aid dollars into education and training to help locals – with their understanding of the cultural and spiritual complexities of the people they work with – to direct funds into projects, and to just step away altogether?

I listened to this really interesting interview when researching this topic, and I found the tie that the interviewee, Kenyan Binyavanga Wainaina, saw between aid and colonialism to be really poignant. And he’s entirely correct – why are we still trying to force a mentality of Western development on Africa and other regions which are, by our Western standards, lagging behind?

So therein lies my pickle: I want to go and experience different places and do different things, but I don’t want to be involved in anything unethical or colonialist. Can it be avoided? Is there a way to “help” that is ethical, or is it better to just focus on what I can do in my own country, or using the skills I already have to benefit others (and myself)?

Have you volunteered? What was your experience?