Tag Archives: thesis

Perth, online.

blog out links

Just a snapshot from my work this week.

With thesis submission day rapidly approaching (next Thursday – finally!), I’m just putting the finishing touches on my network visualisations. Obviously the real thing is higher quality – this is just a screenshot – but what you’re looking at are two things: a) the way in which 135 Perth-based food bloggers network their identities online, and b) the way that Perth food bloggers link to each other via blog rolls. (Tracking the comments on blogs would have been more useful, but I have run out of time to do it.)

I’ve also got overlays that show the links between their Twitter & Facebook pages, as well as how they all fit together.

The text is very small, but basically I use a coded system to designate each individual (for example, if my blog was in there it would be ‘bw’ – beyond words – and then my linked Facebook page would be ‘bw.fb’, and my Twitter profile ‘bw.tw’, and my Urbanspoon profile ‘bw.us’ and so on). I’ve done this for a number of reasons; partly, it was to keep the labels for each node short, so that they didn’t take over the graph, but also to add a degree of anonymity to my results (rather than saying Blogger X links to pages w, y, z), which allowed me a degree more freedom with my study (i.e. not having to get signed permission forms from everyone on the list).

None of my research in any way discusses content on any particular blog; everyone whose work is directly featured in my thesis (such as quotes from blog posts) has granted permission for me to use that information. Everyone else is just a dot, and a link.

Blogs are represented by black dots; aqua represents Facebook; blue is Twitter, etc. I found that bloggers link to sixteen different social platforms (including social networking sites, social bookmarking sites, social recommendation sites, and social curation sites) from their blogs (in order from most popular to least): Urbanspoon, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, Google+, YouTube, Foodgawker, LinkedIn, Posse, Yelp, Last.fm, Tastespotting, Tumblr (blogs that were hosted at Tumblr didn’t count towards this; if they did, Tumblr would come just after Google+, but I counted them as blogs for the sake of consistency), and Vimeo.

I haven’t included platforms like BlogLovin’ on here. I was going to, but in the end was having such problems with it at the time of data collection that I left it out. I’ve also undoubtedly missed some platforms. I used a site called IssueCrawler to get the initial links from blogs. Basically, I uploaded a list of URLs (i.e. all the blog URLs), and the returned results consisted of a spreadsheet with every URL linked from the blog’s main page. I checked everything manually a few times, as the IssueCrawler results weren’t perfect (some blogs appeared to have no links outwards, which proved to be incorrect based upon my double-checking).

I also checked everything a few times to make sure that I had the most accurate sample possible. A major challenge came in the form of collecting the sample group. Not all blogs h

One thing that I am hoping to do in the future if I have time is to create a dynamic visualisation of posts, which will plot the occurrence of blog posts across a period of time (back to about 2004, as I think that’s when the earliest post from this group was made) corresponding to the restaurant/cafe/location they blogged about, placed over a map of Perth. I’m not sure how I will treat home-cooking/recipe posts, but these could possibly be plotted as well, although not to a location (maybe by theme or primary ingredient).

Blogs are somewhat of a passe subject these days, but I’m quite fascinated by how the medium has persisted. We have all these other ways to communicate, as the social platform links attest (for instance, 51% of the group has a linked Urbanspoon profile, 49.5% a Twitter accounts, and 47.5% a Facebook page dedicated to their blog). However, blogs offer the opportunity for longer-form expression that few other platforms allow at this stage. (Newer platforms like Medium are changing that as they straddle the boundary between blog space, collaborative environment, and SNS.)

Because I’m specifically looking at Perth, these links just serve to demonstrate how closely knit the Perth food blogging community is (and, by extension, how close other online communities are). My research focuses on the ways that place identity can be encountered and expressed via locative and location data, so the crown in the jewel of my research is a much bigger map that looks at how Perth bloggers and social media users have talked about Eat, Drink, Perth over the past four years.

The decision to research that particular festival wasn’t entirely arbitrary; there are important, undeniable links between food, geography, identity, and community that are vital to my research, so EDP has been a useful vehicle for exploring local networks in more detail. I’m still working on finalising that visualisation. However, it’s taking a loonnnng time. I’ve collected the geographic coordinates for every EDP event from 2010-2013, as well as (I think?) every online news article, tweet, and blog post about EDP. (Probably not all; there are limitations. For instance, I have no access to private data, such as protected tweets, nor did I want access to them for this project as I am only looking at information that is publicly available. In addition, EDP/Show Me Perth remove content from their website and Facebook page every year before launching the new event. The Wayback Machine was somewhat helpful, but there’s no doubt I’ve missed stuff.)

All that information is being plotted on an incredibly complicated network visualisation that I will share here once it’s done. The graph corresponds to the geodata I’ve collected; for instance, all posts about the Butcher’s Picnic link to the node for that event, which is located (on the map and IRL) in Northbridge Piazza. There are also different levels of links for comments, trackbacks, and different colours utilised to represent different years of the festival. Fun!

f19 network structure

a basic example of how the main network visualisation is structured — bright green: event location (geolocated on a map). teal: events held at that location during one edp year (in this case, three; this is just a dummy example, there may be more/less in a given year). purple — blog posts about specific events. red: bloggers (the actual blogs). if you look closely here, this network depicts ‘blogger a’ as having written both of the blog posts (purple nodes); ‘blogger b’ was linked to in the mad hatter’s tea party post (there’s a tiny arrow pointing out from that node to the ‘blogger b’ node). imagine this, hundreds of posts over, for four years…

It actually is very fun. It’s just super frustrating and time consuming getting the data to appear in a way that is logical and informative, rather than just being a splash of colour on the screen that isn’t really any good for telling a story.

I’m thinking once I’m done with everything and have a spare moment, I’ll publish a list of Perth food blogs/Facebook pages/Twitter profiles on here, in case anyone is interested. I’ll also have high-resolution versions of my visualisations available too.

Sixteen.

Sixteen days to go.

In 384 hours I will probably be an hour or two away from waking up, driving to uni, and letting go of my thesis. It’s a terrifying prospect, and explains why I am awake still at 4:24 in the morning… not that that’s terribly unusual these days. The “nights” (hah – nights are for study!) I go to bed when the sun is already up are far outnumbering those in darkness.

I’m ready for it emotionally. I can’t wait to let the damn thing go. It has been my constant companion for far too long, and the relationship that I have with my thesis is difficult. If we were dating, we’d definitely have our Facebook relationship status set to It’s Complicated. Of course, “we” aren’t dating because there is no “we”; my thesis is a 300 page document that lives in my computer, in my head, and all over my living room floor. (Seriously, it’s quite distressing how much paper I have gone through editing this thing. Editing on the screen is just too difficult at this stage. I am definitely going to have to plant a few trees, or an entire forest, to make up for this one.)

It’s so much more than an inanimate object, though. One of the peculiar things about researching identity, and particularly narrative identity, is that I find a lot of parallels between my research and my own life. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what this project has meant to me. Over the past five years and ten months, it has been something I so looked forward to, then something that intimidated the hell out of me, then something I loved, then something that caused me an incredible amount of emotional anguish for a very long time, then something I left, then something I returned to with fresh eyes and unexpected enthusiasm. That was in July last year. At the time, I thought I didn’t have that much to do in order to finish.

L-O-effing-L.

I had all the things to do. I had written a lot before I took a year’s hiatus in 2011/2012, and most of it turned out to be unusable in its original state. It’s perfectly normal, I know, and indeed expected, that a PhD student’s work will undergo considerable change from first draft to final product. It has to; why bother doing a PhD if you go into it with a perfect grasp of what you hope to achieve? Many of the concepts and theories that have become the foundation of my thesis didn’t even exist in my work pre-2011. It took taking a year off, and allowing myself the opportunity to climb out of my own head, to realise what’s important to me, what I’m passionate about.

Predictably, this has made for an incredible amount of work over the past 16 months. I have essentially written my entire thesis, and researched probably 60% of it, in that time. At the same time I’ve worked anywhere between one and three jobs, because working 70+ hours a week on a thesis doesn’t actually pay the bills. (It did once upon a time, but my scholarship is loooong gone.) My mind boggles a little when I hear about people completing their dissertation within the allotted three year period. How? How do you do it? I don’t want to be presumptuous and claim that only those without jobs can do such a thing. I know there are people who are more efficient workers than I am, and others that went into doing a PhD with a more structured plan.

My research evolved organically. I read my thesis proposal recently – not my candidacy application, but the proposal I wrote when I first applied to study a PhD at Curtin – and, wow. It’s quite funny, actually, as my research took a massive detour from its origin for a very long time before returning to a somewhat similar area, although with a completely different focus. I was going to research online visual representations of bodies, initially (an extension of my Honours research); I’ve ended up studying embodiment as the essential condition for identity manifestation, but in the context of locative media, urbanity & place, and narrative constructions of self. I’m happy with this; I would’ve tired of my original topic, and over the past couple of years I’ve discovered a love for geography, mobility, and locative media. By letting my research do its thing and evolve naturally over time, I’ve managed to discover an element of my identity that I had no idea existed. Life copies art copies life.

So. Sixteen days to go. Sixteen days to let go. It’s not going to be easy; I could keep working on this forever, but I don’t want to. I can’t. I’m a chronic perfectionist; I could work on it forever and still never be happy with it. In sixteen days, I let go.

Current things.

current desk_01a. iPad, upon which I have too many books & articles to read. I try to read article/book-type things on there exclusively so I don’t clutter up my desktop and get distracted by going on unnecessary research journeys (it’s much more cumbersome on a tablet than a desktop) but it doesn’t really work out that way.

b. Lamp. The front half of my house (which includes all the bedrooms, one of the bathrooms, and the kitchen) currently has no lights, so I’m relying on lamps. There’s a standing lamp off to the right of me too, and it’s bloody hot and bloody annoying but the alternative is sitting in near-darkness, and that’s just too depressing. (The RE agent said they’d send out an electrician on Wednesday. They did not.)

c. Thesis. I’m using Scrivener, and it’s amazing.

d. Wikipedia. Do not even begin to judge. I’ve found myself needing to include a few bits & pieces about capitalism and globalisation in this chapter I’m almost-done editing. I’m not ashamed to admit that at this point – 12 years into a university education – I still turn to Wikipedia every single time that I need an overview of a concept. It’s never the last place I look, but almost always the first. Sue me.

e. Notepad for remembering Important Things. (Almost everything written on here ends up being forgotten about/written over/lost/never actioned.)

f. Mug. I am getting so sick of coffee.

g. Gel eyedrops. When I bought these, in a 30 pack or something, I thought I’d never, ever, ever reach the end of the box. There are three tubes left.

h. Pen. I’m really particular about writing implements. They have to be drawing pen-style, with a felt or plastic nib or whatever it is (like those on Artline pens) – never ballpoint or *shudder* gel. Gross. (I have pen cups full of pens, but currently I’m using Stabilo point 88. They’re not ideal – I prefer a 0.1mm nib and these are 0.4 – but they come in 30 colours, so that’s good. Can you believe I just wrote so much about a pen?)

i. Thesaurus. Doubles as a mousepad, because the shiny surface of my desk doesn’t allow for mouse-usage. Babow.

j. Headband for wild hair taming. I pretty much never use it because it’s a children’s headband and therefore fairly tight on my head… but it’s there just in case.

k. Post-it notes. I hate paper post-its. These are paper. I don’t know why they’re there. My research is almost entirely paperless these days.

/end procrastination.

 

Just good enough.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve kept returning to this post in times of immense thesis-induced frustration and/or hopelessness. Selected parts:

By the time I have handed in my PhD thesis, I will have worked on it for years.  I will have written at least twice as many words as those precious ones that make up the final document. I will have suffered innumerable bouts of self-doubt.  I will have endured days of thesis guilt…

And when it is all done, when it is all finally over, unless I subject myself to further edits and alterations, NOBODY WILL EVER READ IT.

I will have spent years of my life writing what is essentially, a book that nobody will ever even be given the opportunity to read.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the desire to make sure that your thesis is amazing… what I have to remember is that it doesn’t need to change the world, it just needs to be good enough.

[originally seen on socphd]

Over it, y’all.

There is a direct and very real correlation between how close I am to finishing my thesis, and my desire to stick my head in the sand and pretend it no longer exists.

Here, I drew a diagram on my phone explaining my life right now:

Venn_01

 

To say that there is absolutely no overlap between things I want to be doing and my thesis probably isn’t entirely accurate; most (most) of the time, it’s not an awful prospect, knowing that I have x number of days this week that can be totally-and-utterly devoted to the thesis.

At the same time, days like these are becoming a) increasingly rare and b) the stuff of dread. I keep waiting for the university to decide that I’ve been there for long enough that they may as well just grant me my doctorate and send me on my merry way.

I’m well aware that this won’t happen. Let a sister dream.

It’s going well. I’m almost there. I’m editing, frantically writing last bits, and making sure my bibliography is accurate and up to date. It’s not as dismal as it sounds. I’m just having a whinge because I can, because it’s my blog and my thesis and I’m over it, y’all.

Also, my desire to be elsewhere and Doing Other Things was ramped up a notch by booking a flight to New York (!!) yesterday. Thesis, get out of my life. New York, get in.

So, you know. It’s not all bad. It’s almost done. I’ll look back on these days as the best of my life, I’m sure.

Hah.

Or maybe not.

Thumb injuries and red wine blues: Thesiswriting, T-45 days.

Prepare to be amazed, dear readers.

I’m going to write about my thesisfinishing progress, and the things that I achieved, and I don’t even care if you think it’s boring. Which, let’s face it, you will.

Here is a photo that I just took on my iPad of myself yawning, mostly because I feel that this post needs a photo and I couldn’t think of anything else to photograph.

t-45

line up, boys.

For some reason that is yet to become apparent to me, earlier this year I decided that my nice, simple Internet-research-based thesis needed to start with a great big meaty chapter on philosophy.

The reason, I am assuming, has to do with the fact that I am a fucking nutcase who is never happy unless she is extremely challenged and embroiled in self-doubt and second guessing.

However, I had been writing about two sociological approaches throughout the other chapters – symbolic interaction and phenomenology – when it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea whether or not these topics could a) be applied to the themes that I was discussing in my thesis, and b) if so, whether they could work together.

So I took it upon myself to jump head-first into researching a word that I couldn’t even say (and certainly hadn’t heard of) prior to 2008. For the bulk of the past few years, I’d kind of just been ignoring the fact that I wasn’t really 100% sure what phenomenology was, and I’d kind of been assuming that symbolic interaction was the right framework for my research & writing.

Tut, tut. Silly girl.

Phenomenology, as it turns out, is really fucking cool. It bums me out to no end that it’s an almost-dead philosophy created by long-dead European men, but it’s actually proving to be incredibly useful and relevant for framing the notion that lived experience — the experience of phenomena that allows us to make meaningful the process of everyday life — has changed dramatically in the past 20 or so years.

Most importantly, sociologists like Maurice Merleau-Ponty did a lot of work about the role of the body in lived experience, which is super handy for my own research.

You see, this project — arising out of my Honours thesis, which was about online body modification culture — was initially about the body. I am endlessly fascinated by bodies and the various meanings and roles they uphold (and disrupt), in the context of everything from race to fat studies to posthumanism, and particularly questions of the online body. So, I planned to continue researching the body and set off on my way, but ended up taking a four-and-a-half year detour away from the body, along a dark and terrifying path towards nothingness.

What I did discover along the way is geography, though. It’s quite funny that I discovered geography when I was in such a directionless place, but, that’s how my life works.

I am obsessed with the world and everything in it. I love ideas of travel, migration, mobility, architecture, urbanity. I love the notion of place and belonging, and being out of place and not belonging.

What I didn’t realise until quite far in to this Epic Thesis Journey is just how closely linked the body and geography are.

Duh, you say.

Shut up. (But more on that later.)

Suddenly I found myself with a bunch of loosely-linked-but-not-really chapters in which I could see the bigger picture, slowly emerging from the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve collected and written, and I realised that I needed something to tie it all together, and that the questions I’d been asking myself and subsequently ignoring (about phenomenology and symbolic interaction) were going to provide the means by which I could contextualise my disparate ideas, allowing me to establish from the very beginning of my thesis a framework within which to approach the rest of my writing.

Huzzah!

Of course, pulling apart sociological perspectives that you’ve only really vaguely looked in to over the course of the preceding five years takes some time and effort, but I’m almost there. I’m at the proof reading stage, both for typos (too many) and to make sure that I haven’t left questions unanswered or concepts unapproached in this opening chapter.

So that’s where I was last night, until 2am this morning: face deep in theory and notes, to the extent that I have woken up with a sore thumb on my right hand (because I still do all of my notes and editing by hand, on paper, like a chump) and a bit of a headache from what I thought was oh-so-much Pinot Noir last night, but which was actually probably only about 200mL.

I have become a lightweight and a cheap date. Marry me?

I filled in the gaps by finally answering some questions that my work seemed to be asking:

  • Why the move from symbolic interaction, which was initially the driving perspective of my research, to phenomenology? 
  • Are SI & phenomenology compatible? How about postmodernism & phenomenology? (Admittedly, this second question only gets a few paragraphs; one must draw the line somewhere.)
  • How has modern phenomenology approached technology?
  • Why resurrect a dying (or dead, depending on who you read) philosophy from a century ago and attempt to apply it to Internet research?

Today’s mission is to write up these notes and answer a couple more questions:

  • What is the relevance of phenomenology in this age of pervasive social media use, given that it is, essentially, a philosophy of the social world?
  • How can ideas about the enmeshing of technology and materiality help to reimagine the way that interaction and phenomena are experienced?

And I have to do that until it’s finished, so I can send off my chapter and then move out of my apartment by, like, tomorrow. Totally doable.

[tl;dr - philosophy is confusing and makes your hand sore -- partly from writing too much, and partly from all the wank. however you feel like a freaking genius when you make important connections and solve problems which, in reality, are obvious and relevant to you and only you in this entire universe. well done, phd student!]

Here is a photo of a cute puppy (my cute puppy when he was more ‘puppy’ and less ‘giant slobbering oaf’) as a reward for making it to the end:

4164974100_48d196170a

Why I’m desperate for a grown up job.

I have been working exclusively from home since the end of 2011.

“That’s awesome,” I hear you all say. “You’re so lucky! The freedom! The flexibility! The pyjamas!

Not so, internet friends.

It is officially unhealthy for me to live, study, and work at home. At first, of course, I loved it. If I’m honest, for the first year I loved it.

Lately, though, I’ve been feeling a pull back to the Real World – a world in which I have to wake up at a particular time and get dressed into something other than a clean pair of PJ pants, in which I can’t schedule lunches with friends that turn into ridiculous five-hour-long drinking sessions (to be fair, though, I haven’t done that in many years), in which I have to uphold a certain level of acceptable appearance.

Basically, internet, I feeling uuuuugly.

I’m not one to give too much of a shit about the way that I look. I’m not precious about anything, really. I’ve had exactly two manicures in my life, and they were both in Bali last month. I’ve had my hair dyed in a salon once, and I haven’t dyed it at all this year, despite the increasing wash of greys at my temple. (And I wonder why I think I look old…)

My eyebrows are six-months unplucked (although, thankfully, ten years of over-plucking mean that I’m not growing a sexy monobrow… yet), I haven’t had a shower yet today and it’s 4pm (true story), and I’m wearing an outfit that could really only be described as stay-at-home-mum chic… Except I’m not running around after toddlers all day. I’m not running around after anything, in fact, and that’s why I’ve managed to acquire myself a casual 10 extra kilos this year.

Another true story.

wpid-20130509_160001.jpg

 

don’t worry. this makes me just as embarrassed as it makes you.

The thing is, it’s not a matter of me being lazy or anything. I’m not lazy. I have most of a PhD written, and multiple jobs. It’s just that none of these things require me to leave my house, and I am going bonkers. It’s taking every fibre of my being to stop myself from spending my days lurking job boards looking for the job of my dreams*.

*Note that ‘job of my dreams’ doesn’t actually involve having a conventional job at all. If it were possible I’d just make traveling and writing my profession, but not yet, young ones. Not yet.

It all returns to that stinking, rotten ol’ chestnut of my thesis, though, doesn’t it? Once that’s done I can Do Other Things in the Real World with Actual People (caps necessary).

And perhaps then I’ll be motivated to do other things, too. Like fix up my hair, and shower before midday, and spend time being active with other human beings, and wear something without an elasticated waist. Maybe.

(Who even am I?)