Room for Research

Another morning meeting with my Supervisors provided me (yet again) with plenty to contemplate. In fact, I think we were all slightly surprised at the number of ideas flying around. I wonder if we are going to expand the topic to breaking point before we manage to narrow it down and find precisely the right focus? This is a normal part of the process; but right now my project seems to be elastic: there is so much to (potentially) take in that it’s hard to know exactly what not to include. However, I have started to work out a structure that makes – or appears for now to make – logical sense; and which will hopefully incorporate a little of everything necessary to contextualise, justify, and clarify my thesis for the official committee due to assess it now that I’m properly enrolled. Skeleton sections that I am working with are (at the moment of writing):

1.    The Role of the Scholar, the Scientist, the Intellectual: Philosophical Roots
2.    Participatory Democratic Theory
2.1.    The many flavours of participation
2.2.    Philosophical engagement and challenges
3.    The Nature of Scholarship and New Technologies
4.    New Media, Shifting Contexts, and Multiple Modes of Analysis
4.1.    Recent Studies
4.1.1     Academia
4.1.2      Studies of Participation and New Technologies outside Academia    Private sector    Public sector and NGOs
5.    Potential Framework for this Research

Simple, right? 😉

When thinking about all of this, it’s vital to have the right space to work in. Something they keep warning us about is the risk of becoming “isolated” when undertaking a PhD; so it’s great to get talking to other researchers about their work. As well as being interesting in and of itself, this can at times shine a light on my own work or make me see things from a new perspective. To quote Karl Popper: “everybody with whom we communicate [is] a potential source of argument and of reasonable information”. Much of that takes place (it seems) in Room 118 of the Geoffrey Manton building. Already, a piece that a fellow PhD student showed me, where she locates her work in relation to a critique of Antonio Gramsci’s “hegemony” has given me inspiration.

A space for ideas

118118 joke here

And it turns out that I didn’t have to go all the way back to the Museum of Science and Industry to photograph some retro telephones! Wonderfully, Room 118 still has an old beige model that casually displays the name (“Manchester Polytechnic“) under which what is now MMU operated until 1992, when it was granted University status under the Further and Higher Education Act. Some people, I guess, like to be reminded of the history of their institutions – and of the older forms of communication which contributed to the point we find ourselves at today.


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