Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Would any “phd people” like to hang out? We don’t have to talk about them

Convener: Rose Biggin

Participants: Emma “I am a phd imposter” Adams, Pat “not even done a bloody MA” Ashe, David Cottis, Liam Jarvis, Dr Daniel Bye (oooh), Rose Biggin, Hannah Niklin, Ian Pugh

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

We talked about our phds a little bit, which I suppose was inevitable. It turns out we’re studying fascinating and interesting and brilliant things. But we also talked about other things than phds. We talked about games; we talked about playing games within games, and computer games, we had a round of knee tag (Cottis 1: Bye 0), learned nose flicking, learned the ancient art of lemon jousting.

We talked about Ian doing a phd on Devoted & Disgruntled going to a session in Devoted & Disgruntled that is about phds. We laughed for hours. He has been looking at D&D reports over the years, and we were interested to learn about the growing trend of ‘selfish’ (not in a pejorative sense) sessions, called specifically to help someone on a project. We wondered if this is because we’re all increasingly just trying our best to ‘get on with it’ and keep working, and keep making. On a related note, Hannah Niklin told us she would have liked to call a session called ‘What can we do about being so tired?’ But unfortunately she would be too tired to type it up.

We talked about how nice it is to have a space where we don’t have to talk about phds, and we think someone should set up weekly “after work drinks” for people who work at home. This would have many advantages and could contribute to happiness but Dr Bye argued that a drawback of this is that it would necessitate leaving the house. We all agreed that this is problematic and so the jury is still out (although not out of the house).

We talked about defining ourselves. What happens when you tell someone you’re doing a phd – or even, do you? What do you say instead? Are you a phd student? Are you an artist first? How do you tell someone you’re doing a phd? I learned that it can be done as a chat-up line. What do people think when you tell them? Do you frame your answer based on an idea of what they’ll think? Are there preconceptions about academia and academics that are revealed by this – the ivory tower model, the oh no I’m at a party and I’m stuck in the corner with the really boring phd student model, the not very useful to society model. The difference between the Viva over here and the American ‘DEFENCE’, and what this might tell us about attitudes towards academia. We wondered – after trying to think of a list – whether there ought to be more academics who are, well, famous for it. We talked a little bit about frustrations we might encounter within academia – pressure for absolute truths, definite answers, always being stuck in the corner with the really boring one at parties… That’s a joke, we aren’t invited to parties (see earlier point about leaving the house). But we do wonder why knowledge and learning and the search for nuance and understanding is sometimes reduced to questions of what are you doing it FOR? We talked about the difficulty for a phd-er or a potential phd-er of choosing a topic to study when you’re interested in EVERYTHING.

I managed to get through the entire session without saying what my phd is about, not because it is a secret but because halfway through I somehow still hadn’t and I wondered if I would be able to and I actually managed. Hee hee.

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