Thursday, 26 May 2016

What's my doctoral thing?

Just me thinking and talking to myself again. A kind of where am I how did I end up here am I doing the right thing chatter.

As I have met more and more people in Social media who are on, or have done, a doctoral journey I reflect on the fascinating things they are exploring and I keep wondering whether I am doing the right thing. Just been reading about some natty DNA stuff and could easily get distracted into wanting to know all there is to know about it.

We start life wanting to know every thing about everything and school slowly narrows that lens as we are pushed towards a limited choice of subjects, then A levels or similar and the field of knowledge narrows again, undergraduate degree takes us even tighter and by the time a PhD is completed the focus is on knowing everything about virtually nothing a tiny window on a tiny thing. That was a perception that put me off doing a doctorate for decades, I like knowing loads about loads of things.

Archaeology oh yes that's my thing and always has been since I found an amber seal in my back garden when I was about 6 then a 10thC coin when walking and a whole host of microliths, flintlock flints, pottery shards etc. When I signed up for my U/G degree at the then Portsmouth Polytechnic late 70s I had to choose three 1st year subjects, geology was my main thing and I wanted to do archaeology and geography but archaeology clashed with geology on the timetabling so I ended up taking on computer science instead. I do still regret missing the opportunity to do archaeology  but in the longer term all that FORTRAN and C+ stuff did come in useful and the massive scale of mainframe computers in those pre desktop days was so impressive.

Geology yup that is my thing too, when I was 3- 7 yrs old we used to stay in a little cottage near Allenheads where blue and green fluorspar and silvery grey galena were scattered like gems in the gravel and even along the sides of paths and tracks, and the Permian/Carboniferous rocks on the Northumberland coast where I lived offered all sorts of fossils - it was inevitable that such free treasures sparked an interest. I had the change to do geology at O level in high school that really set me up with such an inspirational teacher, I graduated just as the north sea oil boom subsided, was offered a job in a deep African gold mine where a week later there was a riot so I left that one and moved on.

Geography was my thing and still is, well the geomorphology side if it more than the people stuff, again the wonderful glacial landscape of Northumberland grabbed my attention and the processes that moulded it were fascinating. Wherever I have gone in the world the way the landscape was made fascinated me. How to make money out of that was something I never cracked.

Photography was my thing from a fairly early age, at a time when black and white was the norm and just before the first Kodak Instamatics were revolutionising the sport I was lucky enough to be given a Pentax SV SLR - My uncle worked in Hong Kong and left his behind with us by accident, as he only visited every 4 years he said I could keep it yeeeha that got me started then I got a Leica and snapped away for years and even did a little bit of a stint working with a photography firm in Newcastle, it was so boring though.

Outdoors well I loved the outdoors I was addicted to moving, age 13 I rode my Claud Butler from Tynemouth to Edinburgh (118 miles) and got half way back that evening as the youth hostel was full so I had nowhere to stay, I ended up falling asleep in a ditch wrapped in a survival blanket near Holy Island. A few years later I ran around 250 miles in 4 and a bit days wearing canvas plimsolls and without any maps - across the bottom of Northumberland, up through Kielder, into the Cheviots to Kirk Yetholm and back down the coast. I started kayaking age 8, did a fair bit of rock climbing, loved mountaineering, got into surfing in a really big way... it never struck me as a way to make money and as my dad used to tell me I was a rotten waster I was not best set up to be competitive in a public arena.

I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau and joined the BSAC when I was 14, did a load of diving over the years but never made a life out of it. I don't like hurting or killing anything and bottled out of doing biology at school due to the having to cut up fish eyes and dissect frogs and in my teenage naivety thought that without biology there was no way I could do any undersea science.

Theology well I am not at all religious Bertrand Russell just made so much sense to me when I was young and my RE teachers did not have anything persuasive to offer me but am fascinated by the nature of religion and why people do buy into it and could have enjoyed spending a lifetime exploring that.

Art became a thing, I got into it late as an experiment // catharsis to depression. I sold paintings and sculptures in St Ives years ago but an opportunity to work in HE came along and that went by the wayside. Nest to my desk are three blank canvasses and some paints - back to it one day.

The sub-atomic stuff has always fascinated me quantum physics is oh so special, but the math oh the math was too much. Likewise with the big picture stuff the universe / universes and all that jazz. Maths is not my thing and without that I was never going to thrive in such a world.

I could go on I guess I am pretty much interested in everything apart from fashion and celebrity and the horridness that people do to each other.

So am I doing the right thing for my doctorate? Without spending ages on the detail what I am looking into is learning processes / the online learning experience. I guess what I am doing does have relevance to all that I have done and all that I want to do, how we learn and how we share knowledge is something that cuts across all of life. I do hanker for an existence in which we could live many lives and where I would be able to explore all of my other interests as lifetime passions but that ain't going to happen.

So what have I learned by writing to myself again - yup I am happy with what I am doing and should stop wasting time reflecting on the past and get on with refining my latest paper. Its a tough journey doing the doctorate thing, easy to get lost and isolated, thank goodness for Twitter. Here I am at the half way point of an EdD firming up my proposal and its not the tiny thing I imagined it would be all those years ago, its kind of big and complex and deep and fun.

Blimey I also learned that Google is rubbish at spellchecking UK place names - come on Google they are all there on Google Earth - make the link.

Oh it can't even recognise itself good grief what a company.

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