Posts Tagged ‘thesis writing’

Concentration and the Internet

A few tips to quickly share.

I am easily distracted, and easily inspired. As a result I’ll be in the middle of a thesis paragraph when I’ll jump over to a web browser [note how its constantly running] where I’ll end up reading random news websites (well, not random at all… actually I read terrible annoying right wing news sites that get my blood boiling. Sites like canada.com and msnbc. I read other sites too, but these two I consider a waste of time when compared to a beautiful anthropology thesis.)

It turns out I’m not alone. Websites, social media, the internet, iphones, etc, have all been merging into annoyingly busy interfaces.  From this page where I write a blog post, I can twitter. I can see my inbox (all 3 of them). My battery has 39 minutes remaining. I should turn on some battery saving feature no? Oh wait I was writing. That’s right!

There are solutions. Improve your concentration with this Google Chrome App. “Writespace” turns your browser (online or off) into a beautiful black screen. Hit f11 to maximize it into full screen and there it is. A blank black screen. A clear white font. I love it. It reminds me of my days playing diku muds. Why a black screen? No distractions. Just a page to write on.

Another great one – “Stayfocusd”. This app let’s you create a list of websites you waste too much time on, and then it blocks the sites after you spend more than 10 minutes (or whatever you configure) on them. Perfect for stupid news sites, facebook, etc.  Try giving yourself more time and the program opens up a page on procrastination! Love it.

You may now return to work.

Why the delay

[to explain, since this post is not very self-explanatory, this is a story about how two sections of my thesis have changed drastically over the summer – one section, on self-archiving, part of a larger discussion on open access, discussed the Mana’o Self Archiving Repository for Anthropology, which coincidentally, a day after writing this story, officially announced it is shutting its doors. It is also about my exposure to all sorts of different kinds of anthropology on the OAC. And yes, its been turned into a ridiculous story with absolutely no regard to objectivity or science. Enjoy.]

The thesis could, err… should?… have been finished in June. The topic was clear and arguments were starting to take shape. Yes, it should have been finished.

But as I was writing I was hit in the face with a tweet, which while not quite a lightning strike, ended up burning just the same. It was a news flash – one announcing the new Open Anthropology Cooperative.


Lemmings by Surreal Art
surrealart.com
Within a matter of weeks a thousand members had signed up to the cooperative, and with the encouragement of my thesis supervisor who had sent me an overzealous welcome to the OAC, I began to explore.  A thousand anthropologists in a room? Yes, very exciting. And a fantastic example an idea I had been developing in the thesis: “anthropology in public”. Funny thing is my supervisor bailed out on it after a week, being the wiseman he is.

Through the OAC I have been exposed to all sorts of anthropology. Kinds of anthropology no parent would ever allow their children to witness, and certainly not study. Yes, the OAC hit me head on, and it knocked me right out. Or perhaps I dove in head first and forgot to check how deep the water was. Either way I ended up unconscious floating out into an ocean. When I woke up I found I had drifted far away from home.

I woke up in the south of France. The weather was perfect, the wine was fantastic, and the girls were of course stunning. Anthropology you say? Okay then, let’s get back to the story – no, not the one about the girls. And not the one about the OAC, although I’ll share some of it here (that post will come very soon, once I get home). No, this story is about being delayed, and about why such delays have been exceptionally lucky.

As I said, the OAC hit me pretty hard. All sorts of emotions and reactions stirred as I wandered its classrooms. At first I was ecstatic to see so many anthropologists jump into the water. The thought of thousands of anthropologists sharing ideas openly was incredibly motivating – but I was pushed through that excitement pretty quick. Maybe it was the waves.

“Silent Scream” by Diane Dobson Barton. 15×16″ (38×40.6cm). Acrylic on canvas.
© Diane Dobson Barton 2002

Soon I realized that there were hundreds of shadow-anthropologists around me. Avatars of sorts, but with their mouths sewed shut. I wondered if with the hit to the head I’d lost my hearing. Thankfully a few voices came into focus. Some of these voices I’d encountered before in the blogsphere, others perhaps in my dreams. I listened for a while then decided to sing a few songs of my own. Others chimed in, and pretty soon there was almost a chorus playing along. Whale songs? As I said, I’d been hit pretty hard.

That feeling faded too. Soon the voices wouldn’t stop. I kept hearing the same voices over and over. I shut my eyes and listened carefully hoping to pick up on the chorus again but a louder, harsher voice dominated my ears. I screamed loudly hoping it would go away. It didn’t. My head started to pound, and I passed out again. This time with an empty bottle of rose (from Bandol).

I woke up confused and again on a beach. I felt strange, as I probably should have after dreaming so vividly about an anthropology cooperative. Or was it the rose? I could see a small island a short distance from shore. A red neon sign glowed above it, reading “Repository”. I remember stuffing messages into bottles and casting them off into the waves, hoping they would reach the little island. I remember it being a magnificent paradise, an oasis of hope. But I couldn’t remember if I’d corked the bottles, and I worried they never quite kept float.

And then the strangest thing happened. The big red light went out, and with it I could have sworn I saw the island start to sink.

Yes, this brings us back to my fortunate delay. Well, in time anyways.

I looked out again over the ocean but everything had disappeared. I couldn’t see the island. My head still pounded. Where did those lights go?

Strolling along the beach as one does in the south of France, I found three bottles washed up ashore, all corked. I opened them, tearing out the messages inside. Each paper was titled “Mana’o”. A clue perhaps. But where was that island again? I felt uneasy but comfortable. The air was warm and the sand soft. I lay down, resting my head in the sand.

Then I remembered. I was on an important quest. Travelers had warned me not to stray from the road, and no matter what, that I would tempted away from the path. They had warned me to take notes, to write as many details as possible in a magical book which they called “the field”. With those notes they said I’d find my way home. I surprised myself, looking at it, that I’d even organized the field into numerous chapters.

Like the notes in the bottles I’d found on the beach, one chapter read “Mana’o”. I opened the book to that chapter, and before me was a beautiful rendition of an island and with it a picture of the glowing sign “repository” that had disappeared. But none of the field notes made sense. Where was this place? How would I ever find it now that I could not see it? Was it even real?

And so I set off once again, wandering in search of a road, and I started writing again – this time painting the larger ocean.

“all those who wander, are not lost.” were the words of another traveler I’d met somewhere along the way.

“Bullshit” I thought.

I was bloody hell lost, and worst of all, I was lost in France. And my head hurt like hell…

[all that = OAC has proven to be an exceptional, and exceptionally depressing, field site – which while sometimes feeling like a kick in the face, has proven to be quite rewarding – funny how being kicked in the face can be appealing. I’ll be developing this much more soon, as after a few months of existence, some of the more terrible things have turned into quite positive ones…  and if you haven’t already go check out the OAC – i’d love to hear your thoughts!]

[my chapter on self-archiving proved to be way too naive, given that the Mana’o anthropology repository has gone under – servers broken, and manpower lacking, and well, overall willingness to keep it afloat – nonexistant… or at least.. i don’t know the story and hence can’t write about it hence its a wonderful thing to have delayed the thesis over the summer. ]

[sun and wine are nice. taking a break from anthropology lets you see just how unexciting it is, which is good when you are trying not to exaggerate in your thesis].

[all images copyright by their original owners – which each image links to…]

getting back on track

The semester is in full swing and I’m challenged to maintain a strong focus on my thesis while engaging in other classes. And as much as I’d love to keep a relaxed, care-free strategy of writing about what interests me, I do need to produce a thesis. My supervisor has been extremely patient with me as I explore tangent, possibly irrelevant topics, but having spoken with other graduates and hearing their thesis writing experiences, I can only assume that this is the calm before the storm.

Planning for a hurricane then, where will I take this blog and the thesis?

  • a little more data collection and analysis, and bring more material from interviews and surveys to discussions on this blog. To avoid issues of confidentiality and all that, I’ve been blogging about the blogsphere, and leaving my interviews private. I can however carefully take issues I learn from the interviews onto the blog, I just haven’t processed the material yet (sitting on a tape recorder.. uggh).
  • In the writing ethnography class I am taking we are discussing the use of stories/narratives as a way to share ones field experience. I’ll try and share some of the drama I’ve gone through participating online using this method.
  • Find out all there is to know about open access and thesis publishing in Canada – differences from U.S. universities? Do all Canadian academics publishing a thesis maintain the copyright? What choices to masters students have? -> pay option for OA publishing in ProQuest.
  • Send my little survey out to all you readers, and beg for even more participation.
  • Organize the data into concepts, outline chapter ideas and general logic flow for the thesis.
  • Fix up sloppy posts on the blog. Refine ideas, find the good shit.
  • Bored yet? Sorry it’s a thesis.
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