I am compiling a new introduction and structure for Confirmation Report for PhD, and hit upon the brilliant idea of inviting supervisors to help me with the initial ‘translation’ of my concepts, constructs into the linear format of ‘problem’, ‘aims & objectives’, ‘research questions’ of the Confirmation Report. No can do. Back to submitting my best guess, getting detailed written feedback without engaging the basic concepts or errors I am making. Ho hum.
My Lack of Categorical Expertise
The problem is, I think in terms of systems, simultaneous systems, and a thoroughly temporal immersion. I don’t think of ‘constructs’ as academics do, or ‘theoretical lenses’, and certainly not correlations between categories. I am sure there are other academics (probably in different departments) would might appreciate how I think, because they do so too, but probably not as naturally I do. I have developed this from a natural talent, and honed in the field, the fast, live, thriving environment of classroom of kids, what I think might be called ‘dense multi-reflexive environment’ according to third order cybernetics. I’m not sure, because the complexity of the theoretical construct is quite high level, a scaffolding of concepts, rather than something which has emerged from first-person engagement. Nevertheless, I am fairly confident the description fits what I have experienced. But more academics are category people, defining terms, and then relating terms in complex structures of logic. I must admit, however, that even were I to meet with academics who can appreciate how I work, and perhaps appreciate what I am attempting to do, I suspect there will be other problems to face, like their allergy to mathematics. Systemic Inquiry seems like a good fit, but it is born from therapy, from minute dissection or at best appreciation of individual human beings, or at best small groups or constellations of people. To accept the level of dynamic I am suggesting (the madness of 30 kids in a classroom), and to talk about a tool which operates for such participants, again takes the control away from their ‘therapeutic’ control. And though I can follow the theoretical flow of eg Shotter who weaves together Wittgenstein, Merleau-Ponty, I can’t reproduce the arguments. I simply don’t have the linguistic control.
The Holy Shrine of Logos
Right. So. This much we know. Should this exclude me from PhD? Of course not. Most of science is conducted in a non-verbal field. It is only social science which is category-bound. Now, being in Information Studies sounds like a good place because it has something to do with data, numbers, and how they are applied to human engagement. However, it seems to be mostly an extreme form of category-manipulators. Librarians. Where words have meanings defined in libraries. It is quintessentially the place for order. The holy shrine of Logos. Good… grief…
The Idea of Front-Wheel Drive in Academia
The supervisors are used to the student (me) providing some document, they critique, and then we have a meeting where they go over points. All after-the-fact. I produce something, then they criticise it. It is so dull, and so obviously does not fit what I am doing, my method, and what I am describing… I just can not believe they don’t get this. But that’s the situation.
Then late Friday evening I had the brain-wave of inviting them at the front-end of the process. They can still critique what I have written, and I often add all the small corrections into the next version. But the bit problem is, we aren’t getting the basics right. I have failed to do the basics. And the basics really are basic. What does ‘problem’ mean to them? I have listed six which are compounding the issue of why kids in schools are still being disciplined, there is no joy, liveness is killed, and all the attempts to get ‘love of learning’ and ‘learning facilitation’ and ‘child-centred learning’ and ‘discovery learning’ all mean a hill of beans because of a vertical chain of conditions which reinforce a factory setting of social organisation. The criticism of education has been done for decades. Alternative solutions proposed at all levels of the problem, but in the end nothing has worked. I have come up with a solution which worked for me, and I’ve spent a few months encountering the problems which inhibit the kind of solution I have come up with, not only theoretically delineating but in practice while attempting to do this PhD. Six problems, vertically aligned, or aligned in psycho-social conceptual and institutional structures, which inhibit liveness in classrooms. Now, which of these should I be describing as the ‘problem’?
And nowhere in their headings is ‘solution’. Just aims. And objectives.
So, instead of having a meeting to go over issues they write about in their critique, things I am capable of reading and implementing without a meeting — what if we have a meeting before I write? That is, to answer the basic question above?
This is in light with reflexive reading of course. Another ‘technique’ which naturally arises, if we consider the constructing process of the writer, live, tapping out these letters one at a time, and you reading this a phrase at time, and somehow meaning assembling in the mind with whatever passes as meaningful in your mind. The process. Not the object, the content. The process. And so, the basic process of deciding which of the problems should be addressed in what they call ‘the problem’. Or where in the main document should I introduce the theoretical framework of Critical Realism, in the Literature Review or the Methodology? The mind boggles with such basic questions.
So, I am inviting them to take part in the initial matching of my fluid, system thinking with their cups of meaning, their categories. Basic stuff.
PhD are Not Creative, but Scientific
That’s the response I got. Can you imagine…?
Left to my own devices, I describe things as they are necessary to compile meaning in the reader’s mind. However, I am dealing with academics. Categorical, logical thinkers. Not system, fluid, bodily-immersed thinkers. And the processes and structures which they are only willing to accept, delimit, restrict and deny the very processes I am operating, demonstrating, controlling in order to communicate, and are the very nature of psycho-social dynamics in a class — the live bits, not the chalk-and-talk information-download version of education which I suspect is somewhere in their heads.
They took my request for a single meeting to try this out as a request for iterative collaboration. They seem to be ignorant of the fact that their feedback to my submissions is iterative, and if I listen to them as I tend to do, in some sense collaborative. They are not mere examiners. Though even examiners are part of the iterative process of learning, it seems to me.
I was hoping to write something which clarifies. I don’t want this blog to be a sequence of moans.
The level of miscommunication… makes me ill.
I am 50. I have experience of solutions which worked. And I can’t communicate them. Or at least, I can write about them and describe them simply enough, but the people reading/listening, the institutional structure, the linguistic categories, the intellectual filtering… is mind-boggling. It only self-replicates itself. And so education will continue in its sorry way, and indeed social science.
They are intelligent, and mature, people. To have this level of miscommunication… is embarrassing to me.
I can’t even go forwards with the material I want to think about, with experimental material to do with economics, or even academia, because of this… bottleneck.
Makes me sick.
However, I have to make use of the fact that this is the condition. I am in the worst place. And so, if I manage to write something which works, here, then it will work anywhere. If a seed grows in concrete, then that’s one resilient plant, and the seeds will grow anywhere.
Or, and here’s the danger, the gobblidigook of pseudo-academic jargon-rich material is unreadable by both academics and lay people. In which case, what have I achieved?
I don’t mind failing. I have had the backup belief that whatever I produce will be useful in some sense. It shows my attempt. It contains the concepts, and quite precisely describes the problems, together with solutions.
Also, the process has helped me gather a little more information, deep information, on the state of academia, update my understand of postmodernism and its after-effects. I am informed, to some extent, on academic developments over the last 30 years.
However, the conclusion, and it is a sad one at that, is that social science is completely useless. Like dolphin caught in a net, tumbling around, the more it has attempted to riggle free, like the incredible efforts Bhaskar has demonstrated with critical realism, the more ensconced in category complexity, the net around his work so dense even proponents of his reject his later material. Ludicrous.
Basic, basic errors of practice. So, social science requires a revision. A major one. And Reflexive Reading and its consequences are fundamental. However, that is only going to get traction because another aspect of the system works, not because RR itself is going to persuade an academic of change.
I think, I need to devote myself to creating a mathematical description. I didn’t want to. Not for some time, but it looks like I need to give it a go. Consolidate some of my thinking about maths into academese.
If I am going to fail doing this PhD, then I might as well learn something on the way. Not just how shitty the procedure for doing a PhD is. That’s obvious. Not much learning there. I need to come away with having learning something about maths and its interface with psycho-social dynamics.
Three possible PhD’s. Education. Economics. Maths. I wrote proposals for the first two. Only education was ‘accepted’, but in reality, it hasn’t been. I didn’t want to do maths. I just thought I am not ready to do it. Actually, it won’t be about XQ. It is about mathematising social engagement. A little more like the economic, Sqale, but more extending from RR, or ABC.
Purely academic. Interesting, I think.
I need material so that when I write a book, or maybe attempt to write an academic paper, I have explored some of the academic terrain, so I can orientate myself with the reader, and perhaps provide some interesting views and concepts for the edification of passive readers, and pioneering thought-scapes for active readers.
Thanks for being here.