Thursday, January 21, 2010

Week 436

I keep reading all these interesting people's weeknotes and I'm going to see if I can get in the habit too. The truth of the matter is that when I have a lot to do I get really bad at recognising what I've already done, and that makes it really hard to motivate myself. So here I am in the spirit of "reflecting on your work, your achievements, and what's on deck." Phil Gyford smartly started writing weeknotes in his 335th week of freelancing, and since I like the idea of recognising how far I've already come, I've decided to start counting from the first day of my PhD studies and that makes this my 436th week of research. I'm not sure what I'm going to write about, or if I'll actually manage to do it every week, but there you have it. "Let the great experiment begin!"

This week was shaped by two big tasks: the design of my new Design Anthropology course and my preliminary proposal for a Marsden Fund research grant.

First, after posting the first draft of my course outline here last week I got some good constructive criticism. But I also got some rather unconstructive criticism along the lines of designers saying it's too much anthropology and anthropologists saying it's too much design -- and that really discouraged me. Plus, most people had suggestions that would completely change it into their dream course, and that also didn't feel very helpful. The end result was me looking at the outline for hours and hours and making nothing more than minor tweaks. But an unexpected breakthrough came yesterday after a meeting with Miki Szikszai, the CEO of Snapper. It turns out that the company is busy moving from ActiveX smart cards to Java smart cards which will allow them to provide a platform for developers interested in RFID. While that in itself is really interesting - and I'll come back to it in another post - the important thing for my course is that I immediately recognised the opportunity to work on something that interests both me and them, and offers students the opportunity to work with a local company on matters of design and culture in everyday life. So I'll be talking more with their developers, designers and marketers to identify some research and design concerns that will help me create briefs that fit into the course objectives. I'll also be going to their Summer of Code SmartCard workshop on 1st February, and will report back on how that, and our meetings, reshape the course.

Second, research applications challenge me at the best of times but add my lack of familiarity and experience with the NZ academic system and I've been faced with a whole new set of unexpected challenges. I circulated my one-page draft to a dozen overseas colleagues and got some really positive feedback and constructive criticism. But I ran into trouble when it came back from local colleagues and not one person was clear on what I am trying to accomplish. Obviously, not being able to identify clear research objectives is an instant fail in the world of funding applications so I started to panic. In fact, I'm still struggling to get it all down on one page -- constantly swearing that the detail people are asking for is better left to the full proposal. But I know that argument will be irrelevant to the Marsden referees because all they have to go on at this stage is that one page. So I'm stuck. Our research office is holding an open session tomorrow afternoon to give people feedback because Monday is a holiday and applications are due next Thursday. This means I've got to come up with another decent draft to take in tomorrow, revise it over the weekend, and run it by a few more people next week. I can do that, right?


Blogger Ben Kraal said...

This is a great idea. I decided to see if I can acquire the habit, too.


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