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write.write.write. Should I keep writing? // My thoughts after HCI PhD Symposium at the University o

HCI PhD symposium at the University of Central Lancashire was another great opportunity to meet with other researchers and reflect on my research. The event was particularly interesting to me as it was run by the members of Child Computer Interaction (ChiCI) research group.

Attending events like the one at the University of Central Lancashire, give me an opportunity to speak to other students about their interests and projects aims. As I’m finding my ways around different areas of expertise, I’m also becoming more aware of the rich diversity of research in digital technologies. As always, apart from the strictly computing focused researchers, I get to meet students like myself - somewhere in the middle of tech and social science ( or other disciplines).

A quick chat about our research ideas is often followed by an exchange of our doubts, confusions and anxieties... ‘Is this the right event for me? I’m not sure how my research fits into it'.

I think I'm benefiting from these conversation on two levels :

  1. Research students and their projects help me to understand and define my role in the wide scope of HCI and digital technologies

  2. While talking to other events attendees,I get to learn that we are all slightly confused + it’s OK to be confused, it’s a part of the learning process

I am also slowly realising that HCI is a very inclusive space, which encourages experimentation and innovation. I’m happy to be part of it.

The day was divided into two parts: Practical PhD Workshop and a Seminar with Prof. Scott McKenize. In this blog post, I would like to share my thoughts about the practical session. The things that I learned during the session, might also be useful to some of you, PhD Adventures readers.

So, here we go...

Imagining my PhD contribution

One of the first group discussions was exploring the importance of a well-defined PhD contribution. Dr Daniel Fitton, who is a Senior Lecturer in Interaction Design at the University of Central Lancashire, advised us that we are expected to deliver up to 3 main contributions + possible minor ones.

I also learned that the final product in not your contribution - it is its understanding. For example, if you design a new software, then the understanding of your research process and its development could contribute towards your final contribution. Although I feel that my contribution sounds quite solid at this stage (obviously anything can happen over the next two years!), the discussion really helped me to think about my projects practicalities once more.

Why should I write?

.The purpose of writing was discussed in the second mini-session. It was interesting to learn about others students' attitudes towards writing. Among some of the reasons they mentioned, were things like: sharing knowledge, publications and supervision. I think these are all very valid reasons to getting into a writing zone for a bit. However, I have a slightly different list

✓ writing allows me to re-evaluate my literature review links

As you can probably imagine, I'm going through tons of literature at this stage of my PhD. I quite enjoy discovering new sources of information and then connecting them - either in my head, my notes or on my 'PhD Wall of Ideas'. I tend to go a little bit creative with my notes taking. Using colour and drawings stimulates some hidden areas in my brain. Colourful notes make it easier for me to remember my resources.

Once I'm done with my colourful notes, I try to connect my ideas in a piece of writing. I often come up with a structure for a particular section and try to write my text around it. For instance, when talking about Digital Youth Participation, I decided to investigate the meaning and history of Youth Participation and then examine it in the context of the digital one, and so on. (Yeah, nothing can stop me once I've got my structure...apart from social media, news websites, Spotify etc. )

The initial structure helps me just to get started.

The hardest part is trying to make it all sound interesting and easy to read. With all the links and notes, I normally feel like most of my imaginary links either do not make sense or could contribute towards someone else's PhD...

Re-evaluating my links and ideas is the key reason, why I need to write my ideas up on a regular basis.

✓ Writing helps me to identify new links

So apart from re-checking my existing links, I also get to find new ones. While starting up with my structure and doing some initial writing, I often realise that most of my initial idea mapping doesn't make sense. And that's OK. As I write, I constantly come up with new ideas and shift my document around. Being able to play with my text, really helps me in recognising new links and stories.

In a way, it's just like film editing. You start with a huge amount of raw video material, where through the editing you recognise interesting patterns and links.

✓ Writing keeps me sane

Yes, I am quite passionate about my research. Community Work + Digital Media is something that has been at the centre of my professional work for years. If you've met me personally, you probably know that I can get quite obsessive about my work. In a positive way though :)

I'm the same with my research. I read, I read and I read. I take notes. Loads of them. As I discover all of these fascinating theories and projects, I get super excited and often overwhelmed with the amount of information.

Writing - simply allows me to digest all of the info. My writing sessions taught me that I need to be selective and make sure I keep my focus on what really matters in my research topic. Writing keeps me sane.

Finally (not knowing how to conclude this post really), I'm sharing a tip I got from a friend who is about to finish her PhD.

Jennifer mentioned to me once. A great warm-up writing exercise. I found it very useful, especially in the morning before my writing session. It's free to sign up, so go ahead & enjoy :)

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