Tuesday, 9 December 2008


Met with Kate yesterday and she invited another academic to participate in the meeting with a view to this person acting as my co-supervisor. Meeting went... not so well. In fact it was demoralising and unpleasant, actually, which I attribute to three things. Two of which I am responsible for, and need to seriously work very, very hard on, the third was, I believe mostly out of my hands.

The first point, is that I need to get to the core of what my question is, or find a unique, problem to work on. A specific one. An appropriate one. Needless to say, this is a big problem, but not an insurmountable one. I will have to think this through carefully, but I have a few ideas, and I'm sure this can be resolved. This was an excellent point, and I will make being at least half way original and intelligent about this my priority in the coming week. I need to distill my general idea into something tangible, and it must be interesting to me. But the criticism is a valid one, and I'm very glad I heard it.

The second problem stems from my inability, in this particular situation, on this particular day, to articulate my ideas, or at least defend them in an intelligent way. In know I can do this, and I feel ashamed really that I was caught off guard, and wasn't more lucid. Basically, the second academic took the opportunity to make a number of statements about the work I am doing and the assumptions I am making. I came to the meeting with several pages of notes, really to ask questions of Kate, but that would have been as useless under the circumstances as asking how to get the train to Chatswood - "Oh, no... you're in Moscow, we don't have a rail system here. Anyway, you don't need to get the train, you're at the livestock market. Shouldn't you be bidding for chickens?" So I didn't ask any of those questions, and I sat there like a stunned mullet while someone said they assumed that I had assumed certain things that I knew that I hadn't.

Now I responded in this way for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I genuinely wanted to listen and learn if I could. I came to the meeting for guidance. secondly, because it seemed important to me not to seem defensive about my work and I didn't want to seem over-sensitive to criticism, and I thought I should pick my battles when dealing with someone who is so well respected and has so much to offer me. But when I went home, and all through the night I continued to think of the things I should have said, because well, I don't think she was right on a number of points. And I don't mean data points, I mean about me, and my position. A good example of this is the presumption that I have made sweeping generalisations about girls, when all I have written about, to date is from my own outlook, my own experience. I haven't yet begun to get to the heart of what interests others, or even really who those others, specifically, are. also I need to deal carefully with any misapprehension that my work is consumable - my ideas have been camped around the appeal of consumable goods. Passive flow of entertainment, the nature of consumerism, the economy, the internet, the value of creativity, Flow Theory vs. wellbeing sought in group settings... all these came up and were mishandled by me, and had me incorrectly placed by the academic. Worst of all, I felt my positioning as a design/art practitioner slipping away. I couldn't see how I could do any kind of visual experimentation or exploration under these circumstances. I felt disabled.

The third point is that I should take care not to get into these situations with anyone who hasn't fully understood where I'm coming from, or what my focus is. I think this may be my problem too, because I should be able to explain both these things in a simple, all-emcompassing way, but to be critiqued in this way because a person has misunderstood my intentions and approach to the point where I wonder what I'm doing taking up space in a chair and air in a university office... well, it was just awful. I have been in this situation in the past, and I should have learned from it. I have the right, I believe, to brief a person on my work before they make generalisations about its focus, particularly if they have not heard from me, nor read my work.

I don't thinkI'm prepared to state at this stage just exactly what species of expert I intend to become, or what I hope to be the autority on. I have started the work, not finished it, and while I intend to travel from A to B in a sensible, planned way, I simply can't say I know what I don't yet know.

I gave the meeting some thought, and have decided that the second academic isn't a good match for me, not because I was faced with some hard truths, and some serious defecits in my ability to perform academically (both of which happened), but in part because the whole experience made me feel temporarily worthless, because it confused the hell out of me, and because I don't know if my values or approach will ever seem relevant or interesting in the view of this person. And that's 100% OK. I don't need to surround myself with yes-men, but I do need to feel like I'm being challenged where my true weaknesses lie. I think there may have been a divide between hard theory and visual exploration too, but my mind becomes a bit muddy in the recollection of this point.

Anyway, the experience was pretty horrible. Depleted, my love for the work and motivation really hit a bit of a low during those two or three hours, and it felt as though my project slipped out of my grasp, and became something it is not - started to take a shape I didn't care for anymore, kind of like falling out of love. I left with unanswered questions and a sense of having no real way to proceed in any direction. It certainly didn't help that I had slept in past 6am that morning for the first time in two years, and only had black coffee in my stomach - again, not such a good call. Like the Boy Scouts say, "Be Prepared!".

Anyway, onward and upward: I'm just going to deal with it for what it is - a challenge to get things right from now on. I'm not going to cry, or quit, or complain about the meeting - it was what it was - a clear elucidation of where I am falling down, and what I need to remain vigilant about. This is all part of it, and this is how we travel from place to place through an uncharted wilderness.

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