To curb off a bit of the ol’ thesis anxiety, I thought I’d make a list of things-I-did this year. In no particular order, here are the things I liked (and possibly didn’t) this year.
My university (and supervisor) are great at encouraging and pushing their graduate students to write and publish their work. This year was no different, with a couple more publications to add to the list:
- A paper for The International Cartographic Consortium conference around context-awareness in visualising geographical information. Presented in Paris, in July.
- Doctoral Consortium paper for Mobile HCI. Presented in Stockholm, in September.
- A book chapter in an upcoming RMIT publication around future social contexts of Geovisualisation.
- Full paper for the LBS 2011 conference. Presented in Vienna, in November.
- A visit to ARSyd to talk about how we make sense of location based data.
In June I attended Apple’s developer conference in San Francisco. I learnt quite a bit, but the most inspiring thing was seeing so many independent designers and developers working on things they love, and not starving during the process. I traveled with Reuben, who I highly recommend to anyone needing to share a hotel room. He doesn’t snore.
I had the opportunity to stay in Paris for the entire month of July – a week for the ICA conference, with three weeks tacked on to the end. Again, I met some great people and has some very interesting discussions about my work. I also rented a small apartment in Belleville, and worked on my french accent a little more. Weh.
Misc (or: stuff that doesn’t sound as cool).
After another year of “being a PhD student”, I feel like I’ve learnt some valuable lessons about how to be one of these wretched creatures. Particularly, I’d like to point out a few things about having a research question and involving others in your work:
- Let the data speak for itself. Do not try to shoe-horn your research into your own pre-designed agenda. When you first start something like a PhD, you can often get excited (and overwhelmed) by the number of possible directions you might take. Of course, you then choose one of them – generally something you really like, or care about. In a beautiful twist of fate, you eventually learn that you can’t choose what you observe. Research is cyclical, and you need to pay attention to what your data is telling you at all times. Your research won’t always be what you thought it would be.
- You need time. About half way through the year I stopped working completely, and became an actual full-time student. Granted, it was the “working” part that eventually allowed me the freedom to do this, but clearing my plate of all other commitments was one of the best decisions of the year. You need to be fully immersed in a research thesis, and even small, one day a week commitments can be distracting. You might lose a little bit of industry experience, but you’ve got the rest of your life to get that.
- Talk to people. Some of the best ideas and advice I’ve received have been in casual conversations with people in similar situations to me. At a pub. In a cafe. In a national park. Having a whinge every now and again is very important, but you should always take up any opportunity to speak about what you’re doing. Even if it leaves people utterly confused, hearing yourself explain something in a slightly different way will often spark new and exciting leads to follow up on. It also gets you out of your stuffy office, and highlights the value and importance of communicating your work effectively.
Next year is my final year (hopefully), but I’m excited to see where it takes me. There probably will be a few less international sojourns, but I’m looking forward to producing a semi-decent thesis and beginning to explore where that might take me.
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