I’m technically a few days late for an end of year summary, so I’ll roll in a summary of the year-that-was with a preview of the year-to-come.


2010 was really the first year of my PhD – I technically started in September 2009, but honestly, those three months were pretty confusing, and all I really managed to do was tie up loose ends with previous work commitments. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happened in the past 12 months.

  • I know what I’m doing – sounds profound doesn’t it? Whilst I’m being a little hyperbolic, it’s an important thing to note. PhDs are often very vague and formless, sometimes right up till about 3 months prior to submission (so I’ve heard). Whilst dealing with ambiguity is a large part of a research degree – something I won’t escape – I feel like I have a clear idea of what it is I want to achieve. That is; exploring what context and context-awareness means in a phenomenological sense, and designing technology that supports this subjective notion of context, as opposed to an objective, sense-able one.
  • Conference papers – Four of them in 2010, and more importantly, Four presentations. The first was written in the first week of 2010 whilst everyone was on holidays and delivered to the Drawing Out conference in April to about 150 people. I was terrified. The second, written about the overlaps between perception and context, was delivered in August at the GeoCart conference in Auckland to about 50 people. That was easier. The third, a student conference at RMIT in which I won best presentation (and $600!), was to about 30 people. The fourth, and definitely the scariest, to the extremely intelligent OZCHI crowd in Brisbane in late November. I was pretty happy going from “terrified” to a $600 prize this year, and hope I can continue to improve my public speaking this year. Communicating research is just as important as actually doing it, and something I don’t think academics are very good at.


Last year was really about reading and thinking about what I wanted to do. I read very broadly, but didn’t write as much as I wanted to. The conference papers count, but I would have liked to have written a few draft chapters. That said, here’s what I’d hope to get out of this year.

  • Research methods – My priority this year is to gain a very deep and practical understanding of ethnographic/subjective research methods, and to work on my own set of tools for conducting it. There’s plans for a diary study application and visualisation tool, but before that I want to find out as much as I can about the theory behind the methods themselves. I then, of course, will be applying these to rangers in the park. It’s going to be a data-rich year.
  • Writing – I did far too little of this last year. My goal is 5000 “good” words a month this year. 60,000 for the year. Given all the data I will be writing up, I don’t think this is unrealistic.
  • Design and Development – Mentioned above, I’m working on a custom diary study application, and will be exploring ways of visualisation and making sense of this subjective data. I’m treating this as a sub-project of the PhD, but in reality it will serve as a mini, prototyped version of the larger research project. And finally…
  • Less distractions – This is the money year. I’m reserving the last 3/4 of the year to purely doing my PhD. It will be hard saying no to interesting work and projects that pop up, but I will need a lot of focus and attention to do well this year, and I don’t want to do things in halves.

All very noble goals I think. On top of that will be lots of gym getting over a knee reconstruction; this isn’t necessary a bad thing in the context of a PhD. Nothing like a dodgy knee for some guaranteed reading time.

All the best to everyone for Legs Eleven.


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