Spring Break, Community & Upcoming Events

How I wish I could spin some exotic tale of how we are heading down south to the sun and the sand. However, ’tis not the case. We are driving for 10-12 hours to visit my family in New Brunswick for a week of skating, tobogganing (sp!?) and sitting by the fire with a hot drink. Might not be sun and sand, but it’s just as relaxing – and that’s what counts right?

It’s always hard to leave the city for any amount of time – as I have lamented on this very blog almost every summer. We will be dragging the laptop along – and a few books in case I find myself up earlier than my 4 year old nephew.

Over the last year, I have been lamenting the loss and touting the importance of community in one’s academic life. What I have come to realize over the last while is that gameCODE has always been my home. When I left Concordia for Universite de Montreal, I was lucky enough to be in the same city, but for some reason felt a disconnect from the group. Over the last few weeks, I am happy to say that I have come back to gameCODE (with a vengeance I might add), hoping to organize some events, informal meetings and participate in some stimulating conversations on and off line.

I have to say, it is nice to be back in the fold, and that I am amazed of how just being a part of something like this is inspiring/motivating in terms of my coursework and my academic path. To be among a diverse range of people who are motivated and eager to share their ideas is worth every minute of technical updates and organizing madness.

Finally, before I head out to pack four suitcases for the week, there are a few things on my radar worth sharing. The Canadian Game Studies Association is holding their 2nd Annual Conference in Vancouver BC. 

The games research group out of UQAM – HomoLudens (research on the socialisation and communication in video games) is holding a talk that is near and dear to my heart (and research) – Identity in MMO‘s on March 12th (please note that the page opens best on Firefox). Also sponsored by HomoLudens, and in association with the 76th Annual Congress of Acfas (Association  francophone pour le savoir),  “Le jeu vidéo :  expériences et pratiques sociales multidimensionnelles” will be held May 6 – 7 in Quebec city. Will post a presentation list when it is available (or when I can find it).

Although bearing quite a price tag – the International Communications Association is holding the annual meeting this year in Montreal in May (22 – 26). There is a section on games that might be worth sitting in on a few sessions.

On that note, guess it’s time to pack those suitcases – have a great week.

Thesis Methodology: Seminar Notes/Personal Synthesis

I have to give a (max) 30 minute oral presentation on my ‘methodology’ for my thesis in my doctoral seminar. The instructions were relatively loose – stemming from a guest speaker we had at the beginning of the semester.

The following comes from my notes of that particular seminar. There are four primary questions that need to be addressed in terms of the project’s methods are:

1) What is the object?
2) What is the problematic?
3) What is/are the discipline?
4) What is the question of analysis?

With this small template in hand, I have to give a description, analysis and interpretation while being fully aware of the difference between ‘doing research’ and ‘writing research’.  Therefore, the goal of a (good) thesis is to show a problematic of an object from a particular discipline or corpus. We need to be conscious of the fact that in some cases, the object of study can also be the subject of study – but I think I am ok with that as long as it is kept in mind that the passage from object to corpus occurs at the point in which the object becomes structured. In order to do this, we need to be aware of the boundaries of the corpus of choice, and to clearly define and defend those boundaries. If this is done right, the corpus will naturally lead to the problematic in question. The problematic is unearthed in the transition from the corpus to the construction of the object. This leads us to the multiple types of problematics:

1) Problematic that is purely descriptive (leading to hidden details and depths of an object),
2)    ”    that encompasses a categorization of elements
3)    ”    is the analysis (which is not the same as interpretation).
4)    ”    as logical demonstration (hypothesis)
5)    ”    as invention (original work…)

For a ‘good’ thesis, the problematic must have a good balance of ‘le savoir’ (knowledge), originality and verification (in the sense that the reader should be able to make the same logical/theoretical associations/assumptions through the path outlined by the writer – even if they don’t agree with them, they can see how you got from point A to point B). All in all a ‘good’ thesis must open the field.

Through all of this, one must remember that one’s methodology is a philosophy and not the steps one goes about the research itself.

And so – this is what I have to prepare for my oral presentation for March 26th. I think it will be a wonderful exercise to pin down the ideas I have been having about my thesis topic – and I think it’s a good thing to have to do it so early in my degree (if only as a solid reference point when I have to write my formal proposal).

Looking at the end of February

And I ask myself how did this happen? I cannot believe that it is almost March! the semester hardly feels underway. This whole loosy goosy deadlines at the PhD are killing me – I have such a hard time working when there is no pressure! I wonder if that ever changes? For all the times I TALK about working, that’s usually as far as I get! 

At the moment, I am working on a submission for a call for papers for an edited collection called New technologies of the self, mobilities and (co)construction of identities. For this, I am gutting an old course paper I had written for a theory class and refreshing it with more relevant materials directly related to the call. In the end, I am really only salvaging the general concept and some of the bibliography, but it is helpful to have something to tear apart in such cases. I am hoping that working on this project will jumpstart my other less interesting projects.

Sesame Street Nostalgia

Over the last few days, for some reason, I have been waxing nostalgic (to borrow a phrase) about my childhood. My favorite Sesame street sketch was the ‘Capital I’ (as well as the Ladybug Picnic, The Alligator King and the pinball number song). Thanks to the power of You-Tube – someone has taken the time to post these, among many other great snippets.

While poking through the video clips, I found this one called Film is Magic – showing the children the wonders of film technology. Ahhh the memories.


The Simplest Things

On a personal note – 2008 has been pretty productive. I am into my second semester in my PhD program – one more short (one reading class, one seminar) semester to go then it’s onto my comprehensive exams and proposal. I am on a 3 year plan – but my friends, advisor and the rest of the department tend to chuckle when I tell them that. No more than four years though – else I have been threatened with divorce (of sorts since I am not even married!). I have trucked through my BA, and MA in record time, I would like to do the same with my PhD.

However there are a few things getting in the way. I have reintegrated going to the gym into my daily routine. Being a student who only has to leave the house once a week – twice on a busy week – sitting in front of your computer or laptop in bed, at your desk or in comfy blankets on the couch does not make for a healthy lifestyle (if it is any consolation I have a very fit brain!). So, in order to work on my physical self, I have returned to the gym. I love my gym very much. The people are very friendly yet not intrusive – they have good things on the television and it offers justification for having a beer or two when the hockey game is on. However – it seems that going to the gym is the ONLY thing I seem to be able to fit into my daily routine! The gym is not far – a 15 minute walk there and back. My workout is an hour and a half… thats … two hours total. You would THINK I could manage a life outside of those two hours! Not a chance it seems. So that is small thing number one that I need to work through – hopefully soon since this semester has four papers and a 30 minute final presentation (heavy semester compared to last term).

The second thing I am having trouble getting around to is actual work. Not reading. But work. I have a film analysis to do that was left over from last semester. I now have two to do for two seperate classes. In concept, I get it. I have to watch a film, and write a paper based on one of the film theory perspectives that I learned in the class. However, I am struggling with actually getting it all going. Do I watch the film, then read my ‘outside sources’ then watch the film again? Do I read all I can, then watch the film then pull examples out of the film? Do I pull examples out of the film then corraborate them with the outside sources? Do I leave the scene on while I write like leaving a text open beside my keyboard? I know this might all seem silly to someone who is used to working with a visual medium in textual form, but I find the practice of the task hard to manipulate in me head … the manipulation that would be able to kick start a project or paper. I don’t know a thing about a working method here, and it makes me procrastinate.

The simplest things can block us. I remember during my MA thesis defense, I could not find MY pink highlighter. In a panic, I called a good friend to pick one up for me at the store on the way to the defense. Not knowing what ‘one’ I ‘needed’ she bought all the pink ones she could. Happily, she got a ‘sharpie’ and I could happily (but still nervously) get on with the show. I don’t even think I used it for my defense! Such little things I tell you – such little things!

Reading Commentaries and/or Justifications

In my “reading” section, I have had the same three books up for quite some time. In my attempt to justify this lenghty reading time frame, I figured I would chat out some of the reasons why it’s going so slow.

I started reading The Virtual Window in October on the plane home from AoIR. An aesthetically fantabulous book (the texture of the paper is amazing!), the format of the book itself does not make it very reader friendly. The fact that it is so beautiful, I have not been able to bring myself to write in it – not even with a pencil. So every reading session requires post it notes for in book comments, ticky tabs for general important page indicating, and finally a notebook or computer/laptop for any extensive note taking. For me – this is a lot to accompany reading a book. But all this aside, the reading has been slow as well. While the general topic of the historical relevance of the frame and the window in today’s digital world interests me greatly, learning about perpectival techniques in painting and the camera obscura … well – not as much. Since I do not like to skim a book I am reading (unlike when I am ‘researching’), I am finding myself a bit bored with the historical recountings. Don’t get me wrong – there are a few nuggets of information in the first 68 pages to make the pages worth turning – however, it makes each reading session relatively short. I will write about the book’s content a bit more when I actually get past the historical elements.

I am also reading The Boundless Self: Communications in physical and virtual spaces. I love the way this book is shaping up. Written in a very readable manner, with a slight turn to entertaining while teaching – the turning of the pages flow when I sit down to read this one. I have come up with a full flagging system that I have documented in the empty page of the beginning of the book color coding ticky tabs pointing to quotes, references, definitions and random thoughts/ideas. This is the first time I try a full out coding system in my reading – the book is nice, but luckily I feel I can write in it (with pencil of course). I am enjoying the geographer’s perspective on virtual space. I like how it treats digital spaces as a continuum; an extension of our physical space, and tying it into the identity construction process. The only reason I am slow at reading this text is that it is currently not directly related to my ‘get to know film lit’ program I put myself on.

Finally, I am ready Christian Metz’s The Imaginary Signifier. After reading two chapters of this book for an undergraduate ‘catch up’ course in film theory last semester, I thought it would be a good initiation into film studies. I picked up the translated version (as the earlier chapters were laboriously read in French) and I must say, I am rather enjoying it. It is written in a way that feels like Metz is talking to me. The sections are short enough to read in spurts but I am still compelled to want to see what else he has to say. Although I am still in the beginning of the book – one of the things I was happy to read was his thoughts on (the following is my terminology!) how when someone wants to study film as a vocation, they must be past the point of being in love with the film in order to properly theorize about it. Although, one must have ‘loved’ film in the past, they cannot be ‘in’ love with it to do it theoretical justice. When I read this, I was struck at the current to be a gamer or not be a gamer debate in Game Studies. So many people feel that since they ‘play’ they can write about games. A step further, some might argue that you must be a certain type of gamer  (elite, hardcore etc) to truly be able to write about a game. But reading Metz’s words about film theory, I believe that it is also true of games. Indeed, you have to love it enough to want to write about it – and as recent conversations with colleagues have clarified, one’s research question determines the necessary level of gamer-ness, but one must be able to look beyond the love of the game to write about it objectively. Mind you, this is just my 2pp about the matter (and my interpretation of pages 11-15)

Phew! On that note, I suppose I should head out to the gym clear the body a bit before I ravage my brain again.