User talk:Leighblackall/PhD/2010

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Student Debt[edit source]

As of September 2010 total student loan debt amounted to $850 billion, having just surpassed credit card debt by about $20 billion for the first time. And it is rising at a catastrophic rate, e.g., by 25% in 2009 to meet the rising cost of tuition and other college fees. Even the Great Recession has not put an end to this financial explosion. On the contrary, while credit card debt has leveled off, student borrowing has continued to grow to cover the rising costs of living as well as the tuition fees, especially by unemployed workers who are “going back to school” to get a “better,” or at least some, job in the future.
Even before the time to pay back is upon them, the debt has profound disciplining effect on students, taylorizing their studies and undermining the sociality / and politicization that has traditionally been one of the main benefits of college life (Read).
“For fiscal year 2008 the default rate increased to 7.2 percent, compared with 6.7 percent in 2007 and 5.2 percent in 2006” after a long period of decline from 1990, when it hit a peak of 22.4%, and 2003, when it hit a trough of 4.5%. (NB: These somewhat misleading statistics are calculated according to “cohort” years. For example, the 2007 cohort default rate is the proportion of federal loan borrowers who began loan repayments between October 2006 and September 2007, and who had defaulted on their loans by the end of September 2008. Therefore, they dramatically underestimate the true default rate) (Lederman).
Student debt is a work issue in at least three ways:
  1. Schoolwork is work; it is the source of an enormous amount of new knowledge, wealth and social creativity presumably benefiting “society” but in reality providing a source of capital accumulation. Thus, paying for education is for students paying twice, with their work and with the money they provide.
  2. A certificate, diploma, or degree of some sort is now being posed as indispensable condition for obtaining employment. Thus the decision to take on a debt cannot be treated as an individual choice similar to the choosing to buy a particular brand of soap. Paying for one’s education then is a toll imposed on workers in exchange for the possibility, not even the certainty, of employment. In this sense, it is a collective wage-cut.
  3. Student debt is a work-discipline issue because it represents a way of mortgaging many workers’ future, deciding which jobs and wages they will seek, and their ability to resist exploitation and/or to fight for better conditions (Williams).
The overarching goal of capital with respect to student loan debt is to shift the costs of socially necessary education to the workers themselves at a time when a world market for cognitive labor-power is forming and a tremendous competition is already developing between workers. Employers’ refusal to massively invest in education in the US is not, in fact, a misreading of its class interests as theorists like Michael Hardt maintain (Hardt). It is the result of a clear-cut assessment of the new possibilities opened up by globalization, starting with the harvesting of educated brains as well as muscles from every part of the world. Capital’s strategic use of student loan debts to enforce a harsher work-discipline and force workers to take on more of the cost of their reproduction makes the struggle for debt abolition one that necessarily affects all workers. Accepting the student debt is accepting a class defeat, for it is certainly marks a major set back with respect to the 1970s when education was still largely financed by the state.
Certainly university teachers (like myself and many readers) and our unions and associations must take an active role in the abolition of student loan debt. For we are on the frontline, but in a compromised position, because we must “save the appearances” and pretend that for the university, cultural formation is of the essence, while we know that the student loan money is the source of much of the university’s budget and that the future debt peonage of many of our students “pays” our wages today (Federici). Just as, hopefully, most professors would object to be paid by a university whose revenue was the product of slave labor, so too must we object to having our students pay us at the cost of their post-graduation bondage.

Education and technology[edit source]

"The paper therefore concludes by proposing a broadening of the academic ‘technological imagination’ to include issues of democracy, social justice and empowerment."
"These ambitions are perhaps best summarized by Amin and Thrift's (2005, p. 221) four-point agenda for critical scholarship, i.e.:
First, a powerful sense of engagement with politics and the political. Second, and following on, a consistent belief that there must be better ways of doing things than are currently found in the world. Third, a necessary orientation to a critique of power and exploitation that both blight people's current lives and stop better ways of doing things from coming into existence. Fourth, a constant and unremitting critical reflexivity towards our own practices: no one is allowed to claim that they have the one and only answer or the one and only privileged vantage point. Indeed, to make such a claim is to become a part of the problem."
"What is the use of technology in educational settings actually like? Why is technology use in educational settings the way it is? What are the consequences of what happens with technologies in educational settings?"
"the critical approach attempts to examine the use of technology in educational settings from the perspectives of all of the various contexts that shape and define educational technology – from the concerns of government and industry, to the concerns of the classroom and the home."
"The critical take on educational technology is therefore often driven by a desire to redress the imbalances of power that reside within most educational uses of technology. In this sense, the act of critical research and writing strives for what Ernest House describes as ‘deliberative democratic’ outcomes, where academics ‘use procedures that incorporate the views of insiders and outsiders, give voice to the marginal and excluded, employ reasoned criteria in extended deliberation, and engage in dialogical interactions with significant audiences and stakeholders in the evaluation’ (House 1999, p. xix)."
"In this spirit, the academic study of educational technology can be used to identify spaces where opportunities exist to resist, disrupt and alter the technology-based reproduction of the ‘power differential that runs through capitalist society’ (Kirkpatrick 2004, p. 10)."
My personal reflections on these notes on my blog: http://leighblackall.blogspot.com/2010/12/towards-critical-study-of-educational.html

Reading list December 2010[edit source]

A fellow social researcher recently recommended the following reading list, in terms of better understanding how power and influence is exercised in our society. I will use this along with my reading of Illich, Habermaus, Frier and others, in a review of literature relevant to a deconstruction and critique of the Australian education sector, and mass media.

John B. Thompson

  • Books in the Digital Age. 2005, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Howard Zinn

  • A people’s history of the united states: 1492-Present. 2001, Harper Perennial Modern Classics
  • The Twentieth Century. 2003, Harper Perennial
  • A people’s history of American empire (graphic adaption). 2008, Metropolitan books, Henry Holt and Company (with two other authors)
  • The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy (2nd ed). 2009, Seven Stories Press
  • Interviews of Howard Zinn on the DemocracyNow News site. http://www.democracynow.org/tags/howard_zinn

'Chalmers Johnson

Blowback: The costs and consequences of American Empire. 2000, Henry Holt and company
The sorrows of empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the end of the republic. 2006, Verso
Nemesis: The last days of the American Republic. 2007 Scribe Publications
Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best hope. 2010, Metropolitan books, Henry Holt and Company
Harry Kreisler interviewing Chalmers Johnson on Nemesis (slightly less than 60 minutes). http://conversations.berkeley.edu/content/chalmers-johnson

Kevin Phillips

American Theocracy: The perils and politics of radical religion, oil, and borrowed money in the 21st century. 2006, Viking, published by penguin group
Bad Money: Reckless finance, failed politics, and the global crisis of American capitalism. 2008 Viking penguin  :Three DemocracyNow New site interviews. http://www.democracynow.org/features/kevin_phillips_fmr_gop_strategist

Simon Johnson (economist)

James Galbraith (economist)

Sheldon S.Wolin

Chris Mooney

  • The Republican war on Science. 2006, Basic Books

Pharmaceutical Industry books

  • Psychopharmacology. 2002, Harvard University Press, David Healy (This person highly respected in his field and has written a number of books on pharmaceutical drugs (look on amazon)
  • Big Pharma: Exposing the Global Healthcare Agenda. 2006, Carol and Graf Publishers, Jacky Law
  • Our Daily Meds. 2008, Sarah Crichton Books, Melody Petersen
  • Selling sickness: How the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies are turning us all into patients. 2005, Nation Books, Ray Moynihan & Alan Cassels
  • Sex Lies Pharmaceuticals Companies Dysfunction. Ray Moyihan (2010). http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Lies-Pharmaceuticals-Companies-Dysfunction/dp/1553655087/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1290082865&sr=1-3
Static: Government liars, Media cheerleaders, and the people who fight back. Amy & David Goodman. 2006, Hyperion books
Standing up to the madness: Ordinary heroes in extraordinary times. 2008, Hyperion books

http://www.democracynow.org/tags

Noam Chomsky http://www.chomsky.info/audionvideo.htm

  • The Essential Chomsky. 2007, Anthony Arnove (ed.) Palgrave Macmillan. Has selected articles on a wide range of articles including some of his linguistic works
The Real News site. http://www.therealnews.com/t2/ Paul Jay.
Counterpunch. http://counterpunch.org/
Bill Moyers Journal. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/index-flash.html

What makes the U.S (and its dominated allies) tick

  1. Hegemony or Survival: America's quest for global dominance (Noam Chomsky; 2003)
  2. Overthrow: America's Century of regime change from Hawaii to Iraq (Stephen Kinzer; 2006)
  3. Nemesis: The last days of the American republic (Chalmers Johnson; 2006)
  4. What's the matter with Kansas? How conservatives won the heart of America (Thomas Frank; 2004)
  5. The Wrecking Crew: The American right and the lust for power (Thomas Frank; 2008)
  6. American Theocracy: The peril and politics of radical religion, oil, and borrowed money in the 21st century (Kevin Phillips; 2006)
  7. The Shock Doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism (Naomi Klein; 2008)
  8. A question of torture: CIA interrogation from the cold war to the war on terror (Alfred W. McCoy; 2006)
  9. Standing up to the madness; Ordinary heroes in extraordinary times

Beyond McLuhan: Your New Media Studies Syllabus[edit source]

Editor's Note: A new generation of scholars is trying to come to new understandings of how technology and society shape each other. Christina Dunbar-Hester is among those young lions from her position at Rutgers School of Communication & Information. Here, she walks you through her PhD-level class on technology and media. Along the way, she distills a quarter century of academic work that goes far beyond pop culture's standard takes on how our world changes.

See the syllabus

Why would I do a PhD?[edit source]

Papirius Praetextatus Entreated by his Mother to Disclose the Secrets of the Deliberations of the Roman Senate by Angelica Kauffman.jpg
In this day and age, why would I do a PhD?
Where is the wisdom and philosophy in today's Doctorate of Philosophy? What defense might the status have against commodified certification, credential inflation, and otherwise collaborative and crowd sourced knowledge? How might an autodidact approach a PhD with integrity? Would they?
These are open questions looking for the heart and meaning of a PhD in today's context. Leigh will explain his approach to developing in-depth knowledge, and invite challenges, suggestions and responses to it...

I solicited responses on this blog post, and lead a Creative Research Discussion Group at the University of Canberra. These are my notes from those two events, and a description on how I will approach the workload of a Doctor of Philosophy, an approach generally referred to as OpenPhD.

For me, submitting to a PhD is not as straight forward as it may be for others. Aside from the extra workload, pressure and uncomfortable status that everyone in the process must face, I have published a lot of criticism generally at the mechanisms of Higher Education, not excluding the PhD. Critiquing such processes, the institutions that sustain them, and espousing alternative ways, such as online networks, where I believe stronger knowledge creation and dissemination takes place, leaves me with an ethical dilemma. The traditional PhD, a project that is so narrow in scope, so closed and inaccessible to most, and typically limited in dialog between time poor supervisors, within a discipline area, within a faculty, within a university - nothing could be more opposed to the way I and many others work to explore, create and disseminate knowledge! It would be hypocritical of me to submit to such a process without at least attempting to explain why and how I might do it with integrity, possibly exploding the myths, inequalities and injustices I see in it, and no doubt many of my own prejudices along the way..

2 people are in the foremost of my mind when I face this dilemma, and each represent arms of my online social network, which I carry a strong sense of commitment to, and responsibility for. Minhaaj Rheman, someone I have never met, but who I have had the pleasure of many a sustained - often exhausting exchange of ideas, many times leading to a clearer perspective in me, toward international issues (Such as this, in 2009), and Jim Groom, a wild man online and in person, carrying an honest and creative integrity that many see as the ideal for the new-age academic in a socially networked world (3rings 2010). Both these people, from opposite ends of a spectrum, carry in them a deep questioning of the academic establishment, and influence my concerns more than they probably know. It is Minhaaj and Jim, and the wider social network they represent, that give me this dilemma, and the motivation and assistance to see through it.

How I'll do it[edit source]

After quite a bit of discussion (see below), I have resolved to approach a PhD in this way:

I will (and have already) publicly declared my commitment to understanding and attempting to apply the apparent rigor, depth and discipline required for recognition as a Doctor of Philosophy, but will do so informally. That is, without enrolling or submitting to an institution, faculty, discipline area or assigned supervisors. Instead, I will direct myself, using online social networks, professional contacts, all workshop and seminar opportunities that present themselves, and family and fiends to test my ideas, check the quality of my work, and help build its worthiness in line with the criteria I aim to discover. Through open documentation of our dialog, this network will play the role, and reflect an equivalence of traditional PhD supervisors. When I feel confident that I understand and have met the requirements of the PhD, I will submit a summative body of work to an assessing organisation, if there is one willing to play this role, and await their verdict.

Why do this?[edit source]

I recognise the value of focused, sustained research and investigation, resulting in a well communicated, extensive summary of that, as a valuable process for me as an individual, and for a wider knowledge society. I reject however, this process as an institution, as pre defined course work, as an initiation to a class of knowledge worker, or mark of status or credibility. Especially if it is a title required for employment, and a process that has yet to have considered, or make allowances for, the more informal and self directed approaches I'm proposing. I expect the combination of the established criteria of a PhD, with my own unruly approach to it, will teach all involved a thing or two, even if it results in the credential not being awarded, and me accepting this failure. Finally, but by no means the least, if I am to remain an employed academic, it is expected that I have a PhD. This is not an insignificant reason, as I see no other place at this point in time, regardless of how minimalistic my family may attempt to live, where I can continue to investigate networked learning, and devise new models and critiques for its formal and common existence, than through employment as an academic in the university system.

Models of PhDs[edit source]

PhD by publication[edit source]

I've found myself returning to this description at the University of Glasgow http://www.psy.gla.ac.uk/~steve/resources/phd.html

Notes from the Creative Research Discussion Group[edit source]

  • Firstly, was a suggestion that a w:Grounded Theory approach may be fitting to the developing OpenPhD method
  • Then a comment that my concerns of being limited, locked in, or somehow compromised by a University are a non issue, as the PhD is portable to other Universities. Later I challenged this with the question of how I might do it outside a university all together?
  • Regarding credential inflation, in terms of the entry requirements to a PhD, the Professional Doctorate was suggested. It is basically an entry into the standard PhD for people without Masters or Honours degrees, in that their professional experiences are assessed for equivalence.
  • A response to the challenges I levelled at the status of PhD was that while impact in knowledge creation through new and emerging online networks may be shown, impact within traditional structures is still required in the foreseeable future. A PhD has impact in those structures.
  • My example of networked learning enabling stronger connection with a wider community around niche topics seemed to strike a chord with a few people, but they held the opinion that such informal online networks lack the depth, focus and discipline required to drive a person further, such as apparently required of a Doctorate. Extending this point was the idea that the Doctorate was a summative moment. The writing and discourse that goes on in the networks is fine, but the PhD is a work that brings all that together as one focused, consolidated and carefully crafted whole. I didn't challenge this notion at the time, but on reflection I'm asking why? While I think I understand the value, I'm not sure such "finishing" is worth anything to knowledge creation and dissemination. Certainly it is a test of discipline and commitment, but is not 6 years of sustained and in depth blogging over a subject an equal commitment and sign of discipline? The quality of the academic contribution can be challenged in both approaches, so it wouldn't satisfy to say that a summative, crafted work is somehow more academic.
  • Some discussion was sustained around the power dynamics of the process and status quo, with one person citing Bertrand Russell's Education and Social Order, and Authority of the Individual for further reading. Unfortunately this person's suggestion was dismissed by another in the discussion group, on the grounds of Betrand's alleged sexual passes to an under aged girl in 1952. I was sure the discussion would have degenerated further at that, but instead the topic was ended there, I'm not sure what's worse.
I was the second person during the seminar who referred to Bertrand Russell and I have commented on the Leigh Blackall blog site [Comment 11] about my take on the big-picture issues around the question posed by Leigh. After the seminar I spent some time talking with the person who referred to Bertrand Russell’s work and probably the serious point that needs to be made is the distinction between Russell’s intellectual and philosophical writings which have had enormous and enduring influence and his personal behavior which does not, of course, invalidate his writings. The person with whom I spoke was aware of this dichotomy but others in the audience may not have been. Neal Hogberg (2002), for instance, wrote: “It comes as no surprise, therefore, that in 1929, in Marriage and Morality, he [Russell] argued for sexual liberation and the rejection of monogamy and morality. Indeed, his own life reflected his beliefs, as he engaged in numerous adulteries during the course of his four marriages, three of which ended in divorce. His assertion that unfaithfulness should not “be treated as something terrible” was profoundly shocking to a still largely conservative and traditional public”.[{Source: http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/article.aspx?id=550 ]. It appeared that I was cheapening the point of the previous speaker by a sordid reference to Russell’s behavior but that was not my intention and I am quite prepared to concede that the reference was inappropriate and a digression from the main agenda. The serious point that I went on to make though was that a PhD initiates one into a scholarly community and that Nobel Prize winners such as John Nash and Frank Fenner, just as two examples, made huge, generous contributions to their communities even later in life.
  • The discussion turned back to understanding my questioning the PhD process as an ethical dilemma. How does someone like me, who criticises the established norm, engage in such a process and maintain ethical integrity? How or why would I submit to a process and aspire to the status? Would it be simple job security in the academic working environment I'm now in, or is there an opportunity to test new ideas with the established norm?
  • A suggestion was made that, similar to a Creative PhD, where artists create a body of work, then write a "mini thesis" of 20 thousand words, my main thesis may also be complemented by a "meta thesis" looking into the process, status and such questions.
  • A simple answer to both the dilemma and the practical concerns, was to simply self direct my work towards the standard of a PhD, to draw on volunteer mentors and supervisors to achieve the philosophical quality, and then submit the work to a University for a Recognition of Prior Learning type assessment. Much the same as I have advocated for course work, where a person does the course work, and enrolls when they complete and are sure to satisfy the criteria. It was explained that at the University of Canberra, and possibly all Australian Universities, a minimum of 2 years enrollment period is required, to which I suggested was fine, it would simply take an Australian University 2 years to assess the work.

Notes from the blog post discussion[edit source]

  • Nancy White was the first to respond with 2 particularly compelling reasons :) 1. I will challenge the established process of PhD. 2. It will challenge me. It will challenge me to negotiate and connect with the institutions I aim to change.
  • Deb was the next, agreeing that the title PhD isn't the only place in depth knowledge is formed, going on to make the solid point that the PhD simply offers established and agreed on principles for the work.
  • Steven makes a thoughtful point that I have also heard argued by Temmu Leinonen, that the open environments may disrupt the quality of the relationships formed in the process. The suggestion is that a closed or private environment creates opportunities for trust and other ingredients for quality relations that may benefit the doing of a PhD, and many other things in life. I can respect this perspective, and appreciate it is needed by many, but for me it is a risk I have been willing to take for a long time now. While I know my openness has been cause for concern for some people, resulting in them choosing not to openly communicate with me, I think it is more than me that is eroding that space for trust building, and that we will all need to find alternative ways to build it, in the space we have to communicate in now. In many ways, open online communication helps people appreciate the value of face to face and private communication much more, and with the right understanding, this could be preserved, but hopefully not at the expense of the other...
  • Another thoughtful point by Steven is that the platforms for the open dialog present their own limitations of expression, possibly more than the one I am challenging. Again, I concede this IS the case, but one we must learn to manage and adapt to, or simply resist. Steven points to the video documentary: The Virtual Revolution - The Cost of Free to further illustrate his points.
  • Robyn emphasised the value of the time and focus it provides for learning and creating knowledge, but is anxious to see that meaning retract to the background, while work opportunities and security become foreground reasons for doing a PhD. Robyn also points out that a PhD does little in terms of helping people to facilitate others into learning their knowledge, and suggests that the networked and self directed learning despite the PhD title, is really more valuable.
  • Kirsty makes the suggestion, as was made in the Research Discussion Group, that exposing the process as a kind of meta thesis would be a valuable contribution, relevant to my topic, and proposed approach of OpenPhD.
  • HouShuang introduces the exciting question of how a PhD could be achieved and awarded outside the university sector. He asked how an independent researcher would go about their work, unaffiliated (ethics, access to databases, etc). He then asked how the "open" process would look (a wiki like this or Cormac Lawler's pioneering work). He also points out that in his experience, publishing in recognised academic outlets yields next to no return to him intellectually, as so few if any respond when compared to online networks (and experience I am sure is shared by many!)
  • Malcom points out there are other ways of engaging with the work and the topic that doesn't necessitate interfacing with the universities, pointing out that is may or may not be the time for pressuring them to think about new ways of doing, and that working outside for now may be a happier experience.
  • Dave reminds us of what it means to be part of the field, and in our area of open, online networked learning, we are already part of the field. A PhD therefore carries little relevance. Dave is the first to call the elephant in the room. Job security. To have more time to focus more on the fields that interest him he'll need an academic position that requires a PhD. This is a significant reason as to why I am even considering the project also. As a final comment on the OpenPhD proposal, Dave makes the interesting point about the normalising effect that a traditional PhD has, suggestion that the OpenPhD (specifically the recognition of prior work part), is a process the fields should accept for those they do not want to see become normalised.
  • Seth brings nice simplification to the question. If a PhD is a research degree, then the question here is what do we define as research? Seth points out my traits of activist and boundary pusher, and when compared to researcher as knowledge seeker, this may or may not be a productive mix. I very much agree with this concern, and Seth goes on to refer to Dave's point about the normalising effects of the research degree, pointing out that the normalisation doesn't end with the award, then comes the expectation to be "normal". Seth agrees with Nancy, that the process will be an interesting challenge to me, and regardless of the outcome, constructive learning will take place.
  • Keith, a key mentor and someone who plays the role of both formal and informal supervisor, advises that the momentum is in effect and we are ready to challenge the system without compromising the ethical stance.
  • Peter separates what he sees as bogus and substantial reasons for doing a PhD. He sees salary, status and even security as bogus reasons, believing that the PhD process has integrity in its own right, and if one is interested in that, then they should do it. He does however make the practical point that, if someone wants to work as an academic in a university, it is generally expected that they have a PhD.
  • Moulton calls it plain and simple: "One good reason to complete a Ph.D. program is because you want to make a significant contribution to knowledge that is vetted and received by the academic community."
  • And finally Lana, comments in support of activism and a desire to effect change, pointing out what she believes are the ingredients for that: charisma and passion. I think Lana is saying that if activism and change are my core motivations, then obtaining a PhD is not necessary. Its an interesting point, to which I'd partly respond in saying rightly or wrongly, a PhD is a proxy in part, for charisma! Thankfully though, most people these days see through that :) Another response, which I think is in support of Lana's point, I might be approaching this PhD with activism and a desire to change it! LOL so it doesn't matter whether I get the title or not, what matters is the change outcome... Lana points to Joseph B. Cuseo,Thriving in College and Beyond
  • Darren Draper asks 3 questions around the quality of the work if it was self directed:
  1. How do you plan on replicating the bureaucracy and tenacious hoop-jumping that it normally requires to complete a graduate degree?
  2. Will any face-to-face rigor be included in your pursuit?
  3. How long do you anticipate taking and how will you really know when you're finished?

This lead to discussion involving Dave Cormier, Lisa Chamberlin, Darren and myself around the apparent international differences in requirements for a PhD. Darren was of the belief that all PhDs require coursework.

"College leaders don't yet know how to credential the knowledge students are gaining on their own, but they may soon have to, said Mark David Milliron, deputy director for postsecondary improvement at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We are not far from the day when a student, finding unsatisfactory reviews of a faculty member on ratemyprofessors.com, will choose to take a class through open courseware online and then ask his home institution to assess him, Milliron said. Colleges need to prepare for that reality, he said."

Comments[edit source]

Hi Leigh, I missed the start of your conversation at the Creative Research Discussion Group but having listened and reflected on your summary here a question arose for me to explore about why would you do a PhD. It seems to me that you feel strongly about the quality and impact of the body of your writing and critical thinking in your blog and in online social networks. I was wondering if you feel respected for this body of work by more than your online community? What would you need to feel respected for your writing and thinking online? Would a PhD give you a feeling of being respected? --Mark Spain 06:16, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Hi Mark, wow, you're quick here! I'm still writing up notes. In the middle of moving house, so am delayed a little.
Caroline also made this suggestion at the Discussion Group, and I wasn't sure how to respond at the time. I wouldn't have used the word "respect" - though I think it reasonable, even obvious, that something akin to it is what I need... does a PhD bring that? I don't think it does. What it brings is protection from the thing that ... see below.
Also, I don't see this as being about me, and what I need. I believe I represent a 'we'. The methods we use, the evidence we show, the proposals we make, the work we do, should be given value by the institutions, because they currently offer the only protection for intellectual engagement other than inherited wealth. Without that support, those of us who consider the ethics, politics, social implications, educative opportunities, and new models, but using "alternative" publishing and networking platforms, will be left to the savagery of coerced capitalism, or have to succumb to traditional publishing and networking. I still value the notion that our institutions are here to protect our more humane commons, so I want them to update their policies and practices and welcome a new age.
We have this thing before us, at our finger tips, the most true artifact of humanity ever seen, the most comprehensive library of ourselves, the greatest potential to connect with others where we might otherwise be alone, the most incredible equaliser to power we have seen in quite a long time, access to a breadth and depth of information never before conceived! Yet, without relatively free, critical appreciation and intellectual engagement, its is left to market forces and forsaken to institutional tradition. This neglect allowed it to simply amplify the evils in our humanity, the exact opposite of I hope for, a warm room draws cold air. The academic institutions have a responsibility here.
I see the institutions and the people they shelter, who would apparently share a sense of concern for these prospects, squandering this opportunity with commercialism, small mindedness, dogma, disengagement, ignorance and arrogance. Ridiculing the very artifact that stares them in the face! Allowing themselves to go on unchallenged. Respect is not a word I would bring into this conversation.
Through practice, I try to model and personify what I think is needed, little or no objectivity about it. With what ever opportunity I have, I will work towards creating the space for as many critically engaged people as possible to exist within the institutions, while we wait for a new space to arise. This means turning the institutions out. Using their resources in a way that stimulates innovation. Devising an OpenPhD method that others might follow for example. Helping teachers to understand networked learning and open education so to think of new approaches to their core roles. Building opportunities and creating examples for our wider society to appreciate and start using this thing before us intelligently. And completing a PhD with integrity, so as to enjoy the temporary protection it offers to do all this.
Sorry Mark, I didn't mean for this response to turn into a manifesto, I hope I answered your question (for me as well! :) Its just that the more I thought about it, the more agitated I became at the suggestion that this is a selfish question with small needs. I recognise that my being is reliant on the society (and ecology) it exists in, as it is for those I care for and love. So, my love needs to extend to that wider society. We have this thing around us that is disrupting our society (and ecology) more than we yet know, and it will ultimately shape it. I hope that the part I can play is to help understand it better, and maybe even shape some of that technology before it shapes us. Leighblackall 00:59, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
I reckon you have a lot of energy to articulate the value of open creation and sharing of knowledge. Is it possible for you to use the discipline and critical thinking of testing a compelling hypothesis in a PhD as a vehicle for your own goals? Rather react against existing constraints, could you open up new pathways and future possibilities for integrating academic rigour and open, socially created knowledge? I reckon reacting to, and complaining about, current states is giving your power away. Better to be creative and cut steps in the new snow on the path to a positive, possible future. --Mark Spain 12:01, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for coming back Mark. I'm pretty sure I am cutting steps, devising a way to take the positive aspects of the PhD process, and taking them into a networked learning context, to attempt to satisfy the requirements informally. I think this is an appropriate thing to explore and develop these days. Yes there is a lot or reaction and activism in much of what I do - the energy you recognise - sorry if it is to the point of complaining. I guess there was a point somewhere in my past where I thought I couldn't tolerate anymore. Different people, different thresholds I guess. My response though, given what the topic of my thesis is: reaction - even activism, is a critical ingredient. While this often alienates me from some people, it draws me closer to others, and so while it appears as though energy is lost or given away, it is more finding direction. That direction may well be nowhere near where I am today.' Leighblackall 00:50, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Process[edit source]

At the moment, the process I wish to follow is an open PhD as follows:

  1. Use my blog (and related channels) for formative notes and reflection.
  2. Encourage supervisors to engage in discussion on my blog, and turn these considerations into content actions towards my PhD
  3. Transfer content actions into my PhD Wiki
  4. Invite supervisors and wider networks to assist in developing an annotated bibliography around this content. Items in the bibliography should openly accessible. Where they are not, and no alternative suites, I will pursue copyrights to republish.
  5. Draft sections on the wiki and post them to my blog for feedback
  6. Continue this spiral towards completed sections and chapters to the necessary style
  7. Produce a printed and bound version in three readership levels, as in the broadbanding information idea (children, adults, experts), as well as a video documentary with audio suitable for radio and podcast.

Jimbo's watching[edit source]

So Leigh, you are doing this independently of any school? I love the whole thing, I really love where your blog has been going lately and think you are nailing the deeper issues with open education. I'm really thinking you are onto something here with the open Ph.D. ---I'm getting really interested in pursuing my own in this format. And, in response to a question on your blog, I am reading Illich, and will be in dialogue with you about Conviviality soon. --Jim Groom

Hello Jimbo, I'm sort of doing it independently... I'm working at the University of Canberra so it makes sense that I go through them. At the moment I'm still working out the economic and other motivations for a PhD, being wary of anything that paints me into a corner. So I'm starting out just working away in a PhD direction, preparing, reading, forming questions.. and if I see a reason to formalise, I'll do it.
Glad to see you're watching and prepared to join in. I could sure use your critical insights. I think your background brings a valuable and unique perspective on these issues, and it seems we have some parallel concerns and ideas. Already your post - It’s every bastard for himself, the last century hasn’t ended yet sets up some rich connections and additions. The challenge will be how to keep up with it all. Please stay in close contact hey.. I'm really keen to read your impressions of Illich. --Leighblackall 05:42, 3 July 2010 (UTC)

Research question(s)[edit source]

Brainstorming possible research questions I think is one important process/step. -- Jtneill - Talk - c 04:34, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

JT, I've drafted a primary question, in three versions of plain English.
How should an organisation use the Internet? (reading level 1)
OR
How does a medium to large organisation use social media for open and networked practices? (reading level 2)
OR
What are the conditions, policies and processes needed for a medium to large scale service organisation to effectively use popular social media and communications to develop open and networked practices? (reading level 3)
These versions are something I'm thinking to attempt throughout.. such as the old critique of the LMS having its comic version (if you remember), or Michael Wesch's video versions of his deeper work. Not sure if this is THE question, but in it you can see a broader intent than just education, even though the meat of the studies will be in the educational context. I think this question is consistent with what I've been doing over the years, to which I have data and notes collected from Otago Polytechnic, and I'm now collecting notes from UC. I've emailed this question to you and the other primary supervisors (Keith, Robin, yourself) and after I've gathered responses and made adjustments, I'll send it to the secondary supervisors (David, Stephen, Michael).. and see what they say. From there I think I'll devise about 10 secondary questions that make up the chapters of the study, and ask the supervisors for assistance in setting a literature review.. You think that's a good plan? --Leighblackall 05:42, 3 July 2010 (UTC)

Free writing exercise[edit source]

I'm in a workshop on thesis writing, and have been asked to free write for 2.5 minutes starting with: I feel that writing a thesis is... a bit of a drag. I already write - prolifically. It is already published and out there. But then again, it forces me into a new kind of discipline.. with an expected audience.. like blogging did for me way back in 2004. It came with an audience, or at least, the sense of an audience. This sense made me feel watched, pressured to perform.. etc. I get this feeling when I think about writing a PhD Thesis.. combine that blogging pressure of openness with the pressure of PhD, and bamb... I think my head will pop!

I was then asked to make key feeling words italic.. and then group them into positive and negative columns.. Leighblackall 06:56, 15 September 2010 (UTC)

Ethics[edit source]

Video interviews and ethnography[edit source]

I've started interviewing UC staff about open academic practice. I'm not entirely sure what I will use the interviews for, but I am interested in the method of video ethnography, and these interviews are just one approach to that method. At this stage they are more journalistic, but they will likely be used in a research sense later, and so research ethics apply on top of the journalistic ethics normally considered.

As far as journalistic ethics go, my very minimum standard is to gain a release from the Interviewee to use their recording in publication. Rather than a signed form that too often is lost or inadequately informs the subject, I instead record their response to my explaining what I intend to do with the recording - that is, basic edits, titles, backing track, and upload to Youtube (unlisted - essentially private) temporarily for them to preview, and if they are okay with it, I will publish the video and spread it across other public websites.

An example of such an interview, is this recording of Sam Hinton, making statements about open academia. I think it is largely observational in style, providing Sam with prompting questions for him to respond to at length. I intend to collect a number of interviews with UC staff along these lines, as well as document open academic practices such as this first of three videos of James Neill's open text book project.

I would like to conduct an even more observational interview, in which some people record themselves at moments when they are thinking or working in an open academic sense... but this would be a separate ethical consideration to the recorded, edited and published interviews I'm working on at the moment.

As far as consideration of the research ethics involved, David Blackall (my father) who works at the University of Wollongong's School of Journalism and Creative Writing, specialising in journalism ethics and law, has recently successfully applied for ethical research approval for a similar context, where the research outcome, even direction is not known - the video serves as raw observational data. The following is an extract from an application he used in a recent application to research ethics at UoW, where he summarises Bill Nichols as:

"As film academic Bill Nichols regularly states: the ethics of the filmmaker is inherent in the footage when it is screened, either in a raw state or in a polished and edited state. Thus for neutral and observational film to work stylistically on screen as just that – observational – it must be filmed ethically in the first response.
(Nichols, B. 1991, ‘Axiographics’ in Representing Reality - Issues and Concepts in Documentary, Indiana, University Press, pp. 77-78.)
Occasionally the staff of #### will be asked questions or interviewed to determine what their approach or strategy might be in respect to developing their story. #### is the central subject for filming and other staff and subjects and sources being interviewed will be filmed as they interact with him. #### and his employer #### have agreed to the filming. Consent forms (releases) will not be used at this stage of filming, thus giving #### total control over what is filmed and what is not to be filmed.
This informed consent process will be conducted in association with the management of #####. Therefore, this initial ‘pilot’ phase will involve filming only subjects and journalism processes that #### deems suitable."

I will use this extract in my own application to research ethics at UC. Leighblackall 00:58, 4 October 2010 (UTC)