It’s often hard to keep track of progress through a PhD program - well, for me, at least. Part of the challenge is because there are relatively few measures of such progress, and any kind of measures are unlikely to capture the true dynamics that are happening. For instance, I can list papers I’ve read, but that doesn’t tell you how engaged I was while reading them, how much each paper stimulated me intellectually, or how much the papers contributed to my overall trek through the program. On the one hand this suggests that what’s important is not always measurable (as many, many scholars have adamantly and rightly maintained), yet that doesn’t help me when I’m trying to reassure myself that I’m doing “fine”.
There are a few major milestones of our program, much like any other program. For one, we are required to take 3 sets of exams: preliminary exams, general exams, and dissertation defense. We’re also required to compose and defend a research proposal. Once you’ve published a major paper, you must certainly feel like you’ve made a major accomplishment as well. The thing about these milestones, though, is that they can be as much as a year apart, leaving 12 months of unsure stepping stones.
So I’m writing this blog post to remind myself of the huge amount of work I’ve done this summer. (Non-academics: in case you’re not familiar with our ins-and-outs, June to September for us only represents more time in which to do more work. It’s not vacation time.) The list below is meant for my own edification and encouragement, but friends and family may like to be updated on my work as well. Feel free to comment if this interests you for whatever reason!
- For 10 days I participated in a summer research program in Bergen, Norway. This was one of the most intellectually stimulating programs I’ve ever attended, and it certainly helped develop my critical thinking and interpersonal skills. It also broadened my knowledge base to new reaches.
- I’ve read several books. Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. The History of Sexuality (Vol 1) by Michel Foucault. Most of Enchantment of Democracy and India: Politics and Ideas by Sudipta Kaviraj. The German Ideology by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels. I’m currently 600 pages in to Capital (Vol 1) by Karl Marx. I’ve started Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen.
- I’ve heavily edited a second draft of my M.S. thesis, which I will be submitting for publication to Cartographica, a prominent journal. I’ll be blogging on this soon.
- Along with David Meek I’ve organized a special issue of a journal - we’re shooting for Antipode, a major left-leaning journal. The issue will engage the politics of knowledge production through geographically-enabled sites like Google’s MapMaker, OpenStreetMap, and Ushahidi. We’ve recruited an exciting number and quality of potential submissions, and are really looking forward to this coming out.
- In a previous post I described the website I’m developing for my research assistantship. Since June I’ve completely revitalized and revamped the site. I rebuilt the server from the ground up, ensuring permissions and security along the way. I’ve added many new functions, such as the ability to upload pictures to our server and attach them to new features. I’m very excited about where the site will go this fall.
- I’m writing a paper with Chris Lizotte and Amy Piedalue (to whom I could link if they had websites up! tsk tsk :), which assesses the lines of resonance between ‘public’ geographies, public scholarship, and public participatory GIS. It will be presented at the meeting Royal Geographic Society in London next month.
- I’m writing my abstract for the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers, the major conference of the year. I’ll be presenting, hopefully, in a session organized by Matt Wilson and Agnieszka Leszczynski, called “Theorizing the Geoweb”.
- I’m getting re-energized about writing in this blog. I think it will really help develop my writing skills to have continuous writing streaming out of my brain. Whenever I get a chance, I’m going to write about something. Probably mostly academic stuff, but of course I’ll blog other stuff, as I always have.
So there you have it. This summer I’ve actually done quite a bit, and it’s important for me to keep this in mind when it feels like I’m treading water rather than swimming. Having written this list, it’s important to note that I’ve done lots and lots of fun stuff, too. Camping, hiking, movies, parks, video games (like Gemcraft, oh my god!), and enjoying friends’ company. But that’s not what this blog post is about! :)