CS A5 | Self-reflection

A5 is a significant refinement of A4 – I don’t like to think about hours work input to this, but with Covid-19 lockdown at least time has been more on my side than normal. I had planned to get out shooting for BoW put after some deliberation decided to wait out lockdown until I can return to the canal, rather than reimagine the BoW. I think that is now going to be okay.

I’ve submitted A5 for tutor feedback and have a meeting scheduled for next week to discuss. I’m slightly over word count plus 10%, but will address that after discussion. I’m pleased with A5 (and hope I still am next week!). The organisation and flow has been reworked and the theme tightened. I read it with a sense of being more or less done, in contrast to A4 which I felt was a good start but needed more work.

I need to update my literature review to reflect the final direction of the dissertation and the works I ended up placing more emphasis on. I think some of the original review contents perhaps didn’t make it into the final draft of the dissertation – a sign of how far the work as evolved. I’ll do this after next week’s feedback, so it is all still relatively fresh.

The self-reflection is below – a bit odd since it become reflection upon reflection upon draft upon draft. To help me understand the progress, I’ve just updated A4 comments with red text.

Demonstration of subject based knowledge and understanding – Broad and comparative understanding of subject content; knowledge of the appropriate historical, intellectual, cultural or institutional contexts (25%).

Additional research was carried out around the narratives of crime, death and regeneration, which sat outside the narratives covered in A4 – odd befellows in a liminal space! I also tracked down a reasonable priced copy of Rob Shield’s Places on the Margin and read that. It provided not fresh put additional impetus to existing content. What I found more personally rewarding was additional research on de-industrialisation and its impact. This generated interesting parallels with navvies and counterpoints with industrial heritage.

My research folder contains over 200 references to various books and other media that have all been considered in the dissertation. While academic materials in relation to cultural geography were readily available, canal specific materials were challenging to find – other than engineering based ones. However, with some determination, I did track down a PhD dissertation based around living on a boat as a main dwelling; research into social / health concerns of travelling communities (including boatees); and a book of essays concerned with ‘thinking with water’. I’ve also drawn in broader cultural references to illustrate the difficulties in locating meaning.

Demonstration of research skills – Information retrieval and organisation; use of IT to assist research; ability to evaluate IT sources; the ability to design and carry out a research project, locate and evaluate evidence from a wide range of primary and secondary sources (visual, oral, aural or textual) (25%).

Not much more to add here – I’ve become very comfortable with research tools and using them to help my assimilation and analysis. This is a long way from when I first started, when I felt slightly overwhelmed by the huge amounts of disparate information on a wide range of subjects. The pain of photography being about everything! I’m also grateful for the automation this allows when creating citations and a bibliography in Word!

I continued using Zotero to organise and retrieve information. However, I took some time to restructure my folders to fit the various framed narratives in my work; eg canal, visual culture, industrial heritage (originally around essay chapters, which enforced a linearity to thinking and blocked creativity). I also, increased the level of tagging of material to aid retrieval and came up with the idea of ‘meta-tagging’ to flag items that might be included as quotes for example. Zotero has also acted as a store for my reading notes.

Because it is such a large element of my academic activity, I’ve reintroduced a separate page about my research folder to this blog.

Demonstration of critical and evaluation skills – Engagement with concepts, values and debates; evidence of analysis, reflection, critical thinking, synthesis, interpretation in relation to relevant issues and enquiries (25%). 

The focus has been tightened and refined significantly in A5. It has evolved to link the culture in visual to the culture in geography and reflect upon the source of polysemy in images. I think doing the additional research and then letting things sit for a while helped me. I came back with fresh eyes and energy. One acid test is that my wife said she found it very interesting (being from Lancashire, being blunt rather than nice is her default mode). The second acid test comes from the Evertonian next week.

The dissertation is critiques hegemonic perspectives on space and how power is used to shape meanings. It evaluates representation and the filters at work when meaning is attached to place. I believe it brings in relevant cultural and sociological materials concerning the specific us of a canal as space, but these also have a wider application.

Communication – The ability to communicate ideas and knowledge in written and spoken form, including presentation skills (25%).

I think that the formal presentation will remain in writing. However, it is interesting to begin to think how snapshots of it might be brought into spoken communication, alongside the photography perhaps.

Assignment is in draft written form. I have yet considered how this might be formally presented – something to start thinking during A5 work.