Friday, 19 December 2014

we have a date!

It took a while, but my viva has been officially scheduled! Tuesday 27 January at 2:00.

Tally ho, sally forth, pip pip, full steam ahead!

Friday, 31 October 2014

DONE! (ish)

Here it is, Friday afternoon, right about when I'd been hoping to submit my thesis to my examiners. But then the plans for printing it out got a bit complicated, so I ended up doing it two days ago! I then promptly came down with a cold, slept through most of yesterday, and took it suuuuuper easy today. Looking forward to a weekend of more sleeping and taking it super easy. But here's a sneak peek:
The awesome thing is, just now as I was trying to upload this photo, I realised that there's already another image on my computer with the same file name:
How appropriate is that!?!? For anyone who hasn't had the pleasure, that's my erstwhile office-mate Connie Golsteijn - now Dr Connie Golsteijn - on what I think was her first conquest of Ditchling Beacon. Imagine pointing your bike into the sky and riding it that way for ten minutes straight.

This thesis has been four years of consecutive Ditchling Beacons for my mind. I'm exhausted, but boy howdy, do I feel great!!!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


I'm aiming to have my almost-final draft ready on Monday. Today is Tuesday. No more 'about two months' or 'three weeks from next' or any other such lovely, comforting indications of time. Next Monday. That's the plan.

Back to it!

Monday, 29 September 2014

first draft!!!

Yes, you heard it here first! First draft, that is! First full draft of the whole stinkin' thing, complete! And revisions on several chapters already underway.

I see a light at the end of the tunnel... and the light is wearing a FLOPPY HAT!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

back from Dalmatia

Actually, I've been back for over a week, but I've had my head down in an attempt to power through the last bits of this thesis. And a CHI submission. And a paper review. And two paper proposals. I haven't even got my holiday photos off my phone yet. But the blog must go on.

I spent two weeks cycling on four islands off the coast of Croatia: Brac, Hvar, Korcula, and Lastovo. My wonderful funding body came along, of course, as well as Stephen, who helped me build Collect Yourselves!, and his partner Miki, who fed and humoured us while we worked. We were joined by Stephen's friend Lana, who lives on Brac and acted as our tour guide for the two weeks. Some observations:
  • Lana's accent made me think of Boris and Natasha cartoons every single day.
  • If you can't eat potatoes or swiss chard, you'd better get creative with what constitutes a vegetable.
  • Roads on these islands are steep as HELL. Not only did we have to get off and push, but at some points I could only even push my bike an inch or two at a time. These were well-laden touring bikes, not carbon-fibre racers, but still!
  • In Croatian and Serbian, 'macadam' refers to a gravel road. And not just any gravel, but gigantic chunks of jagged rock interspersed with skid-inducing pebbles. Know this before you agree to ride your skinny-wheeled Dawes on a 'macadam' road (says Stephen). Much pushing was done.
  • The water is almost as clear and warm as in the Caribbean, which I was completely not expecting.
  • Tie-dye sarong-style wraps are great for changing into your bikini in public. 
  • They're also great for covering your arms while you sit at your computer back in the chill morning air of Old Blighty.
  • If you can get yourself up to Pupnat, the ride to Vela Luka is unbelievable!
  • If you can get yourself up to the summit of Brac, the ride down to Bol is even more unbelievable!
  • Campsites with their own beaches. Genius!
  • We enjoyed the very best campsite bathrooms we've ever used, near Supetar on Brac.
  • We also enjoyed my favourite place to camp ever, anywhere, in an olive grove on Lastovo.
  • If the weather is crap, do not get on a boat!

Monday, 1 September 2014

DRHA 2014

Yesterday I gave a presentation on behalf of myself and my collaborator, Licia Calvi, at DRHA 2014 (Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts). The title was 'Engaging museum audiences in a performance way', and there will be a paper out probably early next year.

The presentation was part of a good panel, mostly focusing on archives - very helpful context for my own thinking on personal digital archives - and chaired by Professor Susan Broadhurst.  Our presentation was the first one in the first session, simultaneously unnerving and blissful, because now I can enjoy the rest of the conference without having to worry about preparations!

That said, I'm at home this morning and in Guildford this afternoon, but I'll be back at the conference tomorrow and Wednesday.

I've already met some really interesting people and we received some great feedback - thanks to everyone who came up to chat yesterday!

OK, back to work for me...

Friday, 15 August 2014

the tail end

I last posted a few weeks ago, apparently. I can't tell. It's been sunny, it's been rainy. I can't tell. I have been sitting at our little fold-up table in the only room of our flat that isn't either a (tiny) bedroom or a (tiny) bathroom, staring at my two screens, working on a draft of my thesis, since approximately eight minutes to noon on the first of April, 638 BCE.

I'm currently hammering away at the second-to-last chapter. You know that old fallacy, or geometric proof, or whatever it was, about never being able to leave the room you're in? You walk halfway to the door, and then halfway again, and halfway again, and you never leave the room. Consequently, every time you make an effort, you realise you've only covered half the distance you intended to, and each attempt leads to only half the result.

That has NO BEARING ON MY LIFE WHATSOEVER. That is, if you happen to be reading this because you're one of my two examiners, checking up on my progress before passing judgement on the product of EVERY WAKING AND SLEEPING MOMENT OF THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF MY LIFE.

Otherwise, yeah, that's what it feels like to be me right now. So to liven things up, I thought I would share my very favourite photo of my entire PhD experience. It's a still from one of the videos of one of my testing sessions. Don't worry - no anonymities were harmed in the making of this photo. If you can make out anything identifiable in those thumbnails, you deserve a PhD in cryptanalysis at the expense of my ethics agreements.

What is it, you ask? It's my system, the one my PhD is based on, projected onto my butt. Yeah, that's what it feels like to be me right now.

Except for the fact that I still totally love doing this research! I remind myself of that every time I look up and see the door twice as far away as I expected it to be. A friend of mine recently said that she was going to have the worst case of empty nest syndrome in the history of humanity when her kids - currently only 15 and 10 - leave home. I think I'm going to have empty mental nest syndrome once my thesis flies away to its perch in the university library. Sigh.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

another conference!

I had the great fortune to meet Licia Calvi at CHI in Paris last year. We've been looking for a way to work together ever since, and thanks to her initiative and persistence, we've found one.

We'll be presenting together at the DRHA conference this year. It's a great joint effort - we're analysing approaches to engagement in museum spaces, looking at how different types of performative interactions with digital technology can create a sense of place.

So if you're at DRHA this year, held at the University of Greenwich between 31 August and 3 September, come by and say hi!

And if you have invented a time machine that will give me the extra hours to do this presentation justice while writing up the last three chapters of my thesis in six weeks, punctuated by working for RE-DrAW... and fantasising about the kick-butt CHI paper I still want to write... and going away on a long-planned holiday right when all these things will be coming to a head in September... please let me know...

a research post!

Then I got another offer that was too good to refuse: the chance to apply for a part-time research post working with my ever-stupendous supervisor, David Frohlich. Here's my LinkedIn update:

I am a part-time Research Fellow for RE-DrAW, Research and Development for the Digital Arts in Wales. RE-DrAW is an academic consortium, led by Professor Hamish Fyfe at the University of South Wales, which supports the work of the Digital Research and Development Fund for the Arts in Wales.

With Professor David Frohlich, I am helping to mentor a project helping visually impaired people access theatre and arts spaces. The technology is being developed by a partnership between UCAN Productions, a Cardiff-based organisation supporting visually impaired young people in the creative arts, and Calvium, an app development company based in Bristol, England.

A good time is being had by all! The folks at UCAN and Calvium are brilliant to work with, and I'm getting to do user research on - gasp - a different project from my own PhD! You can see what we've been up to at their blog. I must stress that this is not my project - I'm just mentoring them so that their (brilliant) work is publishable in an academic context. But it's a fantastic project to be involved with.

And it gives me something to do with all my free time, HA! Did I mention I'm trying to finish my entire thesis by the end of August? Which brings me to my next topic...


I might have planned to work only on my thesis, but that doesn't include previous commitments to other projects - like Recalibrate! It went off without a hitch on 5 June 2014 at ARC in Stockton-on-Tees. What an amazing experience!

ARC very kindly let us use the studio space for the entire work week leading up to the Thursday evening performance. Claire and I had a fantastic time getting a feel for how the performance would come together in the actual space, with all our projections working for real (and not just in our imaginations). We pared the piece down still further, and I got the privilege of being the first to see Margaret's Anatomy in full. (This is the short one-woman show that Claire wrote as a companion to Recalibrate.) We did the two as a double bill.

We had an appreciative and very respectable audience - in terms of size, if nothing else - and even got some press coverage. We'll be doing it again at the Ivy Centre, University of Surrey, on 17 December 2014. So put it in your diary, snag some tickets, and come see us! If you're Up North, we're hoping to do at least one performance in Newcastle, as well. Wander over to Facebook if you want to see photos and links.

back in the whirlwind

If I really wanted to earn my digital stripes, I would figure out how to back-date blog posts and make it look like I have my act together enough to make regular updates. Last I said anything, it was the middle of winter and I was on medical leave. Well, I came off of medical leave on schedule - April 1 - and since then have been struggling to find the time to say anything sensible about what I've been up to. So I'll divide things up as if I'd been posting in a sensible order, at sensible intervals, all along.

As of April 1, 2014, my only academic goal was to finish my thesis. I'd already been derailed by a few months by my insane conference schedule in 2013, and then I got derailed by a few more months. The clear path forward was to take a machete to my life and, well, create a clear path forward. No conferences, no papers, no exciting side projects. Just me and my thesis, and for the first time in years, a commitment to taking off at least one day per weekend, if not both days. Gasp! Yes, it's true, I'm trying to combine writing a thesis in record time with having a life.

I'll wait a while until you stop laughing.

Then I'll wait for you to say, 'Yeah, right, she's going to turn into a monk and do nothing but write her thesis. I'll believe that when I see it.'

Then I'll wait for you to feel smugly amused, because you know you're right...