At some point as a professional who loves their work, you’ll likely want to look deeper under the bonnet of your practice; you may have thought, albeit fleetingly, about doing a PhD.
Brace yourself. No thing has ever tasted so bitter, yet so longingly treasured.
You’ll crave doing it. Then the dark eviscerating spell of Lord Voldemort will descend upon you. You’ll hate the very sight of this thing and yourself. I once spent 30 days writing from 8 a.m in the morning to 1 p.m with my supervisor.
If you’re really unlucky your supervisor will go AWOL. If you’re just unlucky, those stray apostrophes will pound your mind as if you were standing two feet away from Big Ben. Then, just maybe, if you pull through, the last bitter-sweet summit climb will be gorgeous. And before you know it, that’s seven years gone. Phweoh! Gone!
But I’m not here to carp. Oh no! Those fangs of pain have receded into now an inquisitiveness. The PhD goes back to perhaps the 11th century [ yes I should be citing a biblio now!] but it’s around the 19th that it underwent its most radical reform. Scholars could no longer provide advanced work in their fields. What was required now was evidence of an original contribution to knowledge.
You could be of the genius of Wittgenstein, but Betrand Russell knew his charge still had to pass his viva; an interrogation by others. The degree was not a given. That specialist knowledge you hold will be rinsed, and rinsed and rinsed again for evidence. That was one of the biggest shocks for me. In fact I’m embarrassed looking back on the video of my first presentation to my group in 2008 explaining my ideas about hyper-video and interactive documentaries.
As the world becomes perennially gripped by social and all things digital, the PhD process at large and big swathes of tertiary education remain stoically analogue intact.
My web, digital media, video and data skills built up over the last 25 years became surplus to requirements. Why couldn’t I make a film of my PhD and submit that? Nope good old fashion logic in the shape of 100,00 words and the evidence, data, films and interviews were what’s needed.
But once I’d finished, I thought how do I offload all this knowledge inside me? Yes! peer review articles into specialist journals are the route and if you’re fortunate a book deal may loom, but I rather suspect I’m not one for the brined corridors of academia. I want to celebrate digital and social hacking my thesis for a digital audience. So over the weekend I got to work.
As a filmmaker, I filmed all my interviews and some key moments of joy and pain. The result I hope will be a film about the discovery of the subject matter, which is the revolution in journalism, but also the process of undertaking during the study. The website is a couple of days from completion.