So I sat down tonight and checked my blog. It’s been a year since I last posted. You know, I’ve seen blogs like this. And I always mutter to myself about them. Who could get *that* busy that they can’t be bothered to update their blog in almost a year, I ask, thinking I’d never do that myself. And now I’ve done it. A whole year. It’s almost gotten to the point that you’re too embarrassed to update it, but the reality is that I will never abandon the blog or the work we’ve put up here. I guess it just fell asleep for a while…
Well, for those who are wondering what on earth’s happened to me, here’s a very short update:
1. I had my PhD viva in late October 2012. I won’t get into too much about it (as I’ll probably write a separate blog post about vivas), but suffice it to say it was very rigorous and intense. Pretty much as I had wanted it to be and as I had feared it would be. You don’t want to breeze through the most important 2-3 hours of your academic life so far–you want it to feel like a rite of passage. Professor Mike Crang and Dr James Ash were my examiners and I can only thank them both for actually reading my thesis and drawing out such a wonderful series of observations and, thankfully, a small number of minor corrections for me to make. And all of the corrections improved the thesis. I don’t think I’d want to do a viva every day, but I can safely say that I really enjoyed it and felt both drained and empowered afterwards.
2. I started a strategic university position 3 days later. This has been quite a fascinating experience for me! It’s not exactly the post-doc I’ve had in mind (unfortunately Durham has not engaged with games research in a way that other universities are right now), but it’s been an amazing opportunity. I have been able to do some research, write a lot, get into some strategic/planning work, and conduct a lot of international outreach on behalf of the sciences here at Durham. I have learned the ins and outs of academic practice and function at a university, given guest lectures in Asia, and made a few really interesting contributions in my time. I have learned a lot from my boss, the pro-vice chancellor for science. The downside of the position is that it did start so suddenly and has not given me the time I would have liked to sort through the post-viva workload, but I did manage to get all of my corrections done in just a few days and…
3. I graduated with my PhD in January! That was extremely wonderful, I have to say. I got to wear a fabulously red gown and cap and had my whole family around me. We get to start our graduation in Durham Castle and finish the ceremony and presentation in the Cathedral itself. I know not everyone is into the rituals and traditions of times gone by, but I do think that’s something we do particularly well in the UK.
4. Now I’m Dr. Ladan. Which is cool. And still a bit strange. I’ve been told not to fly in planes as a Dr. since that might mean I get asked to help a passenger who’s having a heart attack… The ironic aspect of this is that now that I’m a Dr. rather than a Ms. some people just presume I’m male (if they see my name in writing). That says something disappointing about society and the gender that people associated with the title ‘Dr’.
5. Then I went on four trips overseas: once to Norway; twice to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore; and once to China. Quite the whirlwind! I did get to give some guest lectures around my research area (particularly when looking at digital technologies and games and at the history of computer/video games themselves) and see how international research and educational collaboration is taking place between universities around the world. A few personal highlights were getting to visit colleagues at Peking University in Beijing (China’s top university) and spend time with colleagues at the National Institutes of Education (at NTU in Singapore) observing how they use virtual world environments to help teachers educate more effectively in the classroom.
6. And then I realised to my horror that my blog was out of date… which has brought us up to today!
I haven’t stopped thinking about games research or what I’d like to do next. My thesis was finished and uploaded but we had it embargoed for a while. Meanwhile I have been working on an article about my research methods which is now ready for submission. One observation my examiners made during my viva was that I had been able to work through some innovative approaches to conducting research in an online environment. I did find that you can’t research a game environment like WoW and rely on the same methods that we might use if we were researching how people interact in an office setting.
I also had a great chat with Dan Patterson of KoPoint, http://kopoint.com/2013/05/20/ready-check-world-of-warcraft-raiding-interview-ladan-cockshut/, who put up an interview from our chat in May. He’s doing some interesting work around a number of areas including gamic practices. Delightful person indeed and another example of the great people I’ve met on my ‘raiding research journey’…
And finally the work continues on turning my thesis into something more approachable for a general reading audience. So much needs to get out there as far as gaming goes and how groups play together.
So… want to peek at the thesis? Here’s a link: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/5931/. Enjoy and be kind!