Sep 302011

In a quest to be sparked into ecstatic action toward choosing a PhD topic, I am travelling interstate next week to mix with people who know much more than me about digital culture and about massaging large datasets for cultural good.

Digital Cultural Sphere event

First stop, 6 October is in Sydney to be part of the government consultation on the National Cultural Policy discussion paper. Senator Kate Lundy and Minister Simon Crean are meeting with members of the traditional core arts sectors, creative industries and the cultural sector such as libraries archives and museums. How did I get to be part of it? I just registered at Eventbrite and received support from my workplace to attend. I am not going as an expert, but I am going as a someone who wants to learn as much as I can from the other participants and contribute my point of view if it is useful. Particularly interesting to me are parts of the report that emphasise using new technologies, inclusiveness and telling stories of people in Australia. The event will be livestreamed via video. If you want to contribute feedback or learn more about the discussions taking place around the policy – and I would suggest that this is an important thing for librarians to do – there are many social media avenues available right now and up to the 21 October .

THATCamp Canberra

THATCamp Canberra is a three day unconference for The Humanities And Technology, taking place at the University of Canberra 7-10 October . I have been meaning to blog about it for the last few weeks to encourage as many library types of folk as possible to join in. I know that there are quite a few library folk listed on the page of profiles of the campers, but I would love to see more who would like to work with me on a project to get hands dirty and build a library-y digital data-ish SOMETHING during the weekend.

I will be happy if all I do is learn from the datawonks and codingmavens who care about smooshing cultural data to tell stories. I will be especially happy to attend the Friday bootcamp sessions. Who wouldn’t want to learn about coding and mashing with Paul Hagon or work through an imaginary research project to learn more about Google Refine ?

 I want to fall in love – with a potential research topic

My aim from the week – rather lofty – is to find a PhD topic that I think I can work on for six years part-time and will be happy to have people perceive me to be “expert” in. I know some of the things I am seeking in a topic. I want:

  • to make or do or build something new like a tool or crunch a whole lot of data
  • NOT to ask a whole bunch of people about their opinions or synthesize and reinterpret only previous research
  • something that does not feel like naval gazing
  • something that I think will do some good in the world-  like be useful for people in developing countries or provide a foundation or model that will help other people to be useful
  • something where the time span – six years – works to my advantage, which suggests some kind of longitudinal study
  • something where I get to play with really cool technology that does not become out of date or redundant over the life of the project
  • something that forces me to learn some rudimentary coding and love it
  • something that somehow fits in with my interests in data remix and preserving community stories and people working together outside traditional organisational structures and acknowledging all voices and letting them be heard and community ownership and community contribution and creativity and fun and …
Actually, even if I have just three conversations with really smart and compassionate people where I learn as much in half an hour as I sometimes learn in a week, then I will return home happy. Luckily for me, this seems to be an extremely regular occurance for me at this type of event.

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