The Researcher’s Workspace

MG - Avatar Mac WinterThe writing, thinking, reading and note taking. The not writing, the reading that was hard going, the conversation cravings and the revolving door of internal monologue. The scribbled thoughts, the sampled video, the folders of images, the clusters of PDF files, the Firefox bookmarks and the USB sticks. The fluorescent page markers and the manic notes made in margins with pencil. Coffee, coffee, coffee. Vodka, lime and soda. Wine, beer and procrastination. Tangled tangents, memorable moments of enlightenment, crumpled paper, grinding hard drives and cramped dark unforgiving places.

One is afflicted with such maladies in the authoring of a project such as this. Sometimes this happens over many years – and as was the case for me – in many home office spaces. All of this work was done at home. Some locations more successful than others. Some desks were a better height, some chairs a more comfortable embrace, while some keyboards providing a more official sound with a firmer more authoritative strike. And the view, the greatest distraction of all, I found could also be quite conducive to work. Rain, filtered sunlight, city traffic, blinking apartment lights, the night sky – these objects are the anonymous agreeable companions of the researcher.  Other venues however … well, they tended to have the opposite effect: backyards, busy verandahs, commercial thoroughfares, rooms adjacent to where people sleep and any space that stores other people’s stuff. Basically, anything that reminds you that you in fact have a life beyond the screen.

A Word of Advice

PHD - Whiteboard 04-12-10b SMALL

After completing such a task, do I have any advice? Yes. Don’t work at home. If you must you would be best served by facing the desk towards the wall and drawing the blinds. Surround yourself with all the books, files and references you know you’ll need for the current chapter and the next one. This should be complimented by quick easily prepared food, the best coffee you can possibly buy, and a strong liquor that stimulates before it depresses. And if you smoke, don’t stop.

If you must work at home, don’t try to explain the project, no one will understand its value or its inherent brilliance. What may be most shocking of all to you will be the discovery that – as much as they may feign engagement with your ramblings – partners, next of kin and your children are really not all that interested. They just want it done. Put your energy into defining your workspace. Make the space your own, mark the boundaries, make it clear when you are working and when you are not – sometimes it is hard for others to tell the difference.

Screenshot (2013-07-17) SkyDrive Folder (skydrive.live.com)And finally, as a general rule of thumb, when you have reached the actual write-up phase, the further you can get away from people the better. Isolation/quarantine/ exile should be your mantra. Use people as a reward when you reach a predefined goal – friends, family and colleagues and their real-world lives can provide a useful site for unwinding. Informal gatherings such as birthdays, public holidays, after work drinks, sporting events, etc are best. You will perhaps stay longer, you will drink more, laugh harder (and occasionally will catch yourself posting a sparkle of brilliance to EverNote) but socialization will help you knock out the cobwebs and get the blood pumping again. It will also make you anxious about getting back to the keyboard. This is a good thing. Trust me, 100,000 words will never appear without a healthy dose of anxiety and a dash of guilt.

Above all, keep working at defining your workspace. This may require some dramatic changes: moving to another country, building an office in the shed, shifting all your worldly possessions into the garage, getting dropped off at a cabin in the hills without internet access, or moving the whole family on to a farm with the in-laws… I did all of these things. All of these acts contributed significantly to the completion of this endeavor.

The Workspace

The following gallery features many of the home-office style arrangements I inhabited during the production of the research, creative component and final write-up of my project. I hardly ever went to a library. I bought most of my texts online through Abe Books or the Book Depository. I downloaded all my journal articles via the University’s electronic database and I found many important texts on torrent sites and on Scribd. Due to the nature of the research I of course found much of what I needed online, at the gallery, in the cinema, on the street and via the nightly news. I spent a small fortune on internet access, far outstripping any other expense. I also spent a lot of time at home, at my desk staring at the screen.

Acknowledgements

While this is essentially a solo exercise, many friends, colleagues and family offered support where they could – some heroically so. It is these people – and technological apparatus – that I would like to thank. The words that follow were composed for the “Acknowledgements” page of the thesis document and are reproduced here to publicly signal my sincerest gratitude. I know they shall all delight in the completion of this task as much as me.

Firstly, thank you Internet.

Also many thanks to the two significant women in my life
who at various times over the years
endured the weight of this task as much as me,
Eve & Elly.

And to the newest woman in my life, little Maisy –
may you safely navigate your way to the other side of the grid.

Much fondness and gratitude to the following locations where
much of this was written: Eugaree Street, Southport |   Hekarwe, Tully
Queens Road, Hermit Park | The Strand, Townsville |
& Picnic Hill, Cape Nelson.

I am also enormously grateful for the conversations, illuminations
and raised eyebrows of my brave supervisors over the years:
Peter Wise & Stephen Stockwell.

I must also raise a glass to Ryan Daniel for providing me with the
precious time away from the classroom to make this happen.
A more supportive colleague one would be hard pressed to find.

And I also owe Sally Breen a bottle of something sophisticated
and expensive for her herculean efforts in editing
this into shape, line by line, space by space.

Morgs, Azza & Jack – the true believers. Job done.

Cheers!

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