Ph.D Musings



During my interregnum, there’s been some moves on the research front. It’s been agreed that work based research should take a breather for a while, which I’m happy enough with.  But I’m coming to the end of my BA in ‘fun’ with the Open University – I’ll post a full list of courses soon which count towards this degree.

A firm believer of ‘use it or lost it’, I’ve been looking at what I should do next.  A Doctorate in Education (Ed.D) always appealed to me, but given the difficulties I had in completing my MA in Education, I was slightly wary of this. I’ve been to Keele, to talk to their programme director, and whilst I liked the campus, I wasn’t confident that the course was appropriate for me, if I had joined the last cohort for example, I would have been the only one working in Higher Education, and the Organisational Work Ethnography which was promised as an opportunity to work abroad in another University for a short period hadn’t been really developed.

Why haven’t I seriously considered a PhD before? The major concern was maintaining momentum for such a long period of time (5-6 years). The thoughts of getting the doctorate completed before my 40th birthday have been and gone. I’m not too upset about missing that self-imposed deadline.So since then I’ve taken soundings from my work colleagues, both from those who have completed their studies, and those that stalled. If I was to bullet point the conversations, it goes –

  • We think you can do it (worrying)
  • It’ll be harder than you think (harder than the tight knot I feel at the moment – yikes!)
  • Choose a local university (can’t argue with that)
  • Do it as quickly as possible (see point 2 above – eeek!)

I’ve got some thoughts on where – it’s not a million miles (or even 50 yards) from where I work now. The ‘what’ is a different matter, though this may help. Look at the pictures below –

List of Avatars

They are just a few Avatars taken at random from the front page of as I was preparing this article. Why does someone want to be represented as a cup of tea and a newspaper – an another as an Irish wolfhound? Why do I choose to be represented on this blog, as Janus, the two-faced god of Roman mythology?

Bring this back down to education, and virtual learning environments – we’ve recently stopped students being ‘creative’ with their Avatars, and insist instead that they are either a faceless image, or their ‘official’ photo taken when they first enrolled – I guess there may be one associated with my student account – that’s scary!

A lot of work has already been done in this field, and there’s a plethora of books on the subject of Avatars in Second Life. I’ve just ordered a book, which takes the long view of the use of Avatars, and there’s a lot of popular research out there. I’ve been pointed to Neal Stephenson’s work in particular, though am I reassured that it’s ‘post cyberpunk‘, as the last time I tried to read ‘true’ cyberpunk I didn’t get very far.

Of course I’m still thinking about the research question, but my current thoughts is concerned with how within education we feel we need to constrain the use of appropriate images, and can we justify this as our virtual personality becomes as strong and important to us as our ‘flesh and blood’ lives?

The primary research options are impressive – from data gathering various online environments (am I going to end up having a second life? I’ve always argued that I struggle with just the first one at the moment), to asking people to match personalities and people to their Avatars, and maybe some gender swapping!

A long post, but it’s helped me get a context for my thoughts at the moment regarding my research studies – let’s see where it takes me!


PS – I’ve used the new ‘’ automatic suggestion for this blog. Let me know if you think it’s useful. Given some of the links suggested (e.g. for PhD), I’m thinking I’ll not bother again, but let me know your views.



1 comment so far

  1. […] came across this book when starting to get interested in Avatars for research purposes.  It was recommended through Amazon, and I was fortunate enough to have a […]

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