journey · research

Following trains of thought and exploring the journey (in the thesis)

Whilst starting to get in the festive spirit, much of this term has been spent developing a chapter for late on in my thesis. The chapter emerged from a paper I gave this summer at the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network conference in Bournemouth. That paper in turn came out of my pilot performance study in February along the lines of ethics in Immersive and Sensory Labyrinth Theatres. This got me thinking about the journey of the PhD and how following such trains of thought creates progression in the thesis, allowing for new ideas to be created and exploited. ‘If I hadn’t done this then this, this and this wouldn’t have come to light’. It seems we cannot help but reflect on our research whether theory or practice, science or arts based. We can focus so hard on the end goal of PhD’s (the nice fancy hat and gown, the gigantic text which we produce…) that we can forget to enjoy the process along the way: mostly because there are times when, it just doesn’t feel great and we ask ourselves the inevitable ‘What am I doing?’. I was warned that this would become prominent by a fellow PhD-er, who had also been told that ‘the second year was the killer’… I wonder if it is because it’s the half way point: you’ve now figured out what you’re doing but you’ve wasted a year doing so and now have a third or half the time to actually write the thing in! 

In Sensory Labyrinth Theatre, audiences can also become goal orientated. Like in labyrinths and mazes, the desire to reach the centre or cross the finish line of the path can dominate paying attention to what happens along the way. I felt like this the first time I went through a labyrinth, I was driven to experience and go through it and, when I got lost my first concern (apart from my safety in being lost in a forest), was that I was going to miss out on the performances. It took me a minute or two to realise that I’d been focussing on the wrong thing, it wasn’t about getting through to the other side, but about the experience and the journey along the way. 

It can be hard to remember this mid PhD, but the recent development of the above thought process over a several month period reminded me of one of the reason’s why I’m doing this in the first place. Blink and you might miss it. Besides, no one could possibly do a thesis without some regard for it in the first place, at least, I think not, not without extreme difficulty anyway.  So as we head towards the season of festive merriment and good cheer, I shall be trying to take this mantra in to the new year. Not to ignore the looming date of handing in which draws ever ominously closer, but to at least remember the experience of researching along the way and to have fun exploring the possibilities. 

In the words of Edward Monkton’s Zen Dog: ‘He Knows Not Where He’s Going, For the Ocean’s Will Decide, It’s Not the Destination, It’s The Glory of The Ride’… Ok, hopefully I know the destination but it would be nice to enjoy it along the way. 

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