Macro photography at the national botanical gardens of Wales
My first year of research at Aberystwyth University has officially come to a close as I have now completed my registration for the second year. The first year consisted of my undertaking two research training modules:
- Research Skills and Personal Development – which consisted of a variety of short lectures on topics considered relevant to the modern researcher. Two assignments were part of the process. I know that some of the postgrads found it very useful but I had covered most of the subjects before as part of my undergrad and MA studies.
- Ways of Reading – consisted of a 2-day series of lectures. The assignment was a single essay on a topic of our choice. Although, again, I had covered much of the material that was presented this module did have the benefit of being pertinent to my particular research interests.
For the rest of the year I attended workshops and conferences that were extremely helpful in clarifying just how I was going to approach my research topic. The rest of the time was spent transcribing a Middle English chronicle and translating a selection of Anglo-Norman material.
Now I have to work on a more detailed analysis of the material that I have collected and as part of this analysis I now have to start thinking about the conferences I wish to attend and the papers that I wish to share with the wider academic community.
Conference papers are an essential element within the PhD process as it gives the researcher an opportunity to test out theories and approaches in a relatively friendly environment. The questions posed by an audience of your peers can be enlightening whether you can answer them or not. Questions and answer sessions allow you to examine the strengths and weaknesses of your research, and often open up new ways of looking at your material.
But the first hurdle to overcome is having your paper accepted by a conference in the first place. Acceptance into a conference is dependent upon the abstract that you send in to the conference organisers. This abstract not only has to encapsulate your paper, but it also has to be interesting enough to sell itself to the organisers. Not an easy task in abstracts of 200-500 words.
I am now in the process of writing my first selection of abstracts for a number of very interesting conferences, but I am finding this to be a difficult task. This is despite having completed a research training skills assignment which basically analysed a selection of abstracts in order to decipher what makes a successful abstract.
Abstracts take practise and a lot of thought. Each one has to be tailored to suit the individual conference theme. But for conferences in general the following basic rules apply:
- Ensure that the conference you are considering is appropriate for your work.
- Check if the conference provide examples of what they wish to see – not all do.
- If guidelines are given – follow them.
- Write the abstract.
- Have your supervisor check it over and listen to their advice.
- Double-check the abstract submission guidelines and deadline.
- Don’t write under the minimum word limit.
- Don’t go over the maximum word limit.
- Submit the abstract on time.
Once I have been accepted to give a paper I will go through the process that I took and share it here. I’m not going to share my ideas on conference abstract writing before then, after all I’ve no idea if my approach will work – yet.
I am working on a few photography projects at the moment which you can find over on Behance.
The first project is based around the life of the Welsh honey bee throughout the year.
The second is a creative arts project that blends fact and fiction.
Here is an image from the honey bee project
Last week I attended the Digital Humanities Regional Networking Event hosted by Aberystwyth University on Friday 12th September & Saturday 13th September 2014. The event took place in the council chamber of the National Library of Wales – an excellent venue, and there were speakers from Aberystwyth, Chester, Southampton, Bangor, Roehampton, Oxford and London providing a wide interpretation of what constitutes the Digital Humanities.
I found the speakers and the subsequent discussion to be informative and engaging. These are my thoughts on the event.
The focus of the discussions that took place over the two days was on how to define a successful Digital Humanities project. This naturally involved looking at some of the pitfalls associated with such projects and how to avoid them, if possible, given the constraints within which the Digital Humanities operate.
From a user’s point of view the first constraint on assessing the success of any given project is its longevity. For example projects involving the reproduction of manuscripts or images have to deal with copyright restrictions and the negotiation of licences. The terms of such licences may only allow for material to be displayed for a fixed period of time. This sets an expiry date on the availability of these images unless provision has been made for the re-negotiation of such licences.
The disappearance of images and broken links give the Digital Humanities an ephemeral feel that encourages me to rely wherever possible on the printed word. I dislike the need to reference digital material that may have vanished before my supervisor has had a chance to see it.
But this can only be overcome with a consistent approach to the development of the Digital Humanities that allows for both resources and staff to future proof the data not only against changes in technology but also allows for the maintenance of licences, links and web space beyond the initial term of the research project.
The second constraint is that of usability. Many of the digital humanities projects are produced as part of a researcher’s own interests only to be published later once the material collected has fulfilled its primary function within the terms of the individual research project.
In this case a requirements analysis would ideally be undertaken before a digital project was published to the wider community of potential users. In some cases the data would have to be reexamined and perhaps even reformulated to suit the perceived audience. All of which takes additional time and resources.
With closer collaboration with IT and IS specialists it is possible that the data could be prepared at the outset with this wider audience in mind. This additional focus would also involve assessing what to release, how it should be accessed and the determining the caveats that should accompany the dataset. Incorporating feedback from the wider community, and sharing the knowledge and experience acquired among colleagues is an essential element in this process. It may even lead to new and unexpected research topics.
The third constraint is that of accessibility. It can be difficult to find some of the resources that have already been produced as most are not widely publicised outside the academy.
Again involving the wider community including libraries, galleries and museums not only advertises the project but it could also demonstrate the value of the Digital Humanities to the general public in new and innovative ways.
Overall this networking event was, for me at least, a huge success. Coffee, biscuits and lunch were also included.
The last academic year has flown past. The research has progressed with the translations and transcriptions almost completed. My intention over the next two years is to share my progress on this blog as part of my research process. This should be easier now I am on the analysis stage. Previously any posts about my work would probably have said ‘still transcribing’.
But as part of my research this summer I attended the Historical Novel Society’s 2014 conference held in London at the University of Westminster’s Marylebone Campus. My room was on the nineteenth floor with amazing views over London. It made me wish that I had brought my camera but with plans for the conference and a few days in the British Library I had decided to travel light. So the only picture I have is one taken with the iPad and here it is -
The conference was extremely interesting and of course very useful. It is first and foremost a conference for historical fiction writers at all levels of their career. Lindsay Davis was one of the authors I was particularly eager to meet and her ‘in conversation’ section of the programme was excellent and all based on a good dose of common sense.
Lindsay’s books were required reading on my undergraduate Medieval History degree at Queen Mary College London to remind students that history deals with the lives of real human beings not an abstract concept of ‘medievals’ as strange or other. The same of course applies to other periods of history.
The conference was filled with workshops on aspects of writing specific to the historical novel and took seriously the problems associated with merging fiction with perceived fact. There were also opportunities to pitch ideas to editors and can immediate feedback. I was led to believe it was a nerve-wracking process for those waiting for their turn in the pitch-sessions.
There were plenty of tea and cakes over which to share ideas and plans for that next book and provided me with a number if contacts for participation in my research. The next conference is in the States with more to interest the reader than London managed. I just wish I could be there but I am looking forward to the next London one in 2016.