I’m calling it the funnel effect. The process of writing up my dissertation is like fitting an umbrella the size of a planet into a box the size of an ant. Every day I find new pieces of information which weren’t there before and I gather them up – that’s me in the corner – with a Phd head and increasing sense of panic. How to know which words to use? Not find them in the first place, I’ve 100’s of 1000’s of the pesky things in 50 shades of font design. It’s more about how to identify the ones I need.
Then – instead of narrowing them down – I get side tracked and end up adding even more. Today it was phenomenography which is one of those linguistic research tricks to see if you can pronounce the word never mind produce a description of what it means. For some reason, known only to the deep web part of my brain, I decided action research was like ethnography because as the researcher I was in the position of observer – so maybe I wasn’t doing action research at all. Affliction of doubt is a common doctoral disease. Somehow, and only google history can explain this one, I ended up in a phenomenographical paradigm and another hour had passed. At least by then I’d forgotten about the ethnography .
Now I’m blogging which is another diversion and distraction technique. I’m good at D&D’s. In a previous life I would clean the oven rather than get on with the task in hand. It became a joke how a clean oven signified an assignment deadline. Today I have the internet. It’s amazing I get anything done at all. I’ve a weakness for cute kittens and babbling babes– have you seen the one about….
I get up early, make coffee, greet the laptop and begin. Three hours later I’ve done nothing of any value towards my dissertation other than add a few more hundred words which I’ll probably take out again tomorrow. Oh, and a blog post, aspirationally tagged PhD but in reality it should be the other P for Procrastination. They could give me a doctorate in that ten times over!
Adding to my regular theme of reasons for blogging I’m adding procrastination when deadlines loom. Assignment title: How useful is the ‘subject of language’ approach in helping us to understand identity?
The bible is full of aphorisms. Some are less useful than others such as ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ plus long lists of other shalt nots (fornication, idolatry, adultery, etc). But the most useful edict of all appears at the start of genesis; ‘in the beginning there was the word’.
We make sense of our left-brain world through the logic and lists of language. Via agreed consensus, it names our realities and is the tool for defining knowledge. Semiotics; the first science of linguistics proposed by Saussure, bought us the triple S of signifier, signified and sign through which we see that meaning is never fixed. When Gertrude Stein wrote ‘A rose is a rose is a rose’ she wasn’t being obtuse; she was using repetition in an attempt to pin the language down. The word rose has multiple significations (romance, valentine, beauty, interflora) so we use it in a notional way, we evoke the idea of a rose; recognisable to each of us in individual ways. We can’t capture a rose; we can only create a linguistic category of rose-ness. The single rose in our hand is a rose – but the word itself is conceptual and its meaning dependent on the cultural surround.
Language is cultural, it reflects dominant social constructs. The language of gender is one of the best examples of this. As sex is fundamental to identity it’s clear that the language we use to ‘know’ ourselves is constrained by the environment in which we live. Boys don’t wear pink’ not because of the colour pink is pink is pink but because of the associations of the word. It’s difficult to escape language. Even if we become subjective, work on intuition, develop sensory perception, adopt Zen, we have little control over the ways we are seen by others. Is the subject of language approach useful in understanding identity; yes, you could say that. I just need a few more thousand words in which to say it.