PhD stuff

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Posted on July 23, 2011. Filed under: PhD stuff |

This has been my PhD blog/diary and on Monday July 18 I graduated, completing the whole process from registration in 4 years. It was a glorious day – having boycotted my first degree ceremony as a bourgeois irrelevance, I was thrilled my 87 yr old father and my sister came up from London to be part of it. Either I’ve sold out, or recognised the value of rituals – the latter I think. Much of the thesis writing was very lonely, plodding up to the loft day after day, week after week to struggle with ideas and words  when you want to be somewhere, anywhere else, so it was great to celebrate the against-the-odds completion. Felt tremendous gratitude for all the support I received and tremendous sense of achievement – as I said to Leeds Met reporter:

I will continue to blog from and will start a diary about the Australian adventure, but this chapter has come to an end. Thanks.

Dr Johanna Fawkes

July 18, 2011

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Reflections on attaining a PhD, including vivas, mock and real

Posted on January 31, 2011. Filed under: Methods, PhD stuff | Tags: , |

Haven’t posted in a while as felt need to shut up a bit before viva. That was two and half weeks ago and I’m still digesting doctoral status – feels very quietly, deeply satisfying, an almost private pleasure. Too soon to know what difference it will make, if any, in the big wide world. Anyway I’m too exhausted to venture into that world, having been poleaxed into catatonia since viva – not entirely surprising after three and a half years hard hard slog, particularly past eighteen months.

The most gratifying aspect of the viva was the fact that three respected experts (Profs Keeble and McKie and Dr Cohen) so deeply engaged with the material, met it at the place where I hoped people would meet it.  This sounds obvious but the mock viva was so disappointing, made me realise that even accounting for the ‘worse case’ scenario that framed it, 3 people (including two supervisors) could end up asking reductionist, marginal questions, locked in their own fields of study. At the real thing, the examiners saw beyond their own borders as to how each of the fields under investigation might benefit from cross-fertilisation. They then asked really interesting questions that expanded rather than shrank the debate, like the tension between the critical approach that I’ve adopted in most of my writing to date and the more inclusive, less confrontational attitude suggested by a Jungian attitude. Spot on! Have felt this tug throughout the writing, but end up plumping for the latter (post-critical hermeneutics, I believe) – but emphasising that this is not about homogeneity of the Disney Its A Small World variety, more a recognition that at a deeper level the divisions are not so absolute after all.  There was also some discussion about Bernays and propaganda. Lots of agreement about it being well written apart from an overlong intro which needs cutting – other suggestions are up to me to include or not from the discussion: will take on board the need to modify or expand my criticism of the critical approach; expand section on propaganda; increase references to non-corporate PR and to locate the whole debate emphatically in the current crisis. This is very helpful – allows me to re-emphasise central points. The examiners were also great in letting me know from the off that it was a PhD – these minor amendments will only take a few days to make then the MS can be bound and lost in the depths of the library. Also lots of encouragement for the personal afterword in which I describe my own journey in and out of shadows – not a traditional academic thing to do, but one they welcomed as part of a general move to acknowledge the personal aspects of academic writing.

I think I would recommend anyone to think hard about how useful a mock viva might be. On the one hand it made me realise that just turning up with knowledge of the thesis but no prepared defence might be a terrible error; on the other hand I did not need an opening statement or a defence of methodology in the event and did not refer to the pages of prompts I prepared before the final viva (though it did clarify my key arguments). And the somewhat hostile effect of the mock was demoralising, especially the recommendation that I prepare a list of practical recommendations, despite having declared throughout that this was not the objective of this thesis. I suspect however that if the thesis is published (as now seems likely) this will represent a great chunk of potential readers. Luckily there will also be some like the examiners who will make the whole effort worthwhile. There will still be a journey to publication and beyond so I will keep this blog going even though its main task, as a PhD diary, is, astonishingly, accomplished.

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getting there

Posted on July 25, 2010. Filed under: Ethics, Jung, main themes, PhD stuff, professions | Tags: , , |

finally feel I am heading towards the final stages of the thesis. Two meetings yesterday with supervisors (staggered for logistical reasons) who are v happy with the chapter I wrote last week on another visit to St Deiniol’s.  Things are coming together….

Chapter 8 brings into play all the themes of the thesis: professional ethics, Jungian ethics and their relation to each other, and begins to sketch what a Jungian approach to professional ethics would actually look like. There was a time writing it when I thought this is where the drums will roll, the velvet curtains will part – and the stage will be empty. But no; this is what I discovered:

  • professions could choose to drop their claims to be ethical and ‘serve society’ – claims which have little substance in reality – this would be an ethical improvement as the charge of hypocrisy could be dropped and the illusion of ethics abandoned. price they’d pay would be loss of  the professional kudos, the social status that is gained in exchange for alleged professional ethics, so more like to face external regulation,
  • OR they could step up to the claim and  actually engage with the complexity and conflict involved in any attempt to live ethically, but particularly challenging in the Jungian approach because it means facing the shadow aspects of the profession, bringing to consciousness the hidden impulses, temptations and abuses that have congregate under the surface of that particular grouping
  • this will require moral leadership, but as Jungian  theory makes clear , the group may actually embody the leaders’ shadow aspects making it v hard for the leaders to see what they are hiding from themselves – a facilitator may be needed; lay members may see the situation more clearly
  • An ethics advisory forum cd provide the space for free debate an the airing of ‘cultural complexes’ – the Other may be a rival profession but could be an internal group, ostracised by gender, race, sexuality or background – or by an occupational sub-grouping (eg broadsheet vs tabloid journalists; foreign vs arts correspondents)
  • There will not be a new code: this is about process rather than right/wrong acts. It will entail living with uncertainty: holding the contradictions; not knowing. This will distress those who expect to be told exactly how to behave and are unwilling/unprepared to take responsibility for their own ethical being – hardly surprising when everyone else is playing the blame game. But I think many already experience this; identifying it may be helpful and welcome
  • the question of whether a separate ethics for professions is necessary is I think answered by suggesting that the base for all professional ethics is human ethics, not an elevated sense of moral superiority. Quite the reverse; it is because certain complexes will have built up in groups and professions that they have a particular responsibility to ensure maximum awareness of the shadow dynamics of their group.
  • have also found tremendous academic richness in juxtaposing Jungian and other ethics, exploring however briefly the points of contact and divergence with Asian ethics, post modern approaches and particularly virtue ethics. No space/time here, but juicy stuff… tbc
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The professional psyche

Posted on June 4, 2010. Filed under: Jung, PhD stuff, professions | Tags: |

End of my stay at St Deiniol’s library, during which I have not achieved the tasks I listed at the beginning of the week. But no sense of failure because the space and time here allowed me to see an idea that has been lurking beneath my draft chapters: I am proposing that a profession can be conceptualised as a psychic entity, with an ego, persona, shadow and the possibility of integration. The literature supports this – eg Abbott 95 on professions as entities defined by boundaries, and others on the developmental process of professions – though some Jungian caution against over simplification of parallels between micro (individual) and macro (collective). But the chapter I thought I’d tidy away on Monday has gained from this explicit approach – it was buried in earlier drafts – and the arguments are clearer, even though it’s taken all week. Having worked til 2am making this case on Wed night, spent yesterday reading Hauke (2000) on Jung and the postmodern which dismantles such an argument. But not entirely – so today I aim to take on board these caveats while discovering the possibilities opened up by this new concept of a profession.

So, many thanks to this quite residential library that has given me the silence and space to think and work – booked again for July.

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St Deiniol’s residential library

Posted on May 30, 2010. Filed under: PhD stuff, Uncategorized | Tags: |

Just arrived at St Deiniol’s residential library, in north Wales, a legacy of W.E.Gladstone and home to all his books. It’s late victorian, built like a Welsh castle from red sandstone with warrens of corridors and a common room stuffed with ancient leather sofas and an odd collection of academics, bankers and theologians. I have a little room under the eaves, view of treetops and setting sun, and plan to spend the week in the splendid chapel of a library (the Victorian respect for knowledge of course) getting on with the PhD. The rates for full time students are so reasonable I suspect I’ll be back in July as I’ve decided to make a real go at finishing first draft by end July, final copy end Sept. Was heartened swapping notes with others who started PhD at about the same time to find that none of us has finished and indeed no one was quite sure how near they are to completing. Very odd to have a large task the progress of which is so hard to measure.

Back to St D’s : sleeping in a library sounds rather wonderful and the place has an air of hidden treasure, though a Guardian article last year may have blown its cover (see ).

Aim for the week: make a good start on PR case study material, finish Chapter 7 on professionalism through Jungian lens, possible notes to add to chapters on professional ethics. Might be too ambitious but I’m really hoping that break from home, rising for breakfast and some kind of osmosis from all those books will make this a productive few days.

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Approaches to professions

Posted on May 13, 2010. Filed under: Jung, PhD stuff, professions, Uncategorized | Tags: |

Useful supervision session this week. Just dithering about what to do next.  We talked about chapters on professionalism – before and after viewing the subject through a Jungian lens. Have had to teach myself a great deal about sociology in order to describe impact of Durkheim and Weber on concepts of profession in society. Interesting to discover in the later chapter the links between them and their contemporary Jung – a concern about the loss of the sacred from the world, the over-emphasis on rationality and the objective. Durkheim and Jung share more characteristics than do Weber and Jung, it seems as Weber is more clearly rooted in a Marxist perspective and much more interested in power relations than Jung ever expressed. Society is the locus of struggle and contested identity for Weber, where the psyche is the main field for Jung. Nevertheless, interesting overlaps of interest. Even found a terrific paper connecting Bourdieu and Jung, v v useful as Bourdieu’s conceptualisations of professions honours the inner world as well as outer constraints. (Also planning major research project on communication aspects of an anti-obesity campaign using Bourdieusian framework).

But current chapter 3 is a ‘smorgasbord’ of approaches to professions = x says that, y says this. Have set it all out as part of my own learning process but need to claim the topic and drive a narrative through the raw material. Actually always enjoy this stage of writing – the sudden authority when I sense I actually do know what I’m talking about. Not there yet, though – still waiting for that command to emerge.

Here’s an attempt to summarise my intent:

There are multiple perspectives on the role of professions in society, from those that simply describe what people do in certain professions (trait approach) to those who see professions as a power struggle for status (power approach). The latter group is of course the most interesting but it is complex and contradictory, comprising social constructivists, new institutional theory, neo-Marxist approaches, Bourdieu on social capital and habitus, Goffman on professions as performance. My approach has been to briefly describe each of these and the purpose of that is to ‘map’ the field of professional studies. This is particularly important for two reasons: one, the different perspectives inform varying claims to ethics, which are examined in the following chapter; and two, the later chapter which looks at the impact of a Jungian approach on current theory and practice needs, I think, to engage with a wide range of existing concepts. I sometimes think I could have made life easier by taking one theorist and comparing with Jung but needed to educate myself in these areas first.

So, chapter 3 sets out overview of professions; chapter 4 looks at varying approaches to professional ethics; 5 explains basic Jungian precepts; 6 sets out individuation as a basis for an ethic; 7 relates Jungian approach to professionalism; 8 considers what a Jungian professional ethic would look like.

As to progress:

3 and 7 are in rough draft but need to add material on professional identity formation and moral leadership

5 and 6 are pretty much done

4 and 8 are just notes

Plus case study to do and conclusion.

Hope to have full rough draft by end July – but still a tall order!

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Posted on October 31, 2009. Filed under: PhD stuff, Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Been ages. Got totally bogged down trying to write up chapters to a ridiculous timetable.Wanted to do viva early so David McKie cd be external, cos he’s a good professor, but it left me with about ten days per chapter and after 6 weeks realise that’s not doable. Writing has been going backward, getting slower and slower as I got more and more anxious. finally sussed that I have to put viva back to original June (ie late april submission). Still tight, will need several rewrites, proofing, binding etc. It all seemed so lucid and coherent in my head but is so LUMPY on the page. Oh well, I’ll get there in the end.

Gave first lecture in seven or more years on Tuesday – on professional ethics and PR.  Went well – helped me to hear the main story summarised and students seemed interested and engaged – nice feedback after. Just a one off guest spot, but good to know I can still do it.

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Is hermeneutics reflexive or vice versa?

Posted on February 4, 2009. Filed under: Methods | Tags: , |

Now at the second stage referred to in last post – pasting quotes in a sequence that helps me see the structure of the argument but with me kind of out of the frame (not very reflexive at this stage).  Finding it hard to weave reflexivity and hermeneutics together, they share so much but open different doors. Decided to treat reflexivity as the overall approach with hermeneutics as the particular avenue.

Sorry, I should explain: reflexivity theory is rooted in the idea that the concept of ‘objective knowledge’ so beloved of science is nonsense. The observer creates or constructs the world they claim to observe, by framing and choosing and interpreting. Traditional newtonian science rests on the notion of an ‘out there’ measurable, stable universe; humanities are seen as too subjective to be valid by these standards.

Constructionism emphasised the role of the observer in creating the observed; social constructionism stresses the social context of the scientist and both call for reflexivity in both method and interpretation, so that the role of the researcher is visible to all, including their prejudices and assumptions (normally concealed) and that the methods allow for more equitable distribution of power between researcher and researched. These theories mostly apply to social sciences, with human participants or reciprocators.

As I’m using text, I’m turning to hermeneutics which looks at theories of understanding and interpretation and which places the human experience of text or other at the centre of research. Trouble is, it’s such a rich and complex field with so many philosophical debates and dilemmas and exponents, it’s hard to find a clear thread through. It could be that I don’t need so mch detail bt I find I can’t explain something if I don’t grasp it. So hard to know what to leave out or skim over.

Good news is that I ‘ve written enough papers to know I get through this stage, that all of this is necessary part of creative process – and this whole project feels so creative – including the sense that I may not have the skills to honour the initial vision. We’ll see.

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methods of writing

Posted on January 27, 2009. Filed under: Methods | Tags: , |

struggling with methodology chapter. Decided to call it research approach as the whole point is that it’s conceptual rather than empirical research, emphasising thinking over doing.  I like the thinking bit best, can feel all the ideas swimming around making patterns and shadows like a shoal of angel fish. It all shimmers with meaning and connections. Then I have to put the fish into straight lines of letters and sentences and they just flop around gasping. I know I can do this but there seem to be three stages to writing for me:

1. try and think onto the page, often in a very personal language & tone, with chaotic organisation, just get my own thoughts down, no refs or quotes, just thinking.

2. Cut and paste loads of quotes but with v little commentary

3. start again, in the academic voice and try and knit the two together. This is really the first draft.

Have written version 1 – about 5k of rubbish, but helps me see where I’m going. Still too many thoughts, lots of mud churned up. Hermeneutics and reflexivity are both such large philosophies – I completely ‘get’ the underlying intent but expressing that academically is proving harder than expected. A hint that the rest of the year may not be plain sailing………………..

Also realise that the initial stages are particularly hard when I have a personal involvement with the material – I had the same problem writing novels (not stories, which burned their way out). The idea was vibrant and intoxicating, the realisation became laboured and dull. A symptom of this was constant checking of word count, an indication I’m in ‘dutiful’ rather than creative mode, ticking boxes rather than struggling to express truths (however partial). It shows in the prose.

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Posted on January 9, 2009. Filed under: main themes, Methods | Tags: |

I realise that while this blog is attracting a fair number of browsers, especially for the papers, which is of course gratifying, there are almost no comments. Perhaps this is because I am not inviting responses clearly enough, merely describing the stages of development of this thesis. That is of course my primary aim, to  create a log of progress, which will allow me to reflect on my own journey, as part of my commitment to reflexivity. But I would be sorry if this appears too solipsistic – I would truly welcome comments, suggestions, experiences. For example, are you also writing conceptual theses, or have you had a go at hermeneutics as a method? What worked? What stalled? Are you a Jungian, appalled at my misrepresentation of the Great Man’s thoughts? Or an ethicist alarmed at my failure to acknowledge a key thinker? Or another student hoping someone online has already written the essay that’s due tomorrow?

Do talk….. and if not, do come back anyway……..

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