Sunday, February 1, 2015

Reinventing Dissertation Writing for Sharing

On June 10, 2013, I successfully defended my dissertation and officially graduated from a doctoral program in instructional design, development and evaluation. I had grand visions (delusions?) of staging it as a play. Even as I was writing it, I had considered writing it as a play. My advisor finally let me organize it as different acts/scenes in a play but it wasn't written like a play script or in a dialogue format. She asked me if I was ready to be non-conventional. I didn't know what to think at that time. I just wanted to be done with dissertation writing. (You know what I mean, right?) But the 2014 Summer of Major Changes happened and I took some time off to deal with them. Lying around somewhere is the business card of a dramaturg who I planned to work with to write the play.

Journal articles? Conference proposals? I have been mulling over this post-dissertation challenge of disseminating findings for a while. At first, I was quite sure I wanted a book to be written. People need to know about my findings (Really!). Someone recommended I write to a book editor, and I checked out a few, but I didn't follow up after looking at the requirements. I am quite sure I don't want to write a dry academic book. I had written several proposals and presented at a few conferences. But nagging at me are the stories of my participants whose voices have barely been heard. What do I do?

After chatting with my new Twitter friends yesterday from #satchatwc, I have come to some tentative plans to share these findings, beyond waiting for a play to be written and staged. By the way, Tribes the Play was my inspiration. I took a greyhound to New York in December 2012 to watch it a few months before my doctoral defense, riding right into a snowstorm. I wrote a blogpost about the trip and a strange poem about the play.

The minimalist that I am, I try to use as few words as possible to convey my ideas. So they are broadly sketched out here:

Mindmap of plans to share my dissertation findings far and wide. 
In text description, reinventing dissertation writing will include these steps:
  • I will create a new blog site as a repository for the dissertation findings. 
  • The findings will be presented in multiple ways. As I've always wanted to present it as a play or some art form, I will seek to represent the findings using still or moving texts, images, sound and movement/gestures. 
  • I will work with UNIV 291 course students to collectively imagine how to present these ideas. It is an authentic community research problem that we can explore together. I will present these findings to them as a visible thinking product which needs more work. We can work together to solve this particular challenge of disseminating the findings beyond its present academic format. I have to organize my findings to help them work with my dissertation. But a lot of my findings include long narratives of participants. They will do quite nicely for interpretive work (dramatization etc.). 
I'm excited to see what we can come up with together as a group. Interpretive dances, sketches, maps, essays, stories, acting, ... My course continues to take a clearer form and focus. Onward!

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