A dissertation can be an unwieldy thing. After years of partitioned thinking in coursework, the best part of dissertating for me has been sustained focus on one topic. But the worst part has been heaping it all together in words and then finding space for that translation in my mind. I harnessed my most treasured knowledges, anticipated from them a focus for the next few years, and then machined it all - that is, I parked my body in a chair to peck and hum the swirling contents of my mind into bits via an inanimate keyboard. And unsurprisingly, at that bit-based translation, my own work began to get away from me.
That machined translation (which today serves decently as a surrogate for writing) may be gradually slipping out of the repertoire of academic initiations and into the parentheses* of history. If you've ever been told your elevator speech will make or break the success of your project, you know what I mean. And even if you haven't encountered that vocal rite of passage, you may sense the rich visual and aural possibilities of digital research presentation approaching you, or even asking slyly to cut in for the next dance.
I still write of course, and when it's in short bleats (like this blog post) I enjoy it. But I also make a practice of isolating my work from the purely written these days, in favor of vocal and visual channels. And to my delight, my swirling dissertation topic welcomes these alternate landscapes. I'm attaching a drawing of my dissertation prospectus as an example of how I've visualized my own topical swirls. It isn't a grand work of art and it may not be a particularly good dissertation topic. But I know it.
*See the Gutenberg Parenthesis http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/forums/gutenberg_parenthesis.html