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Journalling, abstracts, and privacy...

I'm trying to write an abstract for my thesis. This is often done once the thesis is written, but I've been asked to do it now to help me distill the framework and methodology of my project in my own mind. I'm aiming for about 350 words, I think, and have been googling the writing of abstracts all morning. There are more science based approaches which include background statements, aim, methods, results, limitations, and further research suggestions - these broad areas could quite easily be applied to my creative work as well. Then there are more loose approaches where you outline the nature, scope, and intent, and show how the creative artefact is linked to the exegesis. I guess this is not that different, only maybe a little more fluid?

Anyway, I've started writing, and in doing so I've realised that I haven't actually addressed a major part of my framework. I've written about narrative identity and able flash fiction and how it mimics the nature of memory (which informs narrative identity construction) with its fragmentation and ambiguity, but I haven't actually addressed the intercultural aspect of my project and the theory of Third Culture Kids - and I need to do this because that theory plays a major part in my final chapter, and I can't just be tacking it on at the end like an afterthought.

Writing an abstract early is probably a great idea for me!

Another great idea I've come somewhat late to the party with is a thesis journal. I was strongly encouraged to start one of these at the beginning of my Masters, but I felt it was very contrived and self-conscious, so I just junked the whole concept. With all the confusion I've felt over the work I'm currently undertaking, I started keep a journal at the end of February. It has really helped! I dedicate about an hour each morning to journalling about my project. I write to-do lists, and thoughts, inspirations, problems. I've drawn mind maps in it, and how-tos. I find it a great place to dump all those whirling thoughts that jumble up with my straight thinking about the thesis itself. I've used the journal to work out where I am in my time line and how much work I've done. It has been a very grounding experience for me.

I should have started a thesis journal right at the beginning!

The issue of privacy plays on my mind a lot. The internet is not a private place. I live under no illusion that it is, however, it does offer a fair amount of anonymity which can be somewhat reassuring a lot of the time. I have kept this blog for ten years now, and I come here to write my thoughts because while I could do this in a journal, I feel like I have to be more honest when it is in a public forum. In a private journal, I can delude myself about my own thoughts and actions. I can colour situations to favour the outcome I wish it to have. Online I feel like someone, somewhere is going to say, 'Uh-uh! That's not how it is, and you know it. Get real, honey. Face facts.' So, really, I use the knowledge that the internet isn't private to keep myself honest with myself.

Just recently, I heard that kids today are not as concerned about privacy as their parents and grandparents are. They don't actually care about keeping their lives private. This makes me laugh because I've often been accused of invading my kids privacy by insisting on being able to access their accounts online and their emails. I've been told it's like reading my child's diary. I completely disagree - obviously - because, well, a diary - at least as we knew them in our childhood - was a book that only the writer and maybe their snooping family could access. It was kept in a home, under a mattress, in a drawer, whatever. Furthermore, a physical diary could be destroyed and its contents lost forever.

The internet, by contrast, is very public - even with all the privacy settings in the world the nature of Facebook is public because whoever you interact with can screenshot your interaction and send it to anyone else, or save it to their computer for eternity. When kids put an event on Facebook, it is possible for 100s of people to be invited to that events without the knowledge or the permission of the kid. Pictures and videos can be shared in seconds. Accounts can be hacked. And information is very often sold to third parties.

So, it's really no wonder that kids today don't value privacy the way their parents or grandparents do. They know, at some level, that there is no privacy online, really, so why pretend there is?


Trevor said…
Hi Sif,

Just a few comments about journalling. I have done this for several decades now, first in written form in lovely blank books, and now on my computer - I can type faster and neater than in written form. It must now be well over half a million words - I've never analysed it in this way.

Initially, I set out for it to be a "Spiritual Journal" and although it has this element to it, it also covers the many humdrum aspects of life in all its warts and all. These days it is almost just a plain diary/journal in the traditional sense.

When doing my Masters I journalled my thoughts and feelings online on my writing blog. I wrote about how things were going, what I had difficulty with and reflections on the whole process. Rosanne had never heard of anyone doing this but gave full permission to continue. Some parts of this online journal actually made it into my final thesis exegesis paper, the examiner commenting on its effectiveness. It was strange actually quoting myself in my paper!
Sif Dal said…
Hi Trevor!

I really should have listened to Rosanne all those years ago! I keep a private pen and paper journal for many years - 30 volumes worth - then started this blog 10 years ago (2095 posts so far). For the thesis journal I'm back to pen and paper as the act of writing is quite soothing to me (I'm much faster on the keyboard, but I think being forced to slow down actually helps me think more clearly). The thesis journal is quite practical piece of writing, dealing with the practicalities of the work.

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