Here’s to 2013: Doing Less, Better

What does your PhD journey look like? ...PhD training - is good for one thing, illustrating blog posts!

What does your PhD journey look like? …PhD training workshops. Picture says it all really.

2012 was a year of excesses for me,

an embarrassment of riches perhaps ….

In January I went to London for an interview that really shaped my 2012, that interview was for a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship. I was successful – and in February I excitedly started to plan a 6 week trip to New York  * I started teaching on both The Interactive Media Arts and Museum studies courses at University of Ulster and developed a teaching / research project called ‘This is Our Playground’ with my fabulous supervisor Alan Hook. ‘This is Our Playground’ concluded with a 12 hour hack day at The Ulster Museum, we learnt lots from this project, and sharing our findings has taken me to London (CHArt Conference) and in April 2013 to Museums and The Web in Portland, Oregon* As a bit of a side project, and again with Alan Hook I developed the ‘Foursquare Mayor Chair’ an interactive installation that investigated the development by and use off Apps in arts organisations, the chair took up residency at The Crescent Arts Centre, The Void Art Gallery, and Queens Film Theatre – (The chair was found after hours of scouring charity shops, and masterfully recovered by Alan) * In the spring I held a couple of digital arts meetup with my friend and colleague Karen O’Rawe who works at Audiences NI, these were a real stab in the dark. I had total fear no one would come – we needn’t have worried we were blown away by the response and each event had about 40 people at them. These were really fun no budget events, speakers spoke for free, venues provided space and like minded people came together. Heated debate was had, and new partnerships formed, I would love to have more events like this (perhaps when I’m finished my PhD and I have time to apply for a bit of funding) *I worked as an event manager at Belfast Children’s Festival – something I’ve done for what seems like forever now – and something I always really really enjoy* In March/ April I worked with Arts and Business NI, researching levels of Trusts and Foundations funding in the Art Sector in Northern Ireland. This was a big piece of research for me, and my first time working with the very Lovely A&B NI – this was a really fast paced project and the research was designed, undertaken and delivered within only a couple of months (a nice change from the slowness of academia!)* I went to New York in June – My New York trip is very much a blur- I didn’t stop- I met so many amazing people- I visited nearly 30 cultural organisations – interviewed a ton of people – attended some amazing events like The Metropolitan Museum of Arts 3D Hackathon with Makerbot- I attended 2 amazing conferences: Games for Change and Communicating the Museum. I came home and slept for 2 weeks and then wrote this report: Museums and Digital Engagement a New York Perspective. Later I wrote an article for Arts Professional: Strategies for a digital culture and in May 2013 I will be presenting my New York research at MuseumNext in Amsterdam * I joined the Museums Computer Group as a committee member in late 2011, in 2012 I coordinated the MCG’s annual conference ‘ Strategically Digital: Museums on The Web 2013‘. I really enjoyed coordinating the conference, Wellcome Collection was a brilliant venue, the speakers great to deal with in advance, and inspiring on the day, and the feedback from delegates was overwhelming positive – 80%  said the conference was excellent. Good feedback makes all the planning worthwhile * In December I handed in my teaching coursework, so hopefully sometime in early 2013 I will become an associate fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and just in time to fit  into my 2012 review – I became a fellow of the RSA (The people behind the fabulous animated lectures)*

Behind all of this, and the driving force for everything above is my PhD. I’m now in year 3 – write up time. My research has always been a bit different to other peoples in my office- they do most of their research from books. My research is about now, not the past, it’s constantly changing, and I’ve been chasing digital culture tirelessly trying to keep up, its been fun but I have to admit  I got to Christmas feeling completely exhausted, weather beaten, and a bit jaded.

Trying to balance the writing, the research – and professional experience is something I struggle with, the sad reality is that today a PhD won’t get you a job, it might open a door but it’s my experience and contacts that will decide what I do when I finish. It would be great to walk into an academic post but realistically, I know I will go back to what I did before I started this, working in arts management (which I love), consultancy, or working in a museum. I’ve been spreading myself thinly, trying to cover all bases.  I’m normally over enthusiastic about everything in life – painfully enthusiastic sometimes. A friend said to me, I miss the Oonagh that used to go out and go crazy on the dance floor. I realised I did too! Being jaded, negative and totally unmotivated isn’t me, but it is someone I was quickly becoming. I was working so hard to prove myself, to, well,  everyone that I was starting to lose myself. I haven’t had an epiphany over Christmas, but I have had fun-and fun and some time off has given me a bit of perspective. Perspective which has gave me a few  ‘work’ New Years resolutions –

1. Do Less, Better

2. Stop working all the time – I’m going to enforce PhD bans, and internet free evenings.

3. Enjoy the journey. I’ve been working on ‘finishing’ my PhD – that’s a whole year away. It would be stupid to suspend ‘living’ for a year, start living for today.

4. stop saying yes to everything because ‘it will be good on my CV’-  I fear this resolution will be my main challenge!

I saw an interview with the Spice Girls over Christmas, and they described feeling exactly how I did when they wrote the lyrics for  ‘Stop Right Now’ ….so a final word to my friends the Spice Girls, and my new theme tune for 2013

This post is very much a note to self – and one that I’m going to come back to every time someone asks me to take on a new project this year.

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4 thoughts on “Here’s to 2013: Doing Less, Better

  1. Suse Cairns says:

    Oonagh, all the details in this post are different to my own… but it’s still a post I could have written. Like you, my 2012 felt like an embarrassment of riches (beautiful phrase), and like you, I found it hard to turn things down that would be great for the CV, or just enjoyable. But there is a PhD to be written now, and I too need to try to do less, but better. I also think I should try to enforce some kind of separation between life and work, although I am someone who naturally gravitates towards careers that interest me, and so the passion and the profession very naturally blend with one another. I don’t know that there is a cure for that.

    BTW – You’ll be at MW2013?! Hooray. Me too!

    • Oonagh Murphy says:

      A desire to do less, better seems to be something a lot of people can relate to. I enjoy working with people, so forcing myself to sit in a room and write is a struggle – but one that I’m going to overcome this year hopefully. Super excited we’ll finally get to meet in Portland! Have you been before? Are your presenting a paper this year?

  2. Suse Cairns says:

    I have been to MW before, both in 2011 + 2012 (my PhD experience is ending up very different from what I expected it to be…). I am indeed presenting a paper with Danny Birchall (which reminds me, I am meant to be writing it as we speak), and yes, it will be great to meet! Looking forward to it.

    I do ok with the “sitting in a room and writing”… That has become so much of my life in the past two years. I do less well with the “sitting in a room and writing my PhD” however. But I want to get it finished in one year and six days, so discipline must prevail. And thus, I go back to it…

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