Saturday, 3 December 2016

Postgraduate Research Winter Symposium at University of Winchester

Today I attended my first post graduate research symposium for University of Winchester students.   It was a terrific opportunity to listen to a series of 20 minute presentations on a wide diversity of research topics and to spend time chatting with fellow students on what they are doing.

Here are a few short notes on the 10 talks we had during the day that give an indication of what was covered.

Investigating endings - looking at endings in novels that have been short listed for the Booker and Costa prize since 2000.  Different sorts of endings, different approaches of writers - including one who starts writing a novel by writing the last sentence.   Given that some people will start a book by reading the ending it made me wonder if authors might respond to this by creating last lines that could make sense as an end to the novel and yet if which read first would purposefully send the reader on the wrong track.

“I Love you, guys” - looking at inclusive masculinities in a Californian High School Cross country running team.  Exploring issues of attitudes to homosexuality and how that impacts on displays of masculinity - if homosexuality is not socially acceptable then this could lead to hyper macho displays of masculinity as boys/men seek to avoid any suggestion that they might be gay.  Introduced me to a new term “homoerasure” when society denies the very existence of homosexuality.   Interestingly in this context there may actually be greater acceptance of less macho behaviour.

The effects of anxiety and depression on eyewitness memory - this one struck me as hugely ambitious research activity given the breadth and detail of what was being studied as it will cover perceptions of legal professionals as well as questions of how people perform in interviews, video identification lineups and under cross examination.

The next topic was a case study of the Whitney Plantation and how it represents slavery from the perspective of the slave and not, as is more usually the case, from the perspective of the plantation owner.  Powerful talk based on the speaker’s experience of having visited the plantation and clearly having been deeply affected by it.   Reminded me of my visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg a couple of years ago - you can read about periods in history but there is something deeply impactful about visiting the place.

Thomas Jefferson and slavery -  exploring paradox of man who penned US Declaration of Independence and promoted abolition of slavery yet held views that blacks were inferior to whites and owned slaves through his life, was opposed to interracial relationships and yet had 6 children by one of his slaves.  

John Rawls and his theory of justice - talk from someone who has recently started their doctoral journey so this one was more of a scene set on Rawls and "contractarianism" then their own research findings.

Presentation on career paths post PhD - given by first person who graduated with a PhD from University of Winchester when it became able to grant its own research degrees.   Interesting examples of how engagement in the right networks led to opportunities.  Also reference to article that compares structure of academic roles in the UK with how drugs gangs are organised - lots of poorly paid insecure roles at the start taken by people hoping to be the ones who succeed and breakthrough to the better stable roles further up the hierarchy.

“Embodying another’s memory” was an interesting investigation by the speaker into her father’s past in war time Poland.   Again the impact of visiting the place came through and how she had discovered a very different narrative to his life when she investigated what had happened compared to what he had told them.  Fascinating how he seems to have woven stories from his family into his own life story when presenting it.

The Last Judgement mosaic on West Wall of Torcello Cathedral, Venice was a detailed exposition of the iconography and meaning of the various complex elements of this 11th Century mosaic.  Astonishing level of detail on the individual elements and how they might have been intended to be “read” by the people viewing it.

Last talk of the day explored how different types of dual-task performance would have different effects on novel skill acquisition.   As an example consider people learning for the first time how to play an Xbox game.  Experiment then looks at how ability to learn how to play the game ( bowling in this case) if that is the only thing you have to do vs learning to play game while also counting backwards from 300 in 3’s vs learning the game whilst listening out for and responding to an audio beep that is played periodically.   The underlying research question is whether an exploration of this sort of dual-task approach could improve how stroke patients are helped to relearn tasks that can lead to greater independence and improved recovery.

All in all a very interesting day and I shall certainly be looking out for the next symposium.  As well as learning a lot about such a range of topics and feeling a sense of inclusion into the research community at Winchester, it was also good to reflect on how my own identify as a researcher and DBA student has evolved over the last year.   More than once I was able to think of things I had read in my own research which had relevance or informed me about something being presented.   Was also a whole lot better placed to cope with some of the more social sciences style of language used by some of the presenters.

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