Keeping my process open, keeping the university paying me.

I struck a deal with my PhD supervisor today. After being told in no uncertain terms that I was never to publish any of my thoughts or work for free on the internet in my induction, I had a small altercation with person running it – because my work is so closely tied to examining open processes and wiki ethics in the arts, and my personal politics are more of the idealistic, free and open for all persuasion – I thought it was important to keep my research open, or otherwise risk horrible hypocrisy.

However, the fact remains is that the university is paying for me to generate original research on their behalf, it’s not useful for me to be a liability, and I do value the opportunity to get paid to do something I love and care about with as many fibres of my being that aren’t already taken up with friends, family, and political activism. So I thought finding a nice, sensible, but still open middle ground was a good idea.

Here’s what we worked out:

  • – I’m fine to carry on blogging and posting quotes, thoughts, breakthroughs, snippets, points of interest the whole way through.
  • – I’m also fine to blog large chunks of my first year which is mainly exploratory – and so much not the deep, critical and original thinking of the final 2 years. (I will soon be popping up a blog post of my first 1/3 of this year’s work).
  • – When it does get to that thicker stage of thinking then it’s useful to release extracts, talking points, struggles and particular sticking points, anything up to about 800 words is fine.
  • – Then I make the decision of whether I want to play the game of academia (write a book), try and redefine the rules (work on making ebooks and web-published, open stuff just as important as writing a book), or go in an entirely different direction (and just release the material as is and run off into the sunset with my arms flailing)

So that’s where we are. I think that’s pretty fair to the uni, myself, and my principles, and much further on than the ‘say nothing to no one’ approach demanded at my induction. But what do you think? Do you think that’s too much? Too little? Do you even care? Well, you read this far so I imagine you do a bit. Or you’re really bored. Go and do something useful. Or comment.

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9 Responses to “Keeping my process open, keeping the university paying me.”

  1. sizemore January 25, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    Interesting post, Hannah. I’ve often found myself caught in the ‘practice what you preach’ argument and have been in interesting positions from time to time over what to write/speak about. Glad you found a compromise that doesn’t make you feel too… compromised.

    Funnily enough what you’ve laid out above is very similar to what I’m self policing at the moment as I move further into the TV/film industry. It still feels like I’m very much at the exploratory stage myself and am only now settling into a rhythm that’s comfortable for me and those I work with.

    Here’s to the open middle ground. Plus it is nice to keep one or two things up your sleeve…

  2. Hannah Nicklin January 25, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    Thanks for commenting, Mike. I didn’t touch on the creative writing side of it here, but as I progress through my first proper commission, it’s something else that I’m struggling with too. I think you do a really good job so far as I can see, of keeping your process open, and in an exciting way, a kind of spoiler free ‘DVD extras’ which comes with all of the interviews you do for bloggers, and on your own blog.

    Suffice to say there is a whole PhD chapter planned for tackling the problems/advantages of artistic IP and ideas in digital context.

  3. Michelle January 26, 2010 at 9:56 am #

    Hi Hannah,
    Thanks for sharing this – very interesting, particularly as I’m writing an article for NESTA at the moment on user-led and open innovation so I’m really keen to look at instances where openness in regard to processes is resisted and why. Have you come across Nina Simon? She’s very interesting and remarkable in her total embracing of openness around her intellectual property. She’s an expert on participation in terms of museum design and she’s currently writing a book via a completely open wiki process: really interesting to check out:

  4. Hannah January 26, 2010 at 2:14 pm #

    I think that’s a fair deal – and I think it’s a smart deal, certainly until you decide whether you want to play the academic game or not, or to what extent you do want to play it.

    We had a lot of fun when I was doing my PhD about digital publication of theses – the university has decreed that we must submit digital copies of our final theses for publication on the university’s digital repository. Whilst the basic idea of free academic information might be ‘yay’ they hadn’t really thought through issues of copyright in relation to the publication of work that had previously been considerd an ‘exam script’, and demanded that we publish in order to graduate whilst still leaving us liable in the case of any porblems. Mostly it was annoying because it meant we didn’t get to decide what we wanted to do with regard to publication of our thesis, which is a problem in an academic world that is so focused on publication, and a set model of publication. That model certainly warrants challenging and changing given the rise of digital media, but we weren’t going to get to decide if and how we challenged it.

  5. Katherine January 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    hmm- this is a tricky one, I had to keep my research to myself until after it had been marked, and then I was free to release, by which time I felt it was in need of an update.. Darn technical evolution. I’m still debating whether I should release all my papers..

    Whats your copyright? Does the uni own your research?


  6. Hannah Nicklin January 27, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    @Michelle, thanks very much for that link, will definitely check it out. Academia is very scared of openness, because it’s all about being the next step in original thinking. I sometimes wonder how much world changing collaborations are exchanged for small independently driven shifts.

    @Hannah sounds like a tough deal, it’s hard when the people in question just don’t understand it- can be just as damaging if people go wading in with other people’s content, as it is building a wall around it. Needs to be a choice.

    @Katherine I’m not sure on all the details, but my research belongs to me, but under the banner of the uni if that makes sense…

    Thanks for all your comments, people, fascinating stuff!

  7. linda nicklin January 31, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Does your research belong to you if the university is paying you to do it? There must be some ownership of the intellectual content (copyright) by you but they are on the one hand paying for research to push forward boundaries of thinking and at the same time competing for business with every other uni.You are working in a market place. Perhaps your deeper thinking in future years will be less bloggable? Still testing bondaries!!

  8. linda nicklin January 31, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Boundaries!! interesting slip??

  9. hepry July 30, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    it was very interesting to read
    I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

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