Re-shaping the thesis 02

Defining terms used in the thesis
Defining terms used in the thesis

Gesture Movement made by a physical or biological entity

Line Mark that traces a gesture

Energy Force exerted by interactions between physical and biological systems

Environment System of physical and biological energies known through hard data sets and human expressions of connection to it

Community People who share knowledge of an environment

Environment encompassing the Antarctic continent, Southern Ocean and subantarctic islands

Word Physical manifestation of a mental construct arising originally from human gesture made in response to energy perceived as it flows within environments

Take care!

‘If we turn our regard for nature more and more into clever philosophical word games, if we begin to think that we are intellectually creating nature rather than physically participating in it, we are in danger of losing sight of the real wolves being shot by real bullets from real aeroplanes, of real trees being clearcut, of real streams being polluted by real factories.’
Bryant (1995)

From the Dedication preceding Hayden Grinling Washington’s thesis, The Wilderness Knot, University of Western Sydney 2006

On Wed, 26 Aug 2009 17:47:11 +1000 Simon Pockley responds to some questions:

1. Field of View (Frame) and the Problem.

This will hold the Lit. Review, including readings of my interviews with Antarctic researchers that convinced me that human gesture and line can be used in animation to connect humanity with the reality of global changes that are signaled by the Antarctic environment. (HYPOTHESIS)

Be careful of merging too many things. At the outset you have anchored your project in a personal story (that’s good). This story should lead into the area you are working in and allow you to succinctly (expanded in the Lit. Review) arrive at the problem you are addressing.

It might be better to present the Literature Review (shoulders you stand on) as a distinct section with a more intense/expanded justification of that fact that this is a serious area of study and that you are well aware of the work that has preceded your own.

To set the scene and demonstrate my general understanding of the fields within which Antarctic Animation is located, I will briefly write about how scientists and artists have described the
Environment and Climate Change. I will focus mainly on Antarctic arts and science.

I will chuck out what does not relate to the hypothesis.

Reviews of texts will be kept that explain how similar or different they are, in content or method, from what I proposed to contribute to the field of Antarctic arts.

If you’ve described the works in the Lit review section then it will be enough to refer to this section when you come to write about how you went about making your own work (methodology) and, at the end, when you write about the impact of your work.

3. Significance

I cannot see how to build this into a whole chapter. I can’t see how it fits with any of my existing chapter headings. Perhaps you don’t mean this to be a chapter?

Yeah! I agree that it would be hard to write a whole section on
significance without it turning into a rant. But somewhere near the start you need to have at least a paragraph on why the gestural dimension is important and what it might add to understanding.

Thinking about this now, I can see this (discussion of gestural dimension with examples) becoming a part of your Lit. review. You could go as far as identifying it as a form of epistemology (way of
knowing) with an attendant body of theory – but you might not want to go there. But it’s worth a look….

You suggested that this bucket include responses to the animations (arranged within a taxonomy as discussed on Sunday). But it seems inappropriate to discuss these here before explaining what was made, and how it was made. Should this go into Methods, or as an independent chapter between Methods and Findings?

I agree…

4. Methods

My understanding is that this will include Foundation Work and New Work. Right?

Yes but the focus is how you went about doing it rather than what you did. Keep what you did for the findings.

5. Findings

I understand that this will include be equivalent to the purpose of Discussing and Concluding.

Maybe you could include a detailed description of the work you’ve made (for the doctorate) in the findings. Then move to the responses.

If in doubt, follow your instincts.


6 Replies to “Re-shaping the thesis 02”

  1. Hi Lisa!
    I am a bit concerned that you are sticking so closely to the ‘Science Model’ of thesis writing. Is it really appropriate to the kind of research and output you are producing? This idea that a thesis has to have sections on ‘significance’ and ‘methodology’ and ‘results’ rarely fits with a humanities thesis, and forcing work into these categories can really just end up looking artificial, I think. My thesis had a first chapter that included a Lit. Rev., but also just told the story of my explorer, his expedition, what happened to him in his old age, etc. The next chapters then told what was going on in the West and in Japan at the time, that influenced the rise of the Heroic Era, and the longevity or otherwise of the heroic status of explorers of that time. I then drew it all together in the Conclusion. So there was no ‘methodology’ discussed, nor a self-conscious ‘Results’, or any of that kind of stuff that fits the experimental model. Do you see what I mean? I would much prefer to read something that simply followed a logical pattern for the subject matter, than something forced to conform to a rigid, pre-conceived, structure.

    But hey! That’s just my idea! What do I know? – I haven’t even heard back from my examiners yet!!
    All I am saying is, don’t let anyone force you into thinking you have to conform to some fixed way of writing a thesis; at least at my university, most of the humanities students are ignoring the ‘science thesis’ model!
    As the man says, ‘Follow your instincts’!

    Good luck!


  2. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for these observations and concerns.

    I agree that humanitarian scholars need not follow the traditional scientific thesis model. However, I find this structure egalitarian. Its logical form can bridge gaps in understanding between scientists and artists.

    Antarctica can be described through animations that combine objective and subjective responses. Both ways of perceiving Antarctica exist within the arts and sciences.

    In my thesis I tell how Antarctica has been perceived and described by scientists and artists, and how, since the advent of satellite imagery, Antarctica can be perceived as a dynamic ecosystem that drives global environmental change.

    The view of Antarctica from space can also evoke aesthetic responses. When contemplating NASA’s sequences of sea ice extending and retreating, for example, connections can be drawn to the rhythm of human breath.

    Such empathic, visceral connections to Antarctica can lead to understandings of the Gaia and Indigenous views that the environment is a whole living organism.

    My thesis will be assessed by scientists and artists, so I follow a traditional thesis structure, and tell a story.

    I tell how other artists worked with me to describe Antarctica through gestures and line drawings, and how these were combined with scientific data sets to create animations for on-line access.

    The animations aim to connect people to changes that are signaled by Antarctic arts and sciences.

    I see value in describing how the animations were made (in a chapter on Methods). This may provoke other people to make more.

  3. Hi Lisa,

    I can see both points of view but lean toward more what Ben says and because we are artists as well.

    I am having similar conundrums because I am using a model which comes from RMIT using practice based research as the container of the information. I am all for challenging the scientific model but am coming up against some opposition from supervisors as well. It is not hard and fast opposition but most of the arguments lean towards using the scientific model for a PHD dissertation.

    I have expressed these thoughts with the Learning Assistance Centre as well because they are finding it difficult ( or I find it difficult to understand them) in discussing alternate models, with artists as their clients, who are different again from Humanities students in that we are presenting artifacts as the ‘findings’ of our research. I guess we need more artists pursuing a PhD so that alternate models can be defined and are more relevant to what is happening in artistic practice.

    Another model is the Doctor of Creative Arts which seems to have disappeared from the scene. This is where you document your artistic practice through exhibitions and reviews of them over the three-four year period.

    Not sure where this is going or will end up.

    take care,


  4. Good Lisa – I like the way you are trying to ‘bridge the gap’. So long as you are consciously choosing to use the scientific thesis model, and not just being pushed into it because ‘this is the way we write theses’, I am sure you are going to make a great success of it.
    Good luck!


  5. Thanks for your comments Peter.

    When I realised that the scientific method is actually just another methodology, or world view, I could progress more happily with the traditional thesis structure.

    Yes, our art works express our findings, and are in a sense our results. However, the works need to be explained, as much as possible, in words because only we know their intentions, and how they came to be. The thesis structure demands information to help future researchers pick up where we left off. So we need to explain how far we came to achieving our intentions, and how we went about finding out how to achieve them.

    I find the traditional thesis structure helps me organise these kinds of thoughts in simple language.

    Academic writing demands cool linear thinking. Art making demands immersive, circuitous, and passionate feeling.

    Good creative writers find a balance between both. Finding this balance is very challenging for visual artists!

    Right now I am visually mapping out how to write my ‘New work’, or ‘Results’ chapter. I have started a new page on my website to help me identify recurring ideas:

    There’s still a way to go!

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Posted on Sunday, August 30th, 2009