Some thesis issues and a conference review

by ninashiel

The past few months have been busy, but I am fairly certain at this stage that this is the natural state of things, when you’re writing a thesis, conference papers, applying for travel grants, researching, travelling and marking essays in quick succession. I have made some progress in that I finished a draft of my third chapter, but following feedback from my supervisor yesterday, it seems that some fairly substantial revision is required. I may even opt for some restructuring of the thesis itself as a result, but I will think on it for a while yet. I fully admit that I’m not great at taking criticism at the best of times, but, somehow, I emerged out of the meeting feeling only positively challenged. Certainly, it is annoying to have to rework and restructure material I thought I was done with for now, but it is clear that that reworking will lead to a better thesis in the end. If I go for the restructure I have in mind, it may even help me solve some structural problems I have been struggling with for a while when planning the subsequent chapters. I am quite surprised at my own positive reaction, but I think that it only goes to reinforce the fact that this – literature and tech – is very much my thing and I want to be as good at it as I can possibly be. 

Last week I attended a conference at the University of Tampere titled Narrative Minds and Virtual Worlds. My own paper concerned the second person narrative technique and the sense of immersion it helps to create. I presented examples from John Redmond’s poem ‘MUDe’, Charles Stross’ novel Halting State and Jennifer Egan’s short story ‘Black Box’. I called such recent works ludic texts, as they are inspired, in many instances, by computer games, and typically involve the reader assuming the role of one or more characters in the text. Unfortunately my session was scheduled at the only time as two other parallel sessions – the rest of the time only two sessions rather in parallel – so I missed out on some very interesting and relevant papers. That is, however, conference reality.

The conference was interdisciplinary, with most papers coming from literary or game studies background, but social studies were also represented here and there. The keynote speakers were Marie-Laure Ryan, who is one of the primary theorists in my own thesis, and Jarmila Mildorf. I was particularly happy to meet Dr Ryan. Her keynote was very interesting and thought-provoking, although she focused on her take on the possible worlds -approach, which is not directly relevant to my own research. She also touched on transmedia, which is starting to appeal to me more and more. Perhaps something for the post-doc….

I was very impressed with the conference organisation. Everything ran on time, there were no great technological issues that I saw, and the food served at the reception was delicious, substantial and visually appealing. I would be very happy to visit the University of Tampere again, which is just as well, as it seems that the current academic interest in Finland matches my own to a great extent. I have seen a number of announcements for conferences and other events related to digital literature and other humanities and visual and textual studies. However, I already have two other conferences coming up this year, so if I want to make progress in the now restructured thesis, I will have to refrain from too many distractions for the rest of the year.

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