Maybe that should have been “blog late, blog often” after all.
It’s been a very busy week. An interview on Monday night in the city, another interview in the eastern suburbs on Tuesday morning, and a trip to Brisbane for the CRC participants meeting on Wednesday. Then back to Melbourne for a local CRC meeting on Thursday morning, a library workshop, and trying (unsuccessfully) to catch up on all the work that’s piling up.
I really enjoyed the meeting in Brisbane. I gave a short presentation about my project in the afternoon, titled Exploring Small Business use of Social Media – made up of a quick project overview, three brief case studies, and some future directions. It seemed to go down well, and sparked off some interesting conversations with other attendees during the breaks. All told, I feel much better than I did after last December’s conference…
I also got to catch up with some of the PhD students I met last year, and meet some new ones. I hope I’m not misrepresenting their projects or mispelling their names here – it’s late, and my memory is hazy. If there’s anything I should change, let me know!
Monika Kowalewski (QUT) is looking at Decision-Making in Microfinance Lending. When people with bank accounts apply for a loan, everything is very high-tech and quantitative: credit ratings and histories let the lender crunch numbers and calculate risk. For unbanked people, often in rural communities and developing countries, a “high-touch” approach is needed – taking lots of qualitative information to assess the application.
Jan Seeburger (QUT) spoke about Mobile Services for Public Places. He’s currently trialling an iTunes plugin app (letting you find out about the bands that nearby people are listening to) to explore ways of getting people to communicate in public spaces – instead of just putting in their headphones and blocking out their neighbours.
Barbara Gligorijevic (also QUT) talked about Ratings and Recommendations Websites in the Travel and Tourism Industry. She’s looking at how sites like TripAdvisor and the Lonely Planet’s Thorntree community affect decision making for online purchases, and will be branching out into other areas of the internet soon.
Jeremy Weinstein (Swinburne) is one of the newest PhD students, looking at a Collaborative Film Studio. He wants to know what tools are available to let documentary film makers collaborate online. Projects like Life in a Day (YouTube channel here) crowdsourced the filming, but still filtered it through a small group of editors. What if you could enable mass collaboration among the editors as well?
All the talk about social media and collaboration got me thinking. I keep hearing the same warning from people giving advice to students: “A PhD is a very lonely journey.” It’s hard enough when you’ve delved into a specialty, 6-12 months in. It’s worse when you’re a cross-disciplinary type, without much common ground with supervisors or co-workers. It’s even harder if, like many of the CRC group, you’re new to the country.
We’re not just trying to solve problems in an academic vacuum. We’re also learning how to enact change, and use what we know to make a difference. In my case, I’ve been helping to manage online community forums for the last decade. I’d like to start up an online community for the CRC postgrads; geographically separated, but sharing lots of common interests. Hopefully, it will get people talking outside their departments and universities; building links for future collaborations, and making friends in cities they would otherwise be strangers in.