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Nov 20, 2009



Warning: Pregnant women, the elderly, and children under 10 should avoid prolonged exposure to Your Dissertation Committee. Caution: Your Dissertation Committee may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds. Your Dissertation Committee contains a liquid core, which, if exposed due to rupture, should not be touched, inhaled, or looked at. Do not use Your Dissertation Committee on concrete. Discontinue use of Your Dissertation Committee if any of the following occurs: itching, vertigo, dizziness, tingling in extremities, loss of balance or coordination, slurred speech, temporary blindness, profuse sweating, heart palpitations. If Your Dissertation Committee begins to smoke, get away immediately. Seek shelter and cover head. Your Dissertation Committee may stick to certain types of skin. When not in use, Your Dissertation Committee should be returned to its special container and kept under refrigeration. Failure to do so relieves the makers of Your Dissertation Committee, Wacky Products Incorporated, and its parent company, Global Chemical Unlimited, of any and all liability. Ingredients of Your Dissertation Committee include an unknown glowing green substance which fell to Earth, presumably from outer space. Your Dissertation Committee has been shipped to our troops in Saudi Arabia and is being dropped by our warplanes on Iraq.

Do not taunt Your Dissertation Committee.

Your Dissertation Committee comes with a lifetime warranty.


Seriously, though. References to "Happy Fun Ball" notwithstanding, I totally agree with you.

I don't know if you know Bryan Alexander's blog, Infocult (http://infocult.typepad.com/about.html), but he watches a lot of the "fearsome Internet" meme. Techno-gothic, even. There are so many examples of people maligning various newer media without regard for any of the underlying or associated behaviors.

Here's something that's helped me in the past when dealing with folks who, specifically, don't understand playing an MMO or RPGs or having fun in a virtual world. I ask them to imagine a particular game... It goes like this:

Imagine a game that connects directly to your mind, and where you are completed controlled by the system. Every thought, every picture, every sound is given to you; you get to do nothing on your own. You may be tossed from one area to another without warning. You may, one moment, be given a view that is almost god-like in its expanse, and, the next, be experiencing everything from the narrow point-of-view of a particular character. You have no control over pacing. You have two options at any given moment; quit, or keep going to the end. When it's over, if you want to play it again, it's the exact same thing.

I usually get the response, "That sounds like a *hideous* game! Why would anyone play it! What's it called, anyway?"

Answer: a novel.

Seriously. If you can't get enough distance from media to understand that immersing yourself in a written book can be seen as just as much [all the bad things they say about games], you need to study something else.

Rock on with your happy self.


Lisa, I seriously cheered and threw horns when I read this (thankfully I wasn't in class at the time). I have the immense good fortune of a supportive, progressive committee, and knowing that good people at Arizona State have my back is making my life a lot easier.

http://johncartermcknight.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/a-concerned-alumnus/>I'm about to become a lightning rod for this sort of controversy, teaching a law class using World of Warcraft next semester. I'm glad I don't have to do it alone, and I hope you have a strong network of peers to make up for your committee's manifold shortcomings.

Stick to your guns. You're *right,* and you clearly have a promising future ahead of you, unlike the world's ankle-biters and hand-wringers.


Here in Hungary we have an, maybe, even more annoying "meme": that is when someone researches videogames, they affect her so much that she is not able to be reflective any more. I've met this preconception a lot of times, but I was a little bit surprised when 2 days ago, after speaking 20 minutes of why the actual standards histories are communicated to players in MMOs _fail_ to provide a historical experience, one of my teachers at the doctoral school warned me this way.


LOL, thanks for this perspective!


What?!! Apologies, hon, but that's a little crazy. So we've all caught videogame-itis, and it's not curable? Get out your face masks, people.

Love Buda and Pest, btw. Awesome towns.


Thank you! Glad to know I am not crazy. What a weird world we live in.


An honest observation - if you go in "balls blazing" to any fight like this, you're going to get yourself killed. You're battling the ideas of an entrenched majority of thinkers, and they're raising question that concern their status-quo. Your answers are, to them, terrifying.

Your passion is admirable, but it does come across as passion, and thus is easily dismissed as youthful energy.

In confronting the established, be clinical. Be as rigid and unmoving in your position as they are. Be sure. Passion will not shake their confidence. Sureness will.

Your goal is to undermine the foundations that they rely on, and to ultimately make them grateful for you doing so. Not an easy task.

I wish you the best of luck. It can be done.


Hey Lisa,
Are you certain this is not just your review panel being contrary? It would not be the first (nor the last) panel for whom their idea of providing a defense of your dissertation is to play an absolute Devil's Advocate that you have to fight against.

Has your thesis adviser given any indication that he/she thinks the panel really feels this way, or are just trying to unsettle you?

I would disagree with Nick about going in all guns blazing. You're there to defend your work, come hell or high water, and building a robust defense, and even some sort of offense, is A Good Thing!

EDIT: Pfft, TypePad munged my name :)

Chris Lewis


I can't download your pdf from link. Can you show another link where to download your dissertation??
Thank in advance.


I agree about being positive, but did you involved Godwin's law in the second paragraph?


Szonja Odrovics>Here in Hungary we have an, maybe, even more annoying "meme": that is when someone researches videogames, they affect her so much that she is not able to be reflective any more.

Do they have any evidence for this?

If so, they may wish to write a paper for DiGRA, where this year there was much discussion as to whether NOT playing games ruled you out of being able to write about them...

Don't worry, the people who hold these views will eventually get old and die. 30 years from now, it'll all be just fine.



haha, thanks, Richard, the problem is some of them are only 5-10 years older than me, so I guess it's better to fight this battle somehow:)


Fantastic piece. I feel like it addresses a pretty serious myopia we've all been subjected to at one point or another. Best of luck on the defense!


Szonja Odrovics>the problem is some of them are only 5-10 years older than me, so I guess it's better to fight this battle somehow:)

Hmm, well unless Hungary has unusually weak murder laws, yes, it looks as if you have a fight on your hands there.



Oops, better diss link here...


Teh awesum!!1! I'm going to call this the Galarneau Manifesto. Quite a cri de coeur!


Good post.


I dwell in challenging dominant discourse(s).

I just finished my dissertation as well.

Field:Education, Title: Learning in the Wild of a Virtual World. :)

All in all I had a great committee, but in the end several wanted me to imply things I did not want to imply. They needed me to say something "to schooling, to teachers in classrooms." Neither sat well with me; I don't schools, as they are, as particularly effective locations of learning.

The issue as I see it, is similar to what the Other Nick said. Be conscious of the fact that you are challenging discourses. The more established they are the harder it is to get a word in edgewise.

One strategy I'm taking is to seek out transdisciplinary-minded people and projects. I mean they have their own agendas as well, but I think they are by nature a disruptive breed.

I also find the thinking in Europe more aligned with mine. The U.S. is excessively bottom-line oriented so that in a field like education, there's always got to be an application for your research.

ThinkingOutloud ~~Suzanne


Nice and honest!


meh, it's the committee asserting its academic ego. most of my colleagues know less about social media 'n such than my daughter. oh wait, that's the point, isn't it? you challenge their expertise and yet have no "credentials." [were this a WoW game i'd say they're lvl 60s who don't realize the game goes to 80 now. that was for the gamer comments from Hungary.] sadly, i have on more than one occasion told a doc stu to suck it up, jump through the hoop, and then go write the book/article.


Unlike your other commentators, I'll offer a contrary opinion. To start, you're defending a dissertation. The committee members are supposed to pick apart your work. That's their job. It's definitely not an exercise in confidence building, and no, you don't get a pass on anything. You're attempting to earn -- not be given or granted -- a significant academic credential, and the faculty are the gatekeepers. Rail against that fact if you want, but if you don't want your Ph.D. to be meaningless, like the course credits and degrees granted on the spurious strength of life experience at the Univ. of Phoenix, then recognize that you don't get to define the rules of the game.

As to your statement, it's clumsily written and an utterly ineffective argument. Demanding rights is a total misconceptualization of what scholarship is about. You also admit your bias, dismiss your detractors out of hand, and still claim to have scholarly rigor. I don't think so. Further, I downloaded your dissertation and read the abstract. It fails to state your thesis with any clarity or any conclusions, though you found a few rhetorical flourishes to fill space. I gather your study is something about the takeaway from engagement in social media. I stopped perusing with the first page of background, which is also poorly written.

To the amazement you express so liberally I'll add my own amazement that the response to your difficulties was to make a public statement, more more likely, an appeal to your online peers, who clearly share your notion that you're the victim of some academic conspiracy. As a scholar, all you can ever do is put your work out there for evaluation, whether by teachers, your own students (if you ever teach), and members of the public like me who stumble across your writing. I promise you'll learn the most from your harshest critics, if you can avoid taking it personally or shooting the messenger.


I fully admit that I was ranting in frustration, and was turning to TN in hopes that my gut reactions would be confirmed or otherwise. I am genuinely confused by these expectations that I am held to, but which are so counter-intuitive to me. Furthermore, I think of TN as a forum in which I am free to explore such conundrums with the collective brain, and I expect that I don't always have to be neat and proper. Sometimes I write things at 5 am, and since I am an imperfect human, my rants are not always perfect. I am trying to do better. Also, the blogger in me is merely an informal scholar; I would argue that TN is an informal scholarly venue, a mental workspace of sorts. Sorry for my sloppiness.

This is the first time I have heard that my work is 'so poorly written', but thank you for the feedback.

Perhaps I won't share as openly in the future; it's too bad that flaming has this effect.


P.S. I am no sort of conspiracy theorist, merely a questioner of established memes and traditions, some of which are rooted in various disciplinary discourses, dogma, rhetoric, or in generational differences. I brought this up because of the intimation that something was fundamentally missing if I didn't explore the dark side. I'm not sure if that is fair, and simply wished to understand if the demand for balance is integral to rigorous scholarship, or rooted in some other expectations. However, the defense went very well, and the questions were posed thoughtfully and diplomatically, so I ultimately found the discussion, in fact, productive, and I don't mind explaining why I choose not to focus heavily on the negative.


Lisa, I cringed at some of what Brutus wrote but I wouldn't exactly characterize it as a "flame". More importantly, I think he's largely right. It's no fun to say so because I mostly agree with your point-of-view.

The two substantial criticisms are, I think, that your public statement is inappropriate and counter-productive, and that it is poorly written. I haven't looked at your dissertation but your writing here made Brutus's claim about the problems with the writing in your dissertation credible to me. Hopefully, he's mistaken and you've prepared it with much, much more care.

But that leaves the more important criticism about the way in which you're responding to what you perceive as provocations by the committee. I think it would be a grave mistake to repeat what you wrote to the committee. Perhaps that is not your intention. Nevertheless, it reveals a very defensive attitude that won't serve you well. ("Defensive", of course, in its common and not most literal usage.) With the attitudes your committee has already displayed, it's obvious that you come into this with a certain credibility deficit. Being passionate and defensive will, to their minds, validate this bias. You really need to play, and beat them, at their own game.


As to flaming, I held back quite a bit and tried to offer something constructive. I could easily have gone nuclear. It's unclear whether you have taken my criticisms to heart or are merely playing nice. No matter.

I agree that a blog is less formal than academic writing. However, even when writing informally, the best blogs are always extremely well written and have colorful allusions, insights, and frequently a sense of play. That's a very difficult standard to keep, no less than bulletproof academic writing (or any other style of professional writing). I'm a harsher critic than most with respect to writing, and yes, I often fail on my own blog.

All that said, I'm glad your dissertation defense was a success. One last piece of advice (worth only the price of few pixels, no doubt): admitting that academic standards and/or expectations are genuinely confusing might be honest, but it beggars further examination for a doctoral candidate not to see the big picture.


Thanks for the additional note. I have been thinking a lot about this (and kmellis' comments)... thought you were a bit harsh about the writing. But I recognize that my 'statement' wasn't a good idea. In my mind, I was sharing some frustration with friends, but I can see that wasn't clear. I don't actually know all of you, and frankly, I don't know TN's character all that much anymore.

A little more context: I was putting this out there (pre-exam)to TN because I genuinely needed some help understanding how to position my responses. These are questions that have been vexing me for years. As for why I posted: I did all my graduate work remotely, so TN has been a useful sounding board forum for such mental confusion. As you suggest, I needed some help understanding whether my particular big picture (do have one) is acceptable (even if only within my chosen disciplines).

Whew! Done for now. Glad we can be friends.


Thanks a lot.Good information...


Lisa --

Just to expand a bit on what I said above, I took this as venting, not an exercise in formal argument. And it is particularly eloquent venting directed at an appropriate (in my subjective opinion) target.

Sure, there are risks in speaking out about this. I'm sure you understand that professors often don't take well to criticism, esp. criticism that suggests a prevalent bias within a particular discipline. But those kinds of biases do exist and speaking truth to power, while not always strategic, is refreshing. Calling things how you see them is supposed to be what academic discourse is about. Consider Galileo.

You are an informed techno-optimist and that's great. You've weighed the critical counter-points, so you've earned the right to have an opinion. The techno-pessimist position is certainly dominant in the humanities literature and it is often accompanied by a lack of first-hand experience of online culture. If you want to buck the trend and not harp on the various ways that technology can enable the oppression and exploitation of online communities, I think that's great. Tools have multiple uses. You've got a different story to tell about these tools, so you should tell it.


I'd be counting myself lucky that the worst they can do is make a fallacious appeal to emotion. Unfortunately responding in kind (a counter-emotional appeal, if you will) is exactly the wrong thing to do, IMO. Your complaints about media studies and threatening to go elsewhere are basically a guilt trip and really weaken the strength of your statement... Focus on the strength and rigors of your study (10,000 sample size), the weakness and dogma of the opposing view and almost equally importantly the strength of your prose. I can't even parse the following sentence and the last bolded bit doesn't make sense even on its own:

But I am an unabashed techno-optimist, and I think our populous is becoming much more capable and empowered and broadly literate via these technological vehicles and venues, and I think that should be allowed with some suggestion that my decision to focus on what I believe to be the truth is somehow lacking.

Above all else, persevere!


a. In the departments I'm familiar with, examiners see it as their duty to give the candidate a hard time over every fault they can find in the dissertation, so don't feel too hard done by.

b. From reading your statement, I get the feeling that your examiners may be right, and your dissertation might contain too much "techo-optimism" without responding to contrary views.

Without having read your dissertation, I can think of at least two ways you can handle the issue:

1. Declare the goodness or badness of the Internet/computer games/virtual worlds to be outside the scope of your dissertation. "Whether they are good or bad, what I want to talk about is *this* aspect of them, which I have studied in detail"

2. If you going to argue in your dissertation that virtual worlds (or whatever) are a Good Thing, the academically respectable approach would be to explain why some people think they're not a Good Thing, and why your research leads you to disagree with them.


"why is my work considered faulty because I believe in focusing (while explaining rather comprehensively, I think) on ..."

As Susan said: b'coz you "believe" . Oh and you should consider also the possibility that you're simply wrong by fighting for a lost cause. Or case. Some things are right and some are not. While somebody could argue/argument the possibility of various -including economic- values arising from tech and internet, nobody can dismiss the fact that the lifetime is a limited item.

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