Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

I went to a conference in Limerick…

I went to a conference in Limerick

To hear about matters academic

There were talks about dancing

And songs quite entrancing

But writing it up is no pic-er-nic!

I’m now on my way back from the ICTM Conference at the University of Limerick, and I know for a fact that I’m not the only academic who should know better to have committed the experience to five-line verse, proving in the process that we really ought to stick to what we know about.  (It’s irresistible, somehow.)  Limerick is an interesting and attractive city, and well worth a visit.  The university is on a large and very scenic campus at the edge of the city.  The campus straddles the river Shannon, and includes several substantial bridges, including the ‘bridge of life’ – a winding footbridge whose end can’t be seen from its beginning.  It’s functional and philosophical at the same time.

Bridge of Life

Part of the Bridge of Life at the University of Limerick

My real reason for being in Limerick was to present a paper as part of a panel with two colleagues from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario; Margaret Walker and Gordon Smith.  Our panel was called “Imagined Borders and Unexpected Intersections:  Exploring Musical Legacies in Three Communities”.  Margaret and Gordon reported on work they have been doing on various aspects of multicultural music-making in Kingston, Ontario and in Nova Scotia.  You can find more information about their work here and here.  My presentation summarised my Ph.D work on dance bands in Chester and North Wales, and outlining my future research plans, relating to 3D virtual reality presentation of historical information.

As well as taking part in the panel presentation, I also attended other talks on (for instance) the physics of Spanish bagpipes, computer-based movement analysis of Tango Argentino, and the transmission of music traditions in Uganda, and made contacts with people working in related fields all over the world.  All of these gave me ideas and sources which I expect will be useful in my own work in future.  Travelling to an overseas conference is hard work (even once you’ve been accepted, and found funding), but very worthwhile.



Searching for the VR Ballroom

It’s been a very busy 12 months or so since my last posting.  As well as all the usual teaching activities, I’ve been involved with the launch of the Digital Humanities Research Centre here at Chester.  I’m working on a couple of funding proposals with colleagues in the DHRC, of which more later (we hope!), and have at last started to find a more definite post-Ph.D. direction for my own research activities, in collaboration with colleagues in the Department of Computer Science.  Digital Humanities is definitely starting to look like my natural research home, even though it has been a long and winding road to get there, so my first presentation for the CS department seminar series was on how I came to be ‘The Accidental Digital Humanist‘.

I’m currently deep into this summer’s research activities.  I’ll be presenting a paper at the ICTM World Conference at Limerick in July, and have just had a poster paper accepted for the Cyberworlds 2017 International Conference at Chester in September.  Both of them refer to initial work on a virtual reality reconstruction of one of the River Park Ballroom, which was an important music venue in Chester in the mid-20th century, but was demolished in the 1960s and replaced by an office building.  My colleague Lee Beever has used images, data and music from my dance bands research to create an initial 3D impression of the ballroom.  It’s very early days, and the reconstruction lacks colour and animation at the moment; these are things which in different ways will take more time, money and effort than we have had available so far to add, but the ability to see (and hear) the ballroom from different angles is already there.  I’m looking forward to doing more work on this in the future.

Pruning Infinity

Although it can seem like a straitjacket at times, one of the positive things about being deep into a major project like a Ph.D. thesis is that it forces you to focus – and the further you get into the process, the more you have to put interesting but irrelevant new ideas to one side, and concentrate on the job in hand.  

I actually found this restriction quite useful, as it helped me to concentrate my efforts on producing tangible results, rather than being constantly distracted by the latest novel idea to pop up in my Twitter feed. I have what have politely been referred to as ‘a very broad range of interests’, (a.k.a., a butterfly mind), and now that my Ph.D. is complete, the temptation to overcompensate for all that focus and discipline by trying to investigate everything I come across, simultaneously, is quite large. Given infinite time and resources, I would already have started research projects on knitting carbon fibre, visualising vocal cords, teaching maths and programming through dance, and the social history of pollution – and those are just for starters. I would also be learning R, Python, FORTRAN & Smalltalk, along with Chinese, French, German and Spanish, and ballroom dancing.  That’s tonight’s list, anyhow. It’ll be different tomorrow.

In a way, this is good news. I rarely have a problem coming up with lists of things I would like to know more about, or do better. I am perpetually curious and I enjoy learning. The tricky bit is finding a way of applying that curiosity to things my employer is willing and able to pay me to do. That means topics which have funding available, and topics which fit into departmental or institutional priorities. It also means focusing on things I’m actually reasonably good at. That immediately shortens the list: the number of things that I’m both good at and interested in, which also overlap with my faculty’s research strategy, is actually quite small.  I know this, because ever since last summer I’ve been pursuing what was effectively a small-scale research project to work out what my next research project(s) will be. As far as I know right now, knitting carbon fibre and dancing wave functions haven’t made the cut. 

Maybe next year…?

Posted January 3, 2016 by HVS in Research

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