(This post has nothing to do with awesome Swedish music videos with helmet-wearing, wrench-wielding bad guys. Sorry.)
As most of you know, I've been struggling with my writing process for the last...well, year or two. Whereas, I was once two years ahead of schedule in the program, I am now behind. I'm not sure I've ever felt like such a failure in my whole life.
How did it happen? Well, I have to admit that the dissertation process has been a bit of a blur but I think it goes a little something like this: 1) propose an obvious comfortable topic that seems easy enough to write about; 2) begin to suspect that writing about reality TV from a cultural studies perspective isn't the smartest idea you've ever had; 3) write the history of reality TV and its connection to liveness thinking it'll be useful no matter what; 4) declare cultural studies is dead (about a decade late); 5) climb on the bandwagon and succumb to the sexiness of new media; 6) admit that you know nothing about new media except that myspace is still better than facebook even if no one uses it anymore; 7)write an introductory chapter connecting reality TV and new media; 8) realize that you still don't know why it matters that they're connected; 9) work on connecting them but become convinced that non of it fucking matters; 10) think that maybe Phd's are overrated and suspect that you are, indeed, incapable of writing a dissertation; 11) read a short, provocative article that changes your entire way of thinking; 11) write chair in an elated frenzy, convinced that you may be able to do this after all; 12) to which she says, "Yes! Do it! (translation: please write something!); and 13) finally, get most of a preliminary outline done to send out to committee so they see that I've done something and will continue to do so and hope they don't kick me out.
That has, in essence, been the trajectory of this dissertation process up to this point. Now, I'm starting on chapter 1 all over again, so I can send out a draft of it by the end of this month--with the goal of getting 3 chapter done in the next 4 months. It's the only way I'll make it to the job market this year.
And, while the timeline and the very task of writing a dissertation are extremely daunting, this is the first time during this whole debacle that I've actually felt good. I'm excited about the new angle and I have some clarity--I visualize what a completed dissertation would look like. And it looks fun. Something I can't ever remember talking about with other academics.
Basically, I've decided to take game studies focus on play and apply it to reality TV. Reality TV does two things really well: 1) it gets people to ask themselves what they would do in that situation, and 2) it is fun. When you combine these two things, it seems obvious to me that the genre effectively gets people to play along through a variety of rhetorical strategies and supplementary texts. And, if we can play with a traditional text like a TV show, what are the repurcussions for other texts? Texts in the classroom? Student writing?
Anyway, that's where I'm at now. We'll see where it leads and how it plays out.
Hopefully, it leads to about 200 pages...*fingers crossed*