Summer 2013 update

Summer 2013 update

It’s midsummer already, and a lot is in motion. I thought I would take a moment to report on progress so far and to reflect on the whole dissertation process.

.     After having my research proposal approved in January, I felt disburdened and revitalized to launch into my dissertation plan. I began writing loose scripts for each video chapter (rationale, lit review, methodology, observations, illuminations) that I have been refining one by one as each successive video enters into production. It is important to me that the scripts are succinct and engaging in view of the format I’m working with. While PhD research is typically narrow and deep (i.e., wordy), my PhD research cannot comply with this trend; it would be brutally unwatchable and ineffective. Instead, I am using this blog to stand in for any shortfalls my video model may present. To date, I have 20 blogs (roughly 15,000 words) written on topics relating to my overarching focus, the first of five videos done and uploaded to YouTube, and plans for filming part 2 this month. In addition, I have begun to put together some shorter videos along two veins: teasers and director’s commentary. The teasers are like movie trailers that showcase the content of each video part succinctly, with the intention of arousing viewer interest in the longer versions. They communicate and summarize the gist of each video. The director’s commentary videos are also short, aiming for a minute or less, but deal with new content. Usually the impetus for my commentary (I as the director) is emergence based; I do not plan for what I might talk about, nor do I script anything. My commentaries are casual and spontaneous (i.e., often spur of the moment), yet thoughtful. For example, in the latest video, I talk about the trend of customization that has largely and ironically bypassed education, after noticing an advertisement in a magazine about customizable drink mix. The video is fairly raw, meaning minimally edited and produced, which I like because it affords me the opportunity to forge a more relaxed connection with the audience, as the onscreen personality. Also, I hope that these more amateur-looking videos may help encourage viewers (who, if anything, are most likely amateur video producers) to create and upload their own videos and participate in the conversation.
.      Here’s an example of one of the teaser videos (this one is for part 1):
[insert video]
     Here’s an example of one of the director’s commentary videos (the one I described above, about customization):

     Upon reflecting on my progress thus far, I realize it has often come in bursts and waves, working when the time is right (according to my own judgment). I am most prolific when I feel in control of what I’m doing, when I have freedom in the modes of expression and representation I can use, when I know my work will be backed by my doctoral committee, and (perhaps paradoxically) when I stop caring about what anyone else will think or say . . . in other words, when my creativity has been nurtured through autonomy, support, and lack of evaluation. When I choose to see this work through the lens of a big art project rather than the more intimidating lens of a PhD dissertation, I feel much more free and unencumbered; I trust myself that I will produce compelling, thoughtful work. On the other hand, if I choose to see my activities as a series of requirements upon which someone else will judge my approach and effectiveness, my progress is stunted and retarded. I have found that I am at my best as a learner, a researcher, and an artist when I adopt an unschooling approach to my work; that is, when I operate according to my own schedule, capitalizing on my interests and intrinsic motivation, and satisfying my own high standards. To be a PhD candidate is to be an entrepreneur—someone who defines his or her own objectives based on personal interests, identifies targets and sets their pace towards meeting those goals, who is resourceful in accessing helpful people and tools along the way, and who assesses him/herself regularly and holds him/herself accountable for getting things done. In addition, an entrepreneur often treads in unfamiliar territory and breaks new ground, which has certainly been the case in my journey (i.e., negotiating institutional definitions and traditions to reimagine contemporary scholarly activity). I believe this can and should be the modus operandi of our mainstream education system too, from kindergarten through high school and beyond.
.     If education does not empower one to think for oneself and therefore come into one’s own, it is merely, as Freire says, “pedagogy of the oppressed” (1990, n.p.). Earlier this summer I spoke on this topic while being interviewed by David Peck, a fellow PhD candidate at Guelph University, CEO at SoChange International, and the voice behind the new podcast, Face 2 Face (Peck, 2013). Face 2 Face is a talk show featuring everyday people doing interesting things. I was honoured to be a part of it. The link to our conversation (really, that’s what it was–just a chat, no editing) is below. Listeners can subscribe to Face 2 Face for free, through iTunes.
Face 2 Face Episode 25 – Rebecca Zak
  .   All in all, it has been a productive summer, but with lots left to accomplish. I’ll check back in with another progress report in about 3 months time.



Freire, P. (1990). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.

Peck, D. (Producer). (2013, 09 15). Episode 25 – rebecca zak. Face 2 Face [Audio podcast].

Raising Creativity. (2013, July 31). One-size-fits-all education ( vlog).
.       Retrieved July 31, 2013, from



Posted by Rebecca Zak

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