Posts Tagged ‘university’

It’s been a while since I did a blog but I do have what people will see as a good reason. As part of my dissertation at university I have to do a literature review of any relevant literature and it’s not as easy as it sounds! Reading through pages and pages of academic literature takes its toll on your brain and your sanity. Making endless notes and re-reading to make sure you haven’t missed the all-important word that could make a difference strains not only your brain but your eyes too. But having said all that it is very interesting and rewarding on many levels.

For many students the word dissertation strikes fear into them. It is the same for many employees who are asked to compile a report on their competitor’s latest product or last week’s sales figures. Where do I start! At the beginning. Sounds easy enough and for some reports it is. You will have a start point already made for you. For other reports and for a dissertation it is not so easy. My advice is to find a significant point in time to focus on and to remember that you can go back before this point as well as forwards after it too. The point provides a reference for you to focus on and to start your dissertation or report from.

As part of my dissertation I have to apply a sociological theory to my work. This is because I am studying sociology and my dissertation needs to reflect that. The theory I have chosen is that of habitus and capital from the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. I have chosen Bourdieu’s work because I am interested in how power is controlled and maintained within society and within certain groups. Some groups appear to have a lot of power, others none at all. But who decides who has the power and how it is distributed amongst society? How do the powerful maintain their power? What are the subtle signs within society that many of us are exposed to from an early age that influence our perceptions of power? There are many signs that influence our decision on who are powerful and why. Bourdieu classed them as Social Capital, Cultural Capital, Economic Capital and Symbolic Capital. We are exposed to these forms of Capital from the day we are born and continue to be exposed to them till the day we die.

Many of them are so familiar to us that we don’t even notice them anymore. Statues looking down at us from on high signifying power in one form or another. If you do as well as me you may too get a statue made of you they seem to tell us as we walk by. This signifies power and who has it. If you read the plinth it may tell you why they earnt this power, in battle, in politics or maybe for writing or painting. Either way it signifies what constitutes power in society and why. Are we meant to bow down to this form of power, aspire to it or both? Either way it tells us who are the powerful and why on a daily basis.

Every day we are exposed to Economic Capital with endless news reports of sporting superstars earning vast amounts of money, companies making billions of billions of pounds of profit while still increasing prices but telling us that we should be grateful to them for providing us with energy, housing, food and other commodities at vastly inflated prices. We get told that these sporting superstars are worth every penny but is that for their talent or for the immense revenue and profits they generate from companies around the world?

Speaking of brands they enter into our Symbolic and Cultural capital unnoticed. Just think of McDonalds, Adidas, Ford and Apple to name a few. They and many others have entered into our Symbolic and Cultural society naturally and now all we have to do is see a product of theirs and we immediately know who made it, how much it cost, where it was made and based on this information we make assumptions about people. If we take the example of Ford we may assume that this person is at the lower end of the economic scale and so doesn’t have much spare cash. Compared to someone who is driving a Porsche or a Ferrari we would assume that they are at the other end of the economic scale and are very wealthy. Both examples could be wrong. The Ford driver could be rich but likes to save his pennies whilst the Porsche driver could have hired it for the day just to experience what it is like to own one.

But the point still stands that we give these products such Symbolic and Cultural capital and this is so ingrained within our natural psyche that we don’t even register the assumptions we are making about the people who use these products. We have subconsciously given these products and by association the people who use them Symbolic and Cultural capital and therefore power. With regards to this power we may position ourselves above them if we feel we have more power than them or below them if we feel we have less power than them.

This power is then transferred into where we stand within society. Someone viewed with low power will have a low social standing within society and viewed as not making much of a contribution to the running of society. On the other hand someone viewed as having high power will have a high social standing within society and viewed as having made a greater contribution to the running of that society. High power also brings more opportunities to maintain and exploit this power to the full. Once people have this power they do not want to give it up and will keep it for themselves only transferring it to their next of kin. This then maintains the status quo of the elite and any new members must have sufficient Social, Cultural, Symbolic and Economic capital of their own in order for them to join the club.

I will stress now that these are my thoughts and I am probably repeating the thoughts and ideas of many who have gone before me. This is also a very complex branch of sociology to get to grips with and a blog such as this does not have the space or scope needed to explore Bourdieu in sufficient depth and breadth. I just hope I’ve given you something to think about next time you look around at all the cultural symbols that surround you in your life.

Thanks for reading and take care 🙂

This week I’ve changed the title of my blog slightly to better reflect the content. As some of you will have noticed parts of my blog are about life at uni, whereas other parts are about anything on my mind!

This week has been a largely uneventful week at uni for me. I missed the ‘Film and Cinema’ lecture on Monday morning because I was poorly. Tuesday I didn’t have a lecture so my first trip to uni was Thursday afternoon for ‘Men, Masculinity and Crime’. The lecture this week consisted of watching the film ‘Fightclub’ and analysing the film. For me the film was all about finding your identity and that applies equally to males and females and the rejection of the consumerist society we live in. the film went back to a more basic way of living where it seems it was easier to create an identity for yourself because you had less fingers pointing at you from all directions and corners of society telling you what you had to wear, what to watch, what sport to play and on and on and on, in order to be considered a woman or a man. The film seemed to go back to the caveman era and showed the base emotions of society as the foundation for the building and maintaining of an identity. I feel that many films are like ‘Fightclub’ in that there is often a hidden message underneath the plotline and it is up to the individual to find that message, make sense of it and reflect on how they live their lives in comparison. Quite often I think many people watch a film purely for entertainment without looking deeper and finding the meaning and message in the film. They watch the film for pleasure noticing only the car chases, fights and explosions without seeing the life messages behind them.

Which leads me neatly onto my next ‘the media’ as studied in the lecture ‘Representing the Social’. This module gets you thinking about the world we all inhabit and looking at it differently. This week was about one of my favourite subjects the media. The media affects all of us whether we like it or not. From the traditional forms of media such as books, newspapers, radio and television to the new forms such as Facebook, Twitter and the internet itself we are constantly surrounded by the media and therefore media representations of life, society and the world. The main question for many academics is ‘does the media represent or construct society’?

If you ask anyone who is connected to the media they will tell you that they are merely reflecting on what goes on in society and the audience can pick and choose what it watches or reads and therefore make reasoned choice about what it believes. However another very different school of thought believes the media construct the society we live in by altering the images they show us, telling a story in a particular way or reporting on one story and not another. By doing this the media can have an immense influence on how we perceive the world around us and change the way we see society.

One way of doing this is to buy three different newspapers on the same day and look at them in detail and how they are constructed. Say for instance there had been a march against austerity the day before or a murder or someone’s human right’s had been violated, do the newspaper’s report on these stories in the same way? Do they occur on the same page in-between the same stories? Are the same words used for the stories? Is the same political slant given to the stories? The simple answer is no. Different newspaper’s will report a story in different ways. One story might have the victim’s story first, another, the perpetrator. One story might have a right-wing slant, another a left-wing slant, another newspaper might not give the story much space or not even report it at all. By doing this you can see how the media in its different forms constructs a view of the world from their perspective and because the reader may only read that particular story it will influence the readers view of the world around them.

This is especially important in today’s information saturated world we live in. How do we know what is and is not real? Who do we believe? How do we know if an event happened as it has been reported or if it has been altered in some way to reflect the views of the newspaper? The answer is we don’t but if there is a story that holds your interest, gets you thinking and asking questions it is worth getting three or four different perspectives of the same story and seeing which parts are reported similarly and which are reported differently. Research the background of the story makers. What political affiliations do they have? Which people do they consider important? Who are their friends? All of this information will tell you a lot about the background to the story, why they consider it important and the world they are trying to construct for you to live in and believe in.

There is a lot more I could write about the media but I don’t have the space in this blog. The main thing to think about next time your reading a newspaper or the internet or watching the news is that the main reason the media exists is to sell stories and make money for their owners. It’s not to tell you the truth as it happened but to tell you a story that makes you want to buy that particular newspaper over another newspaper. And never be afraid to question what you read and are told. Question the motives of those behind the story, question why they think it is important and question yourself too. Why is it important to you? Why do you care about this story and not another one? Always question.

Otherwise it’s been a normal week for me. Friday was a very long day with four hours of lectures and then a trip to Hebden Bridge for a special Shindig hosted by the amazing Winston Plowes. If you don’t know a Shindig is a spoken word event which features one or two guest performers and an open mic session. I performed a couple of old favourites and a new poem which went down very well. The highlight for me though was an old lady telling the main guest he was ‘rubbish’ and should ‘get off the stage’. It was one of those moments when you shouldn’t laugh but can’t help it.

Saturday was spent watching my local amateur rugby league team Queensbury play out a tough 18-18 draw with local rivals Illingworth, the game wasn’t the most skilful but was a tough game of rugby played mainly in the forwards by two teams refusing to give an inch, a very tough game emphasised by the sound of flesh slamming into flesh, blood on faces and sweat pouring into the pitch from said players. These young lads play the game for pleasure yet still face the same pitfalls as professional players in the form of aching limbs and injuries. The main difference is that these lads have to get up for work on Monday morning with their legs still aching from chasing the opposition, bruises all over their bodies, black eyes, missing teeth and the odd broken limb. It is a tough, uncompromising sport just as much at the amateur level as it is at the professional level.

Thanks for reading and take care.

Another good week at university. The main focus this week has been the dreaded dissertation. I must admit I have been very worried about it as most students are and with good reason. Doing your dissertation is one of the most daunting experiences you can face at university. It’s your final year and you have the choice of what to do for your dissertation. There is so much choice in what to do and then so many other parts of it to think about such as your research methods, ethical considerations and how you are actually going to write it up it can be very overwhelming and take over your life.

But somehow I have managed to navigate all of this successfully so far. What I have done is to think small and focus on just one small part of a larger structure. I am doing my dissertation on disability but I am focusing my research on contemporary attitudes to people with a physical disability post 2012 Paralympics. By doing this I have a focal point from which I can start from and end and an area I can breakdown into its various component parts and decide which part I am going to concentrate on.

Attitudes to disability, is a very important area to many people and for society in general because it can affect a person’s quality of life and how they view others around them. If people with disabilities are treated fairly their outlook and attitude to life will improve and have an effect on their overall wellbeing. If however they are treated badly this can destroy a person’s confidence and have a negative impact on their health and wellbeing. This is why attitudes to disability is so important to me.

The reason I’m doing physical disabilities is because I feel it is an easier area to research because it is more in the open than mental health issues and hopefully I will get more responses for me to draw my conclusions from. Also whilst 9,000 words sounds a lot in practice it isn’t that many when you take into consideration I have to do sections on my abstract, introduction, research methods, ethics and conclusion. All of these sections eat up the word count and for that reason I feel it is vitally important to focus on one small area of a much larger picture and stay focus on it or you run the risk of going over your word count and more crucially not getting your point across and losing marks.

Not a lot has happened this week on the poetry front. The open mic sessions are usually one a week but last week was an exception with two in one week followed by none. I did go to a workshop run by the renowned and immensely talented Kim Moore. The subject was the body and Kim had some great exercises for us all to get our minds thinking about how we use our bodies and all the stresses we put them thorough. It was a time of reflection for something we take for granted and only notice when something goes wrong, we break a bone or have an infection. It’s always lovely to hear what everybody else has written from the same prompts and everybody writes something very different. Another writing friend of mine Keith Hutson writes some very funny and witty material and always makes everybody laugh. Keith has a gift for taking a serious subject and finding the humour in it without devaluing or demeaning the subject in any way.


Afterwards I went for a walk around Ilkley with my follow Igniting the Spark writer Louella Ramsden and ended up buying Ted Hughes Collected Poems and Simon Armitage Paper Aeroplane. Something for me to read when I’m not doing my university work. It’s always good to have a distraction from the pressure of a degree.

This upcoming week is very busy. On Wednesday I visit the eye doctor to see what damage has been done to my right eye. I will admit I’m not looking forward to it but these things come along in life and we have to face up to them and see what the outcome is. Hopefully the news won’t be too bad and all I’ll need is a stronger prescription!

Tuesday I’m back at Igniting the Spark for one night only as I have no lecture this week at that time and I’m looking forward to catching up with everybody there and seeing what Gaia has in store for us to get our imaginations working. I’m looking forward to Friday immensely as there is a special event at Hebden Bridge Town Hall celebrating the poetry of Ted Hughes and a special open mic Shindig where as long as I get a spot I will be reading some of my favourite Ted Hughes poetry. If your around Hebden Bridge on Friday night get yourselves to the town hall for what promises to be a great evening of poetry.

Have a great week everybody and take care.

A long blog this week but quite a lot has happened. Most of it is not about life at uni but that is the reality part!

And so to week 2 back at uni and it started off with a typical dark, wet drive to Huddersfield on Monday morning. The mornings are getting darker and for some strange reason that also brings with it rain! Mind you it wasn’t too bad. A light drizzle that necessitated the use of headlights on the car but nothing too bad. I don’t mind a morning drizzle to be honest and once I’d got to Huddersfield it added a bit of atmosphere to the morning and made the stroll through the town centre to uni more enjoyable. Everybody else seemed to have an extra step in their stride too as they didn’t want to get wet but I enjoyed taking my time and watching other people rush about.

My first lecture on a Monday morning is Film and Cinema and this is fast becoming my favourite lecture. I’m not usually one to watch films but studying classic British social realism films is reigniting my interest in films. The seminar was very interesting for one particular reason for me. It highlighted a gulf in opinion between those students like me who look for the minute detail in the films such as the mention of a car which was a luxury for most people in the 60s and those students who found the films boring, lacking action and seemed surprised that they were made in black and white! It’s a shame because I feel they are missing out seeing the creation of a new genre of films that helped show Britain in a different light and shape working class culture as we know it today. A documentary about the dramatist Shelagh Delaney and her home town of Salford really rammed the point home. When showing the back streets of Salford and the people the film was in black and white and some of the cinematography was beautiful with the rain seemingly making a hole in the roofs of the houses so sharp was the image quality. In complete contrast was Shelagh herself talking about her life but filmed in colour. You got a real sense of Shelagh being the future of Salford against the grit and grime of old working class Salford.

Monday evening brought another Puzzle Hall Poets event and this one was amazing. Everybody was on top form and the delivery of the readings was so good. It was a real pleasure to not only by there but to read some of my own poems and be a part of it. Although I’m still not entirely convinced by the quality of my own work and my reading ability everybody else seems to enjoy it so who am I to argue! I enjoy writing and performing and this has given me an opportunity to discover my own creative talents which I never knew I had! If you want to do, something just do it. You may surprise yourself!

Which nicely leads me into a discussion I had this week with a writing friend about how to write contemporary poetry? As with any art form it is a highly contested view as to what does and does not constitute contemporary poetry but one of the standards is economy of words. This is difficult for me as I am a very wordy person but it is also something that I could do well to learn, saying what I want to say in as few words as possible. But again I found myself asking the question is a poem good because it conforms to an acceptable standard or because it gets across the message you want it to? Can reducing the words take away from the meaning or does it add clarity and focus to it? It’s something I’m going to look into and see if I can improve my poetry by reducing my word count and hopefully adding more focus to my poetry.

Tuesday brought nothing more exciting than having to listen to a lecturer laugh after every single sentence they uttered. You’re not a comedian dear no need to add the laughter.

Wednesday was a strange day. Firstly an early morning visit to my physiotherapist for treatment on my left Achilles which has been giving me pain for quite a few weeks now. If anybody goes for a sports massage be prepared for pain! I was almost in tears as she rammed her fingers into the back of my leg. I wasn’t prepared for it and thought it would be nice and gentle but no, pain is the way with a sports massage and I will be prepared next time! It does work by the way so it is worth the money and the pain.

Next was what I assumed to be a routine visit to the opticians for an eye test but turned out to be anything but. Unfortunately it turns out that I have a build-up of fluid behind my right eye which is affecting my vision. I’ve now got an appointment at the eye hospital for more tests so until they are done I don’t know anything more. I can still see out of my right eye and it has been caught quite early so fingers crossed it won’t be too bad.

Thursday brought a welcome return of one of my favourite lecturers mainly because her voice is so……………….distinctive? Always a pleasure to be in one of her lectures because she is also quite funny too but still gets the message across effectively.

Thursday night was another poetry reading event this time a new one at the Square Chapel, Halifax. Again some amazing performances but the standout for me was a poem written about two English girls of Yemeni descent who were taken back to the Yemen and sold by their father into slavery to two very distant relatives. A very touching and moving poem. Once again I got favourable comments about my voice and my delivery even though I felt that I’d made a mess of my poem.

Friday and two of my favourite lectures that really make you think about your own and others identity and how it is created. How much influence do we have over the creation of our own individual identity? Do others create it for us without us realising it?

And so to Sunday after a busy Saturday. I’ve been quite productive today and will be in bed soon ready for another busy Monday. Take care everybody.

Well this week was my first week back at university in my final year of undergraduate studies. And all in all it was a pretty good week. The shock of having to get up early on a Monday morning to join everybody else in the car park grand prix was something I had been dreading and it didn’t disappoint. Monday morning, 6.30am and the alarm goes off and keeps repeating until I can find my phone to turn it off. Up and out though I went for my first lecture at 9.15am and to be honest it wasn’t that bad once I got into the car and set off and you realise that you’re going through the same routine as millions of others.

Huddersfield is a lovely town, so many fine Victorian buildings in a compact setting which makes it very easy to get around. One other thing I love about Huddersfield is the variety of shops it has for such a small town from trinket shops to a great Oxfam book shop where I have bought many bargains to a West Indian food shop which one day I must go in to see what I can buy to make a stir-fry, Huddersfield seems to have something for everyone and is a great alternative to nearby towns and cities. Bradford in my opinion has gone downhill since I was a small child in awe of its charms and history. Where once there were grand buildings, a great fish and meat market and a city with life, now there is only betting shops, mobile phones shops and pound shops. The reasons for this are many and complex but to me it’s about trying to compete with it’s much larger neighbour, Leeds, rather than trying to establish its own identity which Huddersfield and Halifax seem to have done. The aforementioned Leeds has gone from strength to strength and is now a powerhouse of industry in the North, up there with Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle for importance.

However I digress and suffice to say that walking to university on a crisp and sunny October morning, is for me one of life’s little pleasures, made even better once the university itself comes into view and the feeling of learning, teaching and hard work comes wafting through the air like the smell of the freshly baked buns my mum used to bake for me and which brought me running back home from wherever I was. I had been to the university over the summer and at that time when it is empty of students it does seem a desolate place and reminds me of a ghost town with the odd person wandering around as if they had stumbled across it by accident. Come September though and it begins to come alive with noise, smell, colour and you realise the purpose behind any university which is not only to learn the subject you are studying for but also to experience life and culture in a unique setting safe from the usual pressures of society.

This was brought home as my lecture that day was Film and Cinema and looking back at classic British films, in this case Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and looking at the culture of that period which inspired that film and comparing it to contemporary society and seeing what has and has not changed. Much has changed of course, but a lot of things haven’t and some of the ways in which people are portrayed in the film are very similar to today’s society. Angry young men, going out drinking, illicit relationships, still go on and always will. All that’s changed is the setting because so many places have been demolished and rebuilt and the scene with different music, television and fashion. Strip all that away and you still have the same lives being lived, the same mistakes being made, hearts being broken and a myriad of other situations that make life what it is. Watching an old classic film such as this and reading the newspaper headlines from that era drive it home even more for me. We all think we are inventing life when in fact all we are doing reliving the lives of these who have gone before us.

It was of course good to see familiar faces and catch up on what people had been doing over the summer break. Most people hadn’t been doing too much by the sound of things, but still had a pleasant summer away from university. The rest of the week was a gentle easing back into university life, although there is always that undercurrent of seriousness to be read into what your lecturers say. I’m under no illusions that this year will be very hard but ultimately very rewarding too. This was emphasised by the meeting I had with my dissertation supervisor who set me a few tasks but also warned me about taking on too much over the coming year and concentrating on my studies. This was further driven home when I decided that I could still stop up late, get up early and do my lectures and very quickly discovered I could not. Lesson number one learnt!

It has been a very good week back at university, but now the hard work starts as I move into week two and doing some actual work!

This is a poem I wrote some time ago but it seems appropriate to post today because it’s my first week back at university and it’s also ‘Poetry Day’ too. Have a great day everybody 🙂

Approaching the building tall and imperious

In appearance it could house

Anything inside its vast system

Of caves, caverns and tunnels

But I know better because I have

Been to this place before

This is a place of words, pictures and images

Dreamt up by people far and wide

Names we know but many we don’t

Where theory and counter theory

Are discussed and debated at length

Long into a star lit night

Where reputations are forged from pages

And pages of volumes of thoughts

All arranged neatly in rows

Where questions can be answered

And further questions asked

Essay’s, assignments, thesis’s and more

Are all carefully crafted using the knowledge of others

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Of the past and taking their

Work to new undreamt of levels

Knowledge from the past is

Merged with knowledge from the present

To become the knowledge of the future

Row after row, aisle after aisle

Sits in this place waiting to be

Discovered by a new generation

Eager to absorb it all into their minds

And use it for the benefit of all

People on earth for all of mankind

To some this is just a building

To others it is a library to go and read in

But to me it is much, much more

Then any of this

To me this place and others like it

Are the Great Halls of Learning

Where thousands of years of knowledge

Is there for all to read and absorb

And pass on to generation after generation

For all of eternity and beyond