Search results for "phd "

Telling grief I

Author: joe

Tuesday, 27 March, 2012 - 15:04

From a train

My supervisors asked me a question I had been absent-mindedly anticipating - was there a reason or reference in my personal background for choosing to look specifically at bereavement in my doctoral research into cyberspace, rather than other experiences of mental distress or physical illness? My anticipation had been only brief, not a worry, but rather a cynical lookahead to the predictability of this question and the trivial dismissal I would be able to respond to it with. Perhaps I was not that off-hand about it, but I certain didn't expect the question to linger as an issue after it had been dispensed with.

When the conversation did come around I was surprised by my answer and the way I worded it. Roughly, I remember saying that I had had an experience of loss and bereavement which meant that I felt a sort of insider knowledge about it - I'd be a native rather than an interloper in the world of grief. My father had died several years ago, I said, and understood some of the reasons why people might need to use 'outlets' that were not available in 'the real world' grieving is something that people are supposed to do in moderation, and in private; it doesn't belong in social environments or workplaces, and bringing it into those worlds makes people feel very uncomfortable, unable to handle you, even annoyed that you've disrupted their normality by bringing death and the pain it has caused you into a sphere where its vocabulary and shifted emphases are alien. You find out who your friends are, who is willing to tolerate and even welcome your bereft one-dimensionality, your inability to put the events of the everyday into any kind of perspective, and who also is not able to cope with the reminder of anguish and finitude that your very existence provides. I could very well see why, when expressions of grief are so excluded from the vernacular worlds we usually inhabit, that mourners might find themselves using the Internet to speak to the immensity of the invisible world, the big other, the amorphous, unindividuated audience of the universal 'you' that listens at the end of the modem, to push out the sounds and shapes of words and images that always fail to capture the extent of the loss. "And did you use any online spaces yourself when you were bereaved?" was the innocent question. And my answer, from which I reeled for some time, came back: "No. I didn't use the Internet to express any aspects of my grief. I felt it would somehow be a diminution of my father. I guess I think that using online spaces is a last resort - something that people do when they have no other support - a poor substitute."

I spent a long time trying to work out exactly what I meant when I said that. My supervisors, both trained clinical psychologists, exchanged glances. I thought, "what did I just say?" The conversation moved on. A thought drifted around - I should clarify that comment, it sounds as though I think that people who look for online support during bereavement are losers, and that I'm not that much of a loser. "That's definitely not what I mean!" Certainly at the time I was trying very strongly to resist a certain pressure I was feel as a practitioner and maker of online artefacts - to build websites that replace functions normally carried out by humans who are physically co-present - teaching and learning, therapeutic situations, dating, collaboration, social interactions, friendship. Every time I developed a project which I felt augmented already-existing practices, I felt the purse-holders wondering if it could supercede those already-existing and expensive practices and eventually replace them with a cheaper alternative. I wanted to fight against the kind of logic that said "create online lectures, pay for fewer professors", or the dismal evidence that points at changing relationships due to the "text more, speak less" culture of the mobile phone. The digital seems to offer a postponement of emotional contact, giving the illusion of control over interpersonal relationships, but actually only facilitating narcissism - the use of others as resources which can be switched on and off at will (Turkle, 2010). This is real tension in the use of technology to mediate our emotional lives - the space for affective experiences that it creates, but also the buffering against or even disconnection from difficult emotional feelings that it tempts us with. But that doesn't get to the kernel of the "tell" I had spoken: why would a use of the web to articulate my grief be somehow a disservice to my father and to the depth of my feeling, or a diminishment of him, his life and the still living memory of him among his loved ones, his mourners?

Categories: phd, bereavement, grief, mourning, emotion, digital, Sherry Turkle,
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Draft review notes #3

Author: joe

Saturday, 12 September, 2009 - 15:17

[Some contextual notes for my PhD, regarding the status of participatory media in academia and industry]

So the everyday is always written off: the mass produce trash culture without quality; they fail to rise up and revolt and against the elites; and they are deceived by machinations against which they have no real defence.

A key characteristic of the critiques of the everyday is their insistance on the schism between the real and the ideal, or between appearance and reality. Marxist thought constantly seeks to portray the common man as a duped fool, a donkey of a man suffering under false consciousness: if only we could make him see the world as it truly is, without the miasma of ideology to cloud and befuddle his judgement and ability to act, then he might rise up and take for himself the world that is truly his.

The critique of propaganda and ideology also hinges on the notion that the popular consciousness cannot adequately grasp the real forces, determining events behind the scenes, hidden from view, available only to the most critically engaged and forensically committed minds. Chomsky's line is exemplary of this - his work is largely characterised by 'exposures' of hidden motives and explanatory forces which most other people fail to notice, presumably because they either choose to ignore the evidence or are too taken up in the ideological hegemony to be able to transcend the deceit.

The paragon of this mode of critique is Habermas, who seems determined to project an image of a utopian world - the world as it might be - which can only be reached by the most stringently impossible means. Citizens must be competent, capable, engaged, critically objective and rational, yet willing to listen to and understand other subjective views. The object of this rational-critical discourse is a endpoint at which disagreements will have been ironed out, intersubjectivities achieved - and presumably we will all just sit around gazing at each other in a stupor of silence since we'll have no differences to speak of or dialectical positions to bother articulating.

At the heart of Habermas' vision of rational progress to some humanistic utopia is Enlightenment: the rejection of tradition and any authority that is handed down, seen as so much dogma, in favour of rationally justifiable positions and truths which are available to us to produce without reference to the tyranny of conservatism and prejudice. What an attractive notion - the worldview of science itself, which takes no article on faith, but only on falsifiable and empirical merit!

I find it almost irresistable - the restive rejection of the chains of the past, and the embrace of a world made of iron ration and reason... and yet, yet... why must we constantly fall for this notion that the world is or should be other than it is? What is it about the way of the world that we must always feel it is inadequate? Why must we diagnose the life of the everyday world as somehow being wrong?

Categories: reality, appearance, idealism, Habermas, ration, reason, utopia, Chomsky, Marx, media, phd, politics, propaganda, ideology, revolution,
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Draft review notes #1

Author: joe

Saturday, 29 August, 2009 - 10:09

[Some contextual notes for my PhD, regarding the status of participatory media in academia and industry]

In the early 2000s, following the dot-com crash, the press, the broadcasting, music and publishing industries reassured themselves that 'online' would never seriously encroach onto their activities. I was working in a vocationally oriented university department, among people who repeated and reinforced those attitudes circulated in the received wisdom of industry promotional departments and analysts. The line 'this isn't a media studies degree, it's a vocational degree' was often used when I suggested that we didn't encourage students enough to understand conceptually what they were doing when engaged in 'mediation'. Just as the media industry now disparages degree courses specialising in media, so then, lecturers in vocational subjects tended to be people who had spent some time working in industry and were keen to 'give something back' by teaching part-time, and thereby rescuing industry training from 'out-of-touch' academics.

The attitudes which were thus perpetuated are still familiar: serious journalists should write for print, since online could only ever offer dumbed-down copy and readers never devote time to reading long articles on screen; filmmakers should concentrate on the photographic medium because digital video is inauthentic and poorer quality; digital audio is too compressed to offer the superior listening experience of analogue, and serious musicians will always have a safer career when signed up for a deal in the industry rather than going it alone; online video can't compete with the appeal of broadcast TV - the list of supposedly self-evident truths go on. These truths were enacted in a practical way in the university simply by encouraging the 'left-over' students to take the online modules, allowing the options in broadcasting and journalism to be set aside for the ablest and most ambitious students.

Supporting 'meme-plexes' manifest themselves, sometimes periphally as the common-sense background, sometimes as a moral panic or a manichean harangue, always helping to substantiate the dominant assumptions: piracy is not only theft, but it supports organised crime - as though sharing your files will perpetuate the drug industry or terrorism; or, online sources are unreliable and must be double-checked against 'proper' offline sources such as books; or, online spaces are dangerous - paedophiles stalk your children, hackers are stealing your identity, gamers are getting disturbed into copycat murder-sprees, and even you - yes you, the average, middle-of-the-road, normal, everyday surfer - even you are losing just a little more of your social skills, and maybe even just a little but more of your humanity, every moment you sit in front of your computer screen.

Categories: phd, media, participatory media, academia, propaganda,
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Being and Knowing: World as Diegesis

Author: joe

Tuesday, 14 July, 2009 - 22:52

Another conversation, this time with Shaun, and more thinking through, thinking aloud, thinking thought. Shaun attended all the first year media theory lectures over the last academic year, including the six part series I delivered on narrative. So, he got to hear me rework and reiterate impressionistically over the same endless themes of diegesis and artifice, story and plot, world and representation which I surreptitiously pretended was an overview of narrative theory.

So I was attempting to explain how that period of intense focus on ideas about narrative and, in particular, the phenomenon of diegesis, had since inflected my thought. The diegesis is the storyscape - the integrity of the imaginary theatre we accept when we give over to a narrator the suspension of our disbelief. The diegesis is the internally coherent world of the story - and 'world' is the key word here, since the idea of a 'world' is one of the ways in which I'm trying to muscle into an understanding of Heidegger which I think is going to be central to my PhD thesis. If you are going to read on here, put your Kafkaesque reading hat on and read it all as subjunctive: "I would, God-willing, understand in this way..."

Using a combination of Graham Harman's lucid writing on Heidegger, Timothy Clark's valiant exposition of Heidegger's thought, Hubert Dreyfus' concordance and commentary on 'Being and Time', and the dense source text itself, I've been trying to work towards an understanding Heidegger's concepts of Zuhandenheit and Vorhandenheit, theoria and praxis, not to mention Dasein, being there, and being a 'thing that things'. The concept of 'world' in this realm of thought seems helpful to me. Clark says that Heidegger's use of the term 'world',

"is close to the common meaning of the term when we talk about the 'world' of the Bible, or the 'world' of the modern Chinese or modern English - i.e.the fundamental understanding within which individual things, people, history, texts, buildings, projects cohere together within a shared horizon of significances, purposes and connotations. [...] the more fundamental shared disclosure of things within which [we] find [ourselves] in all [our] thoughts, practices and beliefs, providing the basis even of [our] self-conceptions and suppositions."

- all of which seems to be a perfect definition of diegesis if understood as pertaining not only to the fictional worlds we muster, but also the fields of meaning we conjure in every aspect of what we still call 'real life'. In the tool analysis, Heidegger's hammer [makes sense | obtains | is grasped] as part of the world of equipment, which [makes sense | obtains | is grasped] as part of the world of human action. These realms cohere diegetically - they belong to, define and co-constitute each other. In action, we grasp the hammer as a tool, we extend our limbs and 'be' our intentional 'being' in the praxis of carpentry, and by extension, the praxis of existence. We act, and as we do, we are attuned to the world of action and meaning we inhabit: we experience the world holistically - we cease to be figures, and recede into the ground of the diegesis. Praxis is the means whereby we live and dwell - believe - in the diegesis.

The hammer when it breaks, shatters the diegesis: we are no longer engaged in praxis, but in the comprehension of material objects divorced from their diegetic meaning: an extreme Brechtian 'Verfremdung', or alienation from the essence of the hammer. A broken hammer is no hammer: it is a residue, a fragment, a memory, a concept, an idea, an object, a construct, a prop, revealed and separated from its function in the diegesis: a corpse in the theatrical sense - a moment in which the illusion is shattered, the figure of artifice processes and emerges from the ground of the theatre, and we are appalled enough by the shattering of the illusion to be compelled to laugh uncontrollably in the face of the futility of pretence. The broken hammer is an object of our reflective thought, which we diagnose in its symptomatic failure; it is seen as though from above, outside, from nowhere, divorced as it is from the field of praxis. Our consciousness of the broken hammer is the kind of consciousness we simply relinquish in the midst of being. It is empty, shell-like, valueless, objective. It is the transcendental knowledge to which the academy, science, Western materialist thought aspires - and as in the perennial cliche, it pins the butterfly to a board in order to comprehend it even as it dies.

Following Harman, I understand the fate of the broken hammer not to be merely an event in the life of a lone doomed tool, but to be caught up in the being of all things that do their 'being' - the 'thinging' of things, people, starfish and coconuts - the dichotomy between Vorhandenheit (presence-at-hand) and Zuhandenheit (readiness-to-hand). All things which are capable of submitting to the gaze of other things and being translated into the intentional objects of contemplation are uncovered - as are figures processing and emerging from the ground of their diegetic existence - as lifted out of their being, their dwelling in the multiplicities of the interlacing diegeses to which they belong. The object of my reflection is a shadow of its being - the prehensile presence-at-hand of a thing, behind which all its indestructible being - the inexhaustibly rich readiness-to-hand of a thing - withdraws.

In this way, anything we care to articulate or speak of, any 'thing' to which we care to give edges through the process of signification, and by which we mediate a representation of that 'thing' to another, is reduced to a presence-at-hand - a mere one amongst its infinite resource of arbitrarily graspable facets - a reduction; a theory. Thus all representation, articulation and signification is work in the realm of artifice, mimesis - or presence-at-hand; a reductive distinguishing of a facet of an object from the ground of its diegesis - the world of its Romantic potential, its being, its participation in praxis. The insertion of the stethoscope between the healer and patient is no less than a conversion of the human subject into an object of instrumentation, a reduction of the being to one amongst its many facets: a mediated, rythmic, booming pulse stands in for the beating heart of a living being. The sound is a metonymic reduction of the living being of the beating heart.


A short recap then: praxis is the unification of human action and knowing - holistic. Theoria (and hence conceptual, reflective, objective knowledge) is the distantiation of the world from the experience of that world. This distanced, alienated knowledge, extracted from the diegesis of its being, is a projection, a paper-thin shell, a shadow - a presence-at-hand, available to our consciousness as no more than a facet of the fullness of being. Being itself never emerges from the ground of diegesis - the integral, coherent, self-consistent, co-constitutive storyscape of the world in which we un-self-consciously dwell.

From these thoughts flow other problematisations, to be dealt with another time, of impartial academic enterprises, traditional doctoral theses, and the very nature of the attempt to document the research process.

Categories: Martin-Heidegger, phenomenology, phd, working-through, Dasein, being, Zuhandenheit, Vorhandenheit, presence-at-hand, readiness-to-hand, knowledge, objectivity, research, praxis, diegesis, narrative, world,
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Author: joe

Tuesday, 13 January, 2009 - 23:19

There are often serendipities (though I'm talking about reading theoretical works here, so when I write 'serendipity' you may read 'pain in the arse') in the way I discover new avenues of critical thought to pursue, though now I think about it, the serendipity probably resides in my limited ability to discern and decipher connections rather than the rarity, inscrutability - or even coincidence - of the connections themselves. Perhaps I'm like a half-wit, or at least the opposite of a Quasimodo, who given any chance sees the rightness and absolute simplicity of analogies and apposite moments as though they were the salty truth of the world. I, on the contrary, make hard work where there might be restful ease.

In any case, I was reading Lave and Wenger on the subject on legitimate peripheral participation [1] (their precursor to the inexaggerably important idea of communities of practice) when I was drawn to their description of Bourdieu's ideas of 'conductorless orchestras' (what other metaphor for benign anarchy could you hope for?) and thus led to Michael Grenfell's edited work, Bourdieu and Education, in which I was teased by the characterisation of Bourdieu's work as an attempt to resolve the dichotomy of objective knowledge ('knowledge without a knowing subject') and hermeneutics (subjective and individual understanding).

His intent is to find a theory which is robust enough to be objective and generalizable, and yet accounts for individual, subjective thought and action. [2]

This for me is another case of serendipitously discovering more justification for resolving such dichotomies (e.g. the subject / object dichotomy) by encapsulating the whole dyad under the reunified sign of 'practice', as Mike and I discussed (if you can be arsed to read pages and pages of burbling) at the CEMP blog.

In any case, if you cannot see the woods for the trees, try banging your head on those trees until they tire of your bloody-minded importuning and give you a map of the locality.

[1] Lave, Jean & Wenger, Etienne, 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[2] Grenfell, Michael, 1998. Bourdieu & Education: Acts of Practical Theory,
Florence, KY, USA: Taylor & Francis, Incorporated

Categories: theory, PhD, objectivity, subjectivity, hermeneutics, Bourdieu, pedagogy, participation,
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Bollocks might be true, but it is still bollocks

Author: joe

Thursday, 06 March, 2008 - 17:33

I've had something of a realisation over the last few weeks. I managed to relieve some of the pressure in my work that had built up due to absence and illness, which gave me the chance to step back and think about things.

I used to write posts on this blog about how the elitism and jargon that is associated with academic work and cultural and media studies just mystifies the subjects, works as a barrier to newbies, and generally disappears up its own postmodern arse.

Then I registered for a PhD.

So, looking back on the post I wrote 3 weeks ago about Habermas and Gadamer makes me realise that I've been rimming the sphincter of elitism as much as anyone I've ever criticised. I consider this a direct consequence of registering for a PhD: before, intellectual work was all about pleasure and discovery, and doing it for its own sake; after, it's been about validity and legitmacy, what is true and how we know it is true. Of course those things matter, but fuck me, it doesn't matter if something is true if it is also bollocks. I need to remember this: bollocks might be true, but it is still bollocks.

So I'll try and rewrite the truth and method thing some time so that it makes sense to a human. In the meantime, I also need to figure out how to do a PhD without it decaying into a level of tedium that will make all living things wither. Otherwise, it's just bollocks, isn't it?

Categories: elitism, bollocks, phd,
Comments: 2

Three things

Author: joe

Friday, 15 February, 2008 - 10:44

Three things

Firstly: having pack removed from nose redefined pain in ways I had not anticipated. Since I seem to be doomed to an eternity of pain in the head, I should at least give my head a reason to hurt. Therefore reading Heidegger, Gadamer and Habermas.

Secondly: so, yesterday, I began by reading about the divisions between Gadamer and Habermas on the co-extensivity of truth and method, and our relationship to 'authority and tradition'. For what it is worth, Gadamer seems to think that there are positive ways to view the inheritance of authority and tradition as a positive way of constituting truth. Meanwhile, Habermas seems to take a harder - 'strong-Enlightenment' line which says that anything 'handed down', as it were, from authority, is necessarily dogmatic and therefore should be rejected. In the maze of epistemology (empiricism over-assumes the ability to produce correspondence-to-reality statements from induction, while hermeneutics asserts the situatedness of any observation) perhaps the performance of the role of 'detached' observer should be rejected and (contrary to intuition) a fuller observational potential can be approached by more participation in the observed situation. Know by 'being-in', not know by 'looking-in' - immanence not transcendence (because the former is simply more honest).

A detour here led to Arthur Danto, who describes "the last historian". Of course the historian constructs a narrative out of the stuff of meaning, and the stuff of meaning is necessarily over-determined by the historian's present. Retelling the past is meta-retelling of the present. So much, so good. But consider what it would require for the adequate telling of 'truth' regarding histories (and here I suppose is where I do need to investigate Heidegger on time): the future will have historicity which is constituted in part by the present I create now from my own historicity. The only way to ensure that I responsibly pass on a historicity to the future which is consistent with the future's ability to act freely is to tell every possible history, or as Scheibler puts it "to give a complete description, historian would have to be able to see into the future, encompassing all possible future perspectives". And it is repeatedly observed by others, I see, that all historians must see themselves as this last historian (otherwise they would not feel any compulsion to write histories, surely?) but I would also add that we all therefore consider ourselves to be the last historians, telling ourselves the versions of the past we need to tell in order to construct the futures we wish to see.

And Danto seems also to help with the co-extensivity of truth and method. On representation, he emphasises what we might call the pre-semantic stage of the 'sign' (useless word). Consider the evolution of semantic codes. Something is given as a representation of something else - an idol represents a god, for instance. Danto dwells on the the fact that this is a two-stage process. Before we recognise the idol as 'representing' the god, we must first interpret the idol as identical to the god - the sign is the meaning. Only later do we bifurcate the sign into metonymy and synecdoche, and allow the possibility that the sign might be a lie - give it a semantic dimension, recognise the difference between sign and referent, and even signifier and signified. Truth is first constituted by the representation. Prohibition of the idolatry of the graven image by a jealous god for good reason, then, if you are a god.

Of course, when I say Danto helps with the co-extensivity of truth and method, I mean helps in the loosest sense of the word.

So anyway, yes I went on a huge detour, and at some point in the future, when I have to write something sensible about my methodology for my PhD thesis, I'll be grateful to myself for having written this loosely connected synopsis of a day's reading, which records in roughly chronological order the digressions I took. I still, of course need a proper bibliography to go with this, so I can retread my steps. So here it is:

Scheibler, I., 2000, Gadamer : Between Heidegger and Habermas, Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham
Ankersmit, F. R., 2003, 'Danto, History, and the Tragedy of Human Existence', in History and Theory, Vol 42, No. 3
Hesse, M., 1978, 'Habermas' Consensus Theory of Truth' in PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Vol 1978, Vol 2
McCarthy, T., 1978, 'History and Evolution: On the Changing Relation of Theory to Practice in the Work of Jurgen Habermas' in PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Vol 1978, Vol 2
Wachterhauser, B. R., 1986, Hermeneutics and Modern Philosophy, SUNY: Albany
Danto, A. C., 1965, Analytical Philosophy of History, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge
Danto, A. C., 1997, Connections to the World: The Basic Concepts of Philosophy, UCP: Berkeley
Ormiston, G. L., & Schrift, A. D., 1989, Hermeneutic Tradition: From Ast to Riceour, SUNY: Albany
Dallmayr, F. R., & McCarthy, T. A., 1977, Understandinf and Social Inquiry, UNDP: Notre Dame, Ind.

Now, the third and final thing: I want a way to access the information here in different ways. I want to be able to pull it around, and mesh it into other things. Biblipedia was designed to do some of the things I want to be able to do here - notes about books which can be grouped thematically. The use of the folksonomy creates a powerful tool that creates (heuristically and algorithmically, or what I want to call 'bottom-up') connections between notes and books. But I also want some top-down control too. I want to drag things together on the spur of the moment, as though they were index cards in my hands. Biblipedia can be susceptible to such manipulation (you can 'invent' tags for specific purposes, for instance).

But I want something with more power. The account I've given of my readings yesterday is clunky, because it is isolated here, on this web page. Sure I can grab it out via RSS, but that won't retain any of the semantic or chronological connections within it. Sure, I could sketch it on paper, because that could show the progression and map-like structure of the reflection, but it's made of atoms, and I still want the heuristic, crunching power that computerised meta-data provides.

So here's the kernel of my next project: a way of aggregating content like that in Biblipedia, (or any other webservice, for that matter) which, on top of the 'bottom-up' ability to analyse meta-data such as tags and produce expected and unexpected connections and groupings, also has a 'top-down' ability to sketch relationships in terms of time, theme, order, digression, space... a way to easily denote relatedness explicitly, rather than merely implicitly.

So that's summer 2008 sorted then. Hopefully my head will have stopped hurting then.

Categories: working-through, PhD, phenomenology, Heidegger, Gadamer, Habermas, truth, method, epistemology, ontology, Danto, history,
Comments: 0

Health fiction

Author: joe

Monday, 12 November, 2007 - 18:45

I considered going to the hospital carrying a copy of 'Narrative Based Medicine' by Greenhalgh and Hurwitz. My experience has become so reflexively, regressively contingent that I thought I might as well go the whole hog, and encourage the consultants and nurses, by noticing the book, to become radically self-aware of the experience they were creating around me.

Earlier in the year I registered for my PhD, which I intend to focus on the therapeutic uses of creative activity. There is evidence that people who keep journals during their treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer have a statistically significantly improved prognosis. Why might this be? Is it the case that our experiences of serious illness are such chaotic, disempowering transactions with the machine of healthcare, that the productive act of creating our own purposeful, narrativised story out of the bare, brute facts of therapy and treatment actually improves our bodies' ability to survive?

My father was diagnosed with cancer 7 years ago and died six months later. He said the process of pin-balling between consultants and treatments was frustrating precisely because doctors want to tell you as little as possible. Perhaps for good reason. Perhaps euphemism ('growths' rather than 'tumours') helps to minimise the psychological trauma. Perhaps a gradual induction into the language of primary and secondary, benign and malignant, potassium levels, morphine and death spray is a therapeutically beneficial approach, and ignorance is convalescent bliss. Perhaps knowing little, and trusting in the authority of the medicinal apparatus improves the prognosis.

"How is your hearing?" one nurse asked him. "Pardon?" he replied.

And so, as I have had constant headaches since February of this year, which usually recede only after the self-medication of Nurofen, I have been witnessing at first hand the efficiencies of the British healthcare system. And rather like a media studies student who is suddenly noticing how adverts are constructed, I can't not examine the story of illness (or lack of narrative) the actors in my performance are creating. My consultant informed first, not me, but his dictaphone, of my almost certainly necessary surgery. What surgery, I am still only able to speculate. It is sinusitis, an infection, pus in the ethmoid. Today's MRI scan of my head was olympically efficient - I arrived 15 mins early and had left the hospital by the time my appointment was supposed to take place. I, rather unnecessarily, slowed things down by asking the nurse what happened next. "Your scans go to the consultant now, and then he will contact you soon. Just turn left out of the doors."

Of course I have the problem of Einstein's observer, watching trains travelling in different directions at the speed of light. I'm in the train, and can't get out of it to look. I can't experience medicine without thinking about the experience of medicine, and I can't think about the experience without picking out the moments that are self-selected to illustrate the competing narratives that constitute the phenomenon of medical treatment.

I also can't help but think there is a certain kind of guilt associated with querying the treatment that our noble welfare-state doctors and nurses provide. One is supposed to say "mustn't grumble...", adopt the Blitz spirit, "there are people worse off than me..", "oh it's just a touch of sinusitis..." How self-indulgent to expect a consultant to spend an extra few minutes explaining the diagnosis and how the treatment will pan out, when he must dash off to start someone's heart any second now. "Remember that the appointment that you cannot attend is very valuable to someone in pain or distress" the leaflet says. Unusual, fatal, healing, fictions.

Categories: medicine, hospital, treatment, therapy, narrative, phd,
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