Thursday, January 5, 2017

Deciding on a topic...

One of the things I've been struggling with is deciding on a topic. The idea behind this Master's degree is to gain real research skills which I can then use to address important topics. However, given that there is a huge learning curve in conducting the actual research, I think it might be wise to choose a fun topic that I will enjoy researching.

I have spent a lot of time in mental health, disability, and aged care doing teaching, advocacy, research, carer duties and so on. So it seemed a good idea to follow on from these. I have done a couple of papers considering representations of autism in the media, chaired a panel discussion on representations of disability and mental health in movies and games, as well as looking at cyberbullying. But one of the things that always happens is the mental exhaustion and the heartache that comes from researching these topics. Although I consider this very important work where researchers can inform activists and activists can inform researchers, I need a break from this and some serious down time.

Another keen area of interest intersects between my work in archives and my study in social and cultural research. That of genealogy.  It has only recently been the subject of academic research. I wrote a paper suggesting the methods I could use to research the reactions of people who inadvertently uncovered family secrets while conducting their research into their family tree. It is a strong topic and is very doable in the time frame, but it requires a lot of interviews which I am concerned about because of my other commitments including work and carer tasks. I could easily get burnout because it is a full time job which I will be trying to do part time. I also think that I run the risk of using my own personal stories which are not owned by me, but my extended family and are therefore not mine alone to share.

Recently I realised something about a topic I used to research in my own time, which is a possibility.
The 90's brought a lot of changes in my life. I got married, had kids and stopped being a Christian. I also got connected to the World Wide Web.

Nowadays we use the term "Internet" to mean anything from our service provider to our WiFi signal. "The Internet isn't working." or "I can't get on the Internet". However, the Internet was the realm of scientists and computer whizzes until 1989 when the WWW was invented. This allowed us to use browsers to find the information we needed and connect with other users and businesses without needing as much computing background. However, I digress.

One of the early research topics I looked at in those days was various religions, and most specifically Wicca and Paganism. I read a lot of information about this because it worked as a catalyst to my break with my Christian upbringing. I even gained online certificates in Wicca, Tarot, and Herbalism. Eventually I became an Atheist believing in neither gods nor goddesses. I came to trust science and logic ahead of magic or religion. But I still have a fascination with Wicca because of the notions of female empowerment.

Wicca was founded in the 20's and 30's, allegedly based on an ancient practice. In the 40's and 50's it gained a huge following. In the 90's there was a lot of television shows, documentaries and books of both fiction and non-fiction. This created another surge in popularity, and the WWW created the perfect space to connect and the technopagan was born. Most academics who studied Wicca were using action research, as they were also members of the group they were researching. There was also claims that paganism would have it's day and Christianity would begin to die out.

Now almost thirty years later, I am interested to see if this openness, this "coming out of the closet" has had an impact on the practice. I wonder how many people are still practicing. I think there's also research to be done on the divide between the technopagans and the self initiates, as opposed to the traditional practitioners.

So I think I'm finally onto a topic and I think I will enjoy it. I'll have to see what my supervisor says.

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