Christmas time connecting

Just in case you missed it, I am going on holidays (yay!*). No, my house will not be empty, so (a) any internet stalkers should not get too excited and (b) I do not even have to deal with all that extra pre-break work such as emptying the fridge. However, there is still a mountain of home related tasks I feel I should get done before I leave and so free moments on the weekend were spent hacking back plants in the garden rather than reading the paper.

When I met with my supervisor the other day she suggested I find this article by Amanda Dunn on people connecting in the Sunday Age. This morning I finally got around to doing this, and quite frankly I want those 15 minutes of my morning back. To be fair, my supervisor was clear that she did not think that a newspaper article provides a clear parallel with my work and nor does she think my thesis should be this simple (or I would argue complex, as I found the article full of pre-packaged ideas). However, talking about ‘connecting’ seemed to be her way of addressing the next step I need to take in terms of tuning my focus.

While looking at ‘connecting with others’ is embedded in my project, I am not so sold on the idea that it is really my question. Usually when I describe my project I use the words ‘contact’ or ‘sharing’. I suppose connecting, contact and sharing all suggest that there is an interface at which something happens. This seems to sit well with concepts such as social capital and encounters. However, they seem to carry different suggestions as to how this impacts on people outside of the moment of interface. If I am looking at community, social capital and social inclusion/exclusion then the impact of actually occurring, anticipated or perceived as potential interactions is going to be rather key. So perhaps ‘connecting’ is one of the questions I have, and it will certainly be a useful concept for data analysis, but I am not so sure that it can bring greater focus to my data collection or provide a clear way of explaining my project to others.

As for the content of the article, there is a sprinkling of evidence and quotes from experts with a strong underpinning theme of what humans need. The article starts with a discussion about changes in households and living further away from family as bringing about more loneliness and isolation, thereby changing how we seek to connect. Amanda Dunn talks a little about gift giving and the time of year that Christmas falls in Australia. Perhaps the most interesting point she makes is that even the good and the bad of getting together with people is still part of connecting. The absence of people to get together with this time of year is discussed, but (unsurprisingly) the article does not unpack whether this getting together actually makes us better at doing life.

I suppose I really need to stop looking for discussion of theory with my supervisor and do a better job of showing her that I am connecting with the real world and that, at least when it comes to writing up, I will be willing to put aside my pondering of the abstract. My project is about contributing to an understanding of what the consequences of place based policy responses to place based poverty and a focus on social inclusion might be. Of course I will get to ponder what it is that humans need or what it is to be a person in my own time, but my focus is my project (at least that will be my focus when I am not on holidays).


* Yes, I do have plenty of guilt over getting to do something so indulgent as jump on a plane and go on a holiday. Maybe a break and a few new experiences will give me the perspective to be a better person and researcher?


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