i believe that your information concerning your own study is valuable in
that it supports the true nature of a PhD as a personal creative/critical
exploration within/between knowledge domains...this focus on individual
agency is the key component of a phD in my opinion.
As we all know organisations and institutions (universities, professions,
industries) have immense problems in coming to terms with individual
identity/agency/creativity...it's an administrative problem... a PhD
addresses individual focus through, lack of structured content,
confirmation by peers and external assessment etc. In a PhD we own the
project completely including its theoretical, epistemological and/or
ontological basis and any critical inquiry related to the formation of this
In a Dr of design or education etc. or Masters the learning framework (ie
the implicit structure in constructing/communicating/defining knowledge)is
supplied to some extent and therefore limited to a preset professional (or
some other organisational or developmental) intent and/or context...in my
experience at least.
A PhD requires personal critical inquiry at the meta-theoretical level
hence that (terrible) word philosophy is used...then we have to stand by
our words and be tested by others who have gone through this same process.
Therefore it is possible to state that a PhD is concerned with establishing
and then re-evaluating, sustaining and extending (living) knowledge domains.
The cultural origins many of these institutions (including philosophy)
might cause some to state for example that visual philosophy is not a
possible or worthy area for study (as was the case concerning feminist
theory, postcolonial theory and almost all other 'new' areas) but this does
not impede a subjects development as long as theses are written and passed
by peers. The study is made valid by its completion to cross-institutional
and perhaps non-institutional or knowledge-domain focused standards of
rigour. A Dr or Masters Program however has preset and internal criteria
Those PhD outlines (and i hope that they all do) that contain words like
"individual (& novel) contribution to knowledge in an area of study" should
perhaps have them in bold or underlined so that we all see that the words
"except people who dont agree with 'x' theory", or, "except the subjects
art, design or feminist theory" are not included.
The lack of an intentional program structure in a PhD provides a means for
individual scholarly involvement in proposing, critically defining and/or
re-defining an area of knowledge, methodology etc... it is this lack of an
intentional predefined educational process that constitutes a PhD in my view.
Thanks to all those who made the La Clusaz conference a tremendous learning
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Senior Research Officer
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit
University of Queensland
Brisbane Old 4072 Australia