Monday, 22 June 2015

Magical modelling

It's a good few years since I was formally reminded of the value of modelling.

I am not talking about embarking on a career as a paid, or otherwise, clothes horse; I don't have the height, age profile or stereotypical 'correct shape, never mind the political sensibilities!

Nor am I talking about mathematical simulation and hypothesis testing.

However, perhaps there is a trace of both of these ideas, in the sort of modelling which is truly magical.

Such modelling often begins with admiration, of behaviours or achievements or created artefacts. It is sometimes evoked serendipitously, sometimes identified through everyday experience, sometimes through purposeful searching and discovery.

The high achieving scholar, whose diligence is evident through their research publications or the highly successful potential rĂ´le model are the most obvious seeds for models, and modelling can be initiated by a single questions.... "how do they do that?".

There is another seed, that I believe is truly valuable to researchers and students, of all levels - the informative and reflective blog site or post.

Sites of value, to my mind, reveal the thinkings of the author through their content. Research methods and approaches are to some extent embodied in the posts. They also reveal a commitment to sharing, openness, transparency and active reflection - all of which are valuable principles for the student and researcher.

I actively encourage my students to blog like this, but also accept that for many the prospect it too intimidating or perceived as too onerous.

There are many possible reasons

  • claiming time;
  • creating an additional apparently conflicting priority;
  • demanding work out of the comfort zone;
  • exposing undeveloped skills
  • Attracting unwonted comment

But it is possible to adopt another perspective. Such blogs can work as thinking tools

  • be part of the discipline of the researchers logbook or diary;
  • Provide space for practicing turning thoughts into words
  • Act as a living notebook creating an archeological trace which can be searched and indexed
  • Provide personal feedback for ground covered and progress achieved
  • Establish the foundations of a reputation
  • Help identify the key questions you want to ask
  • Help fellow students and identify your community of scholars


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