Re-Imagining the Conditions of Possibility of a PhD Thesis

Fransman, Jude (2012). Re-Imagining the Conditions of Possibility of a PhD Thesis. In: Andrews, Richard; Borg, Erik; Boyd Davis, Stephen; Domingo, Myrrh and England, Jude eds. The SAGE Handbook of Digital Dissertations and Theses. SAGE, pp. 138–156.



This chapter attempts to interfere with the ‘conditions of possibility’ set by an Institute of Education (University of London) PhD thesis through digital re- imaginings. Drawing on my own doctoral research I propose a framework for showing how the matter of a PhD is selected, classified and recontextualised into a doctoral thesis. By reconceptualizing analytical tools from social semiotics (Hodge and Kress 1988; Kress and Van Leeuwen 1996; Van Leeuwen 2005; Kress 2010) I suggest that the way research is assembled (Law 2004; Latour 2005) and the implications for what is included or excluded is influenced by a negotiation between the interests of the researcher and the virtual-actual affordances of the research text. After presenting this conceptual framework I apply it to my own doctoral research to show how the social-material affordances of an Institute of Education PhD thesis interacted with my own personal, professional and political interests to influence the form of my research output. I conclude by exploring how digital modes of representation might challenge these conditions of possibility, opening creative pathways to non-linear, collaborative and multimodal texts.

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