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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - May 2024

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6 May 2024

I’ve been in a bit of a marking hole for a while.

The last thing I did before taking a bit of work-imposed break from study was watch a production of The Tempest that was staged at The Globe. I turns out that I have lost my copy of the text; it is either hidden amongst a pile of books, or it is at my parents place; I don’t know which. To get around this, I’ve been following a version of the text with a Project Guttenberg version that I have downloaded onto my Kindle.

I recently found out that the version of the text I had wasn’t the one that was recommended by the module team, which has now been delivered. It is the introduction to the set text that I have ordered, and it is that text that I’ve been reading today.

I’ve also emailed a bunch of additional reading to my Kindle, which I hope to go through over the next couple of days. I feel I’m building up towards the writing of the EMA. Another step towards it will be a Shakespeare lecture that takes place tomorrow. In between my day job and study, I’ll also be marking some project assignments. I have a lot to be getting on with.

10 May 2024

I’m finally doing a bit of proper study. Two days ago I went to an online tutorial that was about TMA 5 preparation, which I found quite helpful. Yesterday I listened to the remainder of a module team tutorial that was about how to go about reading Shakespeare. This morning, and also for a part of yesterday, I’ve been skim reading a bunch of additional readings I’ve found from both the module website and the OU library. I feel I’m getting there.

The Tempest is growing on me. Whilst I’ve always liked science fiction, I’ve never really liked fantasy. I found the idea of a magician creating a storm and causing mischief thoroughly boring. I can, however, see that there’s a whole lot more going on than I ever realised.

Our tutor has directed us to a site Shakespeareswords.com which looks to be pretty useful.

Next steps: finish up all my reading, and then go onto making my word processed notes from my Kindle notes and highlights, and then writing, which will hopefully take a couple of days.

15 May 2024

A couple of days ago I went to a tutorial that was run by my tutor. I think there were five of us; a lot was covered, and it was recorded. I picked up a whole load of tips on how to approach my essay.

I spent a lot of time yesterday sat in a car. I made use of over 4 or 5 hours of driving by listening to an audio book of The Dispossessed. The more I listen to it, the more there is to unpick.

To help with the unpicking, a fellow student shared the following YouTube videos, which are certainly worth a listen:

I was struck by a couple of things. I was struck by how many detailed videos the presenter of the second video had mad. I was struck by how much time and energy had been expended preparing all of these. I liked the third video; it talks about materialism vs idealism. It has helped me to reflect on the views that I previously held about science fiction. The points about roles, origins and purpose of stories are interesting too. 

19 May 2024

A busy couple of days. I managed to finish transferring all my digital e-book notes into my Word document. I had to do quite a bit of driving yesterday, so I spent 4 more hours of it listening to The Dispossessed. I think I have a few more hours of listening to go, but I know what happens, and (broadly) how the final chapters are structured.

Today has been a day of two halves. In the morning I did the bulk of my writing, building on and drawing on my notes. It turned out I was 500 words over the word count. I then went through a cycle of editing. Although I think there is still some time to go, I got to a point when I was happy with what I had written, and what I had learnt. This time I applied quite a rigorous writing process. I felt that looking for additional resources, and skim reading them was pretty helpful. I also carefully referenced every article that I downloaded. If I found I didn’t use it, I cut it from the reference list.

There is a niggling feeling that I have that I haven’t really answered the TMA question, but I really don’t think that is the case. I could have picked on more bits of realism, and more specific bits of fantasy, but underneath it all there is the need to express your understanding of the text and to express understanding of different literary terms. I’ll try not to worry. I think I’ve done this.

28 May 2024

Only two more days to go until the final TMA deadline on A233.

I’ve started to get ahead on the reading (and studying) of my next module, A334. This means working through some of the free versions of the texts that I’ve downloaded from Project Guttenberg. To conclude this A233 blog, I wanted to share two points of learning from my studies of English, and points of learning from studying this module.

The first is that I’m starting to read texts in a slightly different way. Although this sounds a bit weird, but I feel as if I’m more aware of what is written. I’m also questioning: why words were written. I found myself realising this when I was reading a popular science (or engineering) book about cloud computing; a text which relates to my day job. (Admittedly, it was a very good book).

The other bit relates to The Tempest. When I watched a production of The Tempest for the first time, I wasn’t very taken by it. I thought it was really silly; all that stuff about magic, fairies and monsters. I didn’t speak to me.

The more I read about it, not just of the module materials, but articles I found from the OU library, the more I began to appreciate it. I reflected on the characters, and the context in which it was written. Turning to an entirely different subject, I also reflected on some research presentations I had attended that were about decolonising computing, and what that meant. 

Could The Tempest be used as a lens to understand this completely different subject? Maybe software engineers could be a bit like Prospero, using all their technical books to enact digital magic. What about the other characters in the play? I will continue to mull over these idle questions.

I’m now looking forward to As you like it, Julius Caesar, and Hamlet.

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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - April 2024

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7 April 2024

I am procrastinating in a really productive way: I’m reading ahead! I’ve been reading Startdust. It is interesting note that there are a number of different versions. I accidentally downloaded the text only version. What you do need is the illustrated version. The illustrations add a huge amount to the text, since on its own, I found the text quite hard to follow.

I’ve made it part way through the chapter that I shouldn’t be reading.

It’s time to begin to collate all my notes, to prepare for the writing of the TMA. I’ve got notes in two different places: pencil scribbles in the set text, and digital highlights on the PDF version that I’ve been reading using my Kindle. I’ll see how I get on.

12 April 2024

I’ve downloaded an audio book of The Dispossessed. Today I’m helping a friend get settled in his new house. Since it’s quite a drive away, listen to The Dispossessed whilst I’m driving. I found the first couple of chapters unfathomable, and I have no idea what is going on.

13 April 2024

I’m stuck at home with a dodgy ankle that was caused by too much running about, and the messing about with furniture didn’t’ help it one bit. Subsequently, this gives me a bit of time to complete TMA 4! I edit together a set of notes from my reading, I then have a go to edit up my story, and then cycle round a loop of editing a few times. I’m quite pleased with what I’ve written, but less happy with the reflective section, where I’m really struggling with word count. 

I really like Propp’s actants, but I feel pretty dumb, since the extent of my reflection seems to be: ‘I like them, and they have helped me’. I think I know where I’m going to let myself down in the TMA, but it has nearly got to that point where I’ve just got to submit it.

14 April 2024

It’s ‘listening to The Dispossessed’ day. I’m making reasonable progress, but it’s slow and long going. I’ve really got to concentrate to understand what on earth is going on. Since it’s all a bit weird, I don’t know what detail is going to be important, and what detail adds to the overall atmosphere. I don’t think I like it. I glimpsed at the module materials, and there is a comment that the text places demands on the reader. I’m struggling and I’m not even reading it.

It really isn’t good that I’ve fallen asleep twice. On the second occasion I slept through half a chapter. This has never happened.

15 April 2024

One hour of listening before I start work. The Dispossessed has become very weird. Let’s say: I appreciate it, but I don’t like it. I appreciate it’s difficult to predict the future, but spacemen reading books and sending letters? As for all the faux physics, that bit is really starting to grate.

16 April 2024

Another chapter first thing in the morning. The further I get into it, the more I’m drawn to it. I’m surprised at how much action there is!

It’s time to get back to studying a bit more systematically again. I’m back to the online module materials. There are bits that I’ve missed in the previous section, but I need to keep moving forward. It’s onto the video and audio material that relate to Stardust. There are interviews and videos to work through. I’ll skive off a bit of my day job, with the justification that everything I’m doing here is connected (in one way or another).

I’m on a roll: I’ve reviewed all the audio and video clips in the Le Guin weeks, making some notes. My next activity has been to prep a TMA 5 document. Noticing there’s a fair amount of supplementary material, I start to download articles from the library.

Before I’ve finished today, I’m going to have a quick look in the Shakespeare section to see if there’s any audio or video materials I can have a look or listen to.

17 April 2024

Struggling with ankle aches and pains, I join the queue to the GP, whilst listening to chapter 11 of The Dispossessed

When I get back from the queue, I make the following post to the A233 ‘laid back’ Facebook group: “I think I've done a 180 turn when it comes to The Dispossessed. I've gone from: 'this is really tedious, and is continually making me fall asleep' to 'this is really amazing stuff!'. Two chapters on the audio book to go. Keep with it; there are Urasti propetarian dividends to be had, even though it initially might sound like a lot of nonsense (if it is your kind of thing).”

I’m now browsing through the Journal of Science Fiction Studies, when I really ought to be browsing through the IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering. 

It’s all related, right?

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