The time it takes to get to know

This guest blog comes from Richy Carey, a doctoral candidate at the University of Glasgow researching the language of collaboration in the construction of film sound. Here, he reflects on his SDF project, and the relationship between time and knowledge.

One of the conditions of receiving a Student Development Fund award is that you submit a blog post within one month of the activity, a reflection on what you did, which as far as funding conditions go is one of the least onerous requirements I’ve encountered. In fact it’s very much a positive, encouraging thing to be asked to do, especially since the SGSAH are so open about the form this might take. I tried to write this post within that timeframe, but couldn’t, and wanted to write around some of the reasons why.

Reflecting on, or making sense of an event that you’re still immersed in is no mean feat, especially when said event has asked profoundly challenging questions of your research. It takes time to frame what happened, time for the blur to come into focus, and if not become resolved, then at least move towards a type of clarity you can articulate. It takes time for distance to grow, and that (critical) distance lets us, or at least me, put understanding into context, to become something closer to knowledge.

I do my PhD part-time, but of course am always thinking about it, so for the part of the week where I’m technically not doing research I’m constantly framing and re-framing my learning through my everyday experiences. In that regard I’m lucky, as there isn’t too much of a line between my non-PhD-composer hat and my PhD-composer hat. They are quite similar hats. I can think about my research through making outside of academia, and bring this making back in to my research. I truly think that is important for my process, for me Knowledge Exchange is not just a box to be ticked but is something close to the very thing I’m researching.

I think this suits my own pattern of learning, there’s a rhythm to it that I’ve begun to hear and have started to be able to predict with some assuredness, not in terms of the outcomes of my learning of course, but more the time it takes me to come to know. However, this rhythm doesn’t always keep time with that of our academic environment.

I need deadlines as much as the next person. And I of course understand the need for funding to be justified across academia, especially in our current climate. More so, I have a moral obligation to use taxpayers money in the most efficient way possible. But I also think it’s important to be honest about, and argue for, the relationship between time and knowledge.

Richy Carey

There’s a quote early on in Ursula Le Guin’s first Earthsea book that I think speaks to the relationship between time and knowledge, where a wise person is explaining to an apprentice the “true” name of a herb;

“When you know the fourfoil in all its seasons, root and leaf and flower, by sight and scent and seed, then you may learn its true name, knowing its being: which is more than its use.” (LeGuin, 1971)

We are being funded to “produce” knowledge, and each knowledge is unique, it grows differently in all of us and needs distinct conditions to thrive, which our present neo-liberal culture steadfastly does not allow for. More articulate agitations against this environment can be found in Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, Tim Ingold’s manifesto for Reclaiming our University and in Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber’s The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy.

My own research, for the most part, looks at the language of collaboration in the construction of film sound. I’ve made the choice here however, to not write in any detail about the project I undertook, where it might have succeeded, where it might have collapsed, which parts of my research process were affirmed and which parts disputed, what I think I learned and what questions it left me with. This is mainly because I’m not quite sure if I can speak with any real confidence to those questions yet. But in trying to answer them, I’m finding that one of the most apparent forces weighing on the relative successes and collapses was time. Time spent with the collaborators, time for me to come to know the way they practice, time for them to come to know the research process I was proposing, to find ways we might work with each other individually and as a collective, time to push back the looming spectre of A DEADLINE in the need to articulate what we didn’t quite know yet in a public form.

Thinking and making collaboratively needs time for the collective to find a shared rhythm. Practice is as much an extension of the practitioner as it is the medium or material, and in devising my SDF supported project I think I neglected to consider the time it would take the group to find their rhythm as practitioners. The relational clarity of practice-practice, research-research that exists inside the fine line borders of a funding application are not those performed in the relational tangle between a person and a person. It can be easy to forget that when planning projects on paper, and even more difficult to explain in funding reports.

I learned an invaluable amount about my work and processes through the project. It gave me the opportunity to bring together artists and researchers I would otherwise have been unable to work with; to discuss, create, share and critique key areas of my research. I hope this post doesn’t come across as a complaint about the time frame for its submission. I’ve always felt those at the SGSAH to be fantastic advocates for the researchers under their wing, and that they have always been flexible and supportive as things change throughout the arc of my research.

I don’t think I needed more time for the project. The three weeks cultivated a wealth of research material that I will be uncovering for a long time to come, and allowed me to develop sincere relationships with artists and researchers whose work helps me to understand my own.

But it has taught me to listen that bit closer for the rhythms of those around me, to bend my tempo to meet theirs, and to consider how those patterns might reverberate around our current academic architecture.

We are always seeking new guest bloggers! If you have an idea for a blog post or would like to informally discuss writing for the SGSAH blog, please get in touch with Lizzie via email at or connect with the blog on Twitter





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