It felt like the most important presentation in my two years as a PhD student: a meeting at the municipal Environmental Department, attended by me and six people who I want to interview for my research. How to present my research in a clear way, without too much jargon, and make it interesting enough that they want to participate in my project? It’s not something that we are taught in courses.
My presentation was well-received. And now it’s high season for interviewing so that I can get a good start to the autumn. With any luck, several of my upcoming interviews will lead me to relevant colleagues who I can also interview (which, in academic terms, is called nothing other than the snowball method). It looks like I’ll be travelling to Malmö every week for September and October. Twice this week.
This autumn I am hoping to do most of the interviews that I will need to write my thesis. In addition to the interviews, I have been invited to a monthly meeting where planners meet with the local energy company discuss their work in Hyllie, the new city district that I am studying. It’s very helpful to attend the meetings and hear how they discuss the issues they are working on—I can learn a lot more by listening than by reading meeting minutes. (That being said, I have also been building a huge collection of documents—meeting minutes, project reports, promotional material, website captures…)
As I do my interviews, I am also starting to write my first article. My idea is to study what it means to develop a ‘smart’ city district, whether it’s any different from the work to make a ‘sustainable’ city district. This article should eventually become the first of four that I write for my thesis. So far it’s a pretty short article. All I have is an 200-word abstract for presentation I will make at a course in October. I will base much of the article on what I learn through my interviews between now and then. But I also need to remember that my thesis is more than this article. My interviews need to keep the broad aims of my thesis in mind, not just narrower aims of the article I am writing.
Tomorrow I have my next interview, the fourth of the six people who I presented to at that meeting three weeks ago. He was nice enough to invite a colleague of his who is working on the same project. Before long I should have finished a first round on interviews, which—combined with comments from my course in October and a seminar in November—could be on their way to becoming an article.
Picture of Stadshuset Malmö (Malmö City Hall) by Håkan Dahlström Photography.