What is Ontology?

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Now that we kind of have an idea of this thing called philosophy and the different branches or domains within it – we need to think about our own phd research. If you pick up a doctoral thesis you will notice reference to ontology. what is that? And how does it fit into my own research design?process?write-up?


Branches of Philosophy

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Now that we know what philosophy is – we also need to understand the different branches within philosophy.

Basic Question of Philosophy

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Before getting into the phd – it is important to first understand the philosophical underpinning of the research process as one that is an imposed Western academic construct derived from Greek culture, language and education.

Alien territory 1: Ontology vs. Epistemology

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Ok so we’ve all experienced it – that excitement and enthusiasm of beginning the phd and then you discover yourself in alien territory of Greek terminology that you may have never seen or heard before. For many Pacific island students, the fact that English may be your second, third or fourth language may already be a challenge given that you need to write the full dissertation of about 80,000 to 100, 000 words in the English language.

Yes. Drowning in an ocean of technical terminology is not a pleasant experience so it is highly advisable that we very quickly learn to swim with the sharks.

First up, while epistemology is more commonly used, much of what we are exposed to as Undergrad students and sometimes even at the Masters level does not adequately cover the distinction between “ontology” and “epistemology”. So, given that a PhD dissertation requires that we establish our ontological and epistemological standpoint, it is critical that each of us take the time to figure out what they mean.

Just over the last week I received a notification from one of the linkedin groups that I have subscribed to “Higher Education Academy” and the discussion was on differentiating between the O and the E. Follow the academic discourse here: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Can-anyone-explain-Ontology-Epistemology-2163207.S.236498623?view=&srchtype=discussedNews&gid=2163207&item=236498623&type=member&trk=eml-anet_dig-b_pd-ttl-hdp&ut=3KkkL0S-eZ5RM1

I have also found that youtube has some great scholarly videos that range from 3 minutes to 30 minutes. This is a great starting point as it is interactive and is easier to follow than a clinical text book. See below for a  few videos that help to clarify the difference between O & E. If you are aware of any others please do post links in your replies.

Basic Question of Philosophy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ht3luMUASI

Branches of Philosophy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzCAKbKyl4g

How could ontology & epistemology affect your research write up? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHArrSe9wz8

What is ontology? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTsaZWzVJ4c

In my next post we will revisit ontology and look at Pacific island reference points.

blessed day!



What is this monster called the doctoral dissertation??

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 What is this monster called the doctoral dissertation??

So here we are.

Each one of us is here because we made that decision to undertake the PhD. Even though there are numerous times when we wring our hands in despair and ask ourselves “Why are we doing this?”, at the core of the undertaking are four important words “This was MY CHOICE”.

This blog was inspired by my own struggles as a Phd candidate realizing just how inadequate the resources and support is for the Pacific island student undertaking the Phd in the islands.

A decision I made early on in this process was to take responsibility for my choice to do the Phd – by thinking more critically and strategically about what I need to do, to get to where I want to go – graduation! [and beyond]!

As part of collective discussions over the last two years, I have come to the realization that there is a huge gap between the MA and the PhD. And for whatever reason, the assumption that everyone makes is that somehow each one of us will magically transition from a place of questioning and confusion to one where the words just ‘flow’.

It doesn’t happen that way.

We all know it and that is why we find ourselves procrastinating and struggling through what is meant to be the most exciting time of our academic life.

Taking responsibility means reflecting on current practices – and what needs to change – or as a good friend of mine says – strategic thinking.

Over the next few posts I will share my process of finding meaning in the madness, and the power of strategic thinking as experienced by 1pacific daughter.

blessed day!

Tips for surviving the PhD


So to get us started I thought maybe we would like to acknowledge first up just how challenging, daunting, exciting, liberating and frightening the ‘highest’ degree experience actually is.

First for the good news. We are not alone! PhD candidates all over the world stress and struggle under, over and through the many hurdles that present themselves along the way.

The bad news is that if we don’t sort ourselves out, prioritize and commit to the project it is all too easy to fall way – way… behind.


So here are some interesting tips found on other blogs many of which are written by Phd students themselves or supervisors. Hope they help!




Also below is an article that you might find useful.

Cohen, D.B. (2002). Surviving the Ph.D.: Hints for Navigating the Sometimes Stormy Seas of Graduate Education in Political Science, PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 585-588. Retrieved from: http://sernt55.essex.ac.uk/gv/gv994/Cohen-Graduate-Survivla.pdf  

If you have other survival tips perhaps you’d like to share with us here! smile



Controversy in Paradise!

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Funny how I am just finalizing a draft of the thesis chapters looking at Tapa and Tattoo in Samoa and Tonga when an airline advertises in the classifieds its intention to trade mark fifteen traditional Fijian cultural heritage bark cloth designs!! Ironically enough, this just a month after Nina Nawalowalo’s MASI production was staged in Fiji.

A local artist sent an email out on the same day and today Jan 31st – six days later, online discussions are HOT on the issue with emails and facebook discussions taking off! It is so interesting to see the passion of some and the disinterest of others who state their ‘surprise’ or ‘irritation’ at ‘all the fuss’.

While there is debate about the lack of IP laws on the protection of TK in the islands, the legal conversation has been ongoing since the 1990s which itself is appalling. Second, many people think that Copyright laws will protect cultural heritage when in fact they are about accessibility “at a price”. My concern in all of this is that the vast majority of people who will be affected either (a) do not know what is going on; (b) do not realize how this may impact on their cultural expression and practice; or: (c) have no idea about how to go about the legal submission of stating an “objection”.

Another issue of concern is the general idea of copyrighting any form of cultural heritage by an organization is frightening. In the worst case scenario, it would be impossible for cultural producers to continue using these designs as well as contemporary artists. And in the event that they did use them, they could be sued for piracy infringement of the trademark. How ridiculous does that sound?

If you read this blog and have a fb account find http://www.facebook.com/fijimasiforeveryone and get in on the debate.





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