Notes on: Fullagar, S., Pavlidis, A., & Stdaler, R (2017) Collaborative writing as rhizomatic practice: Critical moments of (un)doing doctoral supervision. Knowledge Cultures 1. https: //

Dave Harris

This is post qualitative. They wanted to do supervision 'that counter hierarchical master/apprentice models'(1). Instead they wanted to see it as 'an assemblage that produces multiplicity' A 'democratic learning alliance through electronic writing'was created and critical moments noted. They saw collaborative writing as rhizomatic rejecting linearity, causality and rationality and following 'affective intensities'.

Supervision is commonly shrouded in mystique. Often there is a technical rational approach as a binary. Rhizomatic and collaborative writing can generate 'becoming-researchers' (2), but they admit it is only a metaphoric tool. When you share voices about it, you find the usual entanglement of desires, intensities and flows. Mazzei and Taguchi have both explored this. There is also the self-management discourse. Collaborative writing helps make key moments visible, especially things like the effective response to not knowing, how to reform learning practices, the unexpected result material relations and 'becoming – improvising supervisors'. These are autoethnographic fragments connected by affective traces. They want to produce multiplicities and resist deterritorialization. Wyatt et al also agree.

Qualitative research suggests that doctoral relationship is significant in 'identity formation for both students and supervisors'. There have been some autoethnographic accounts of it as an intersubjective relation, but they want to address post qualitative enquiry and get into post-humanism and materialist ontologies, mapping connectives, looking at the relational process of knowledge creation.

It starts with desires to become an academic, but that is already bound up in an assemblage producing desiring subjects. Affect is something felt before it's thought, having a visceral impact. This means we can see how students and supervisors are moved in particular ways, that it's not a smooth journey towards Knowledge, that there are moments of disruption and connection. It is just like Deleuze and Guattari on the orchid and the wasp.

Braidotti suggests there is an ethics of supervision involving affirmative ethical relations, and she also uses the notion of a web or rhizome. They hope to produce '"relational becoming"' (6) where both parties learn. This should relate the creative and the critical, and make us aware of hierarchical power relations. Collaborative writing criticises 'the normalcy that rests upon a fantasy of rational subjecthood' in the development of expertise. Complex affects produced some new lines. Critical moments record moments when they were stuck and how they overcame things like 'unhelpful expectations

Critical moments are like critical incidents, things that are influential decisive. Their PhD students produce their own narrative accounts of turning points or challenges. We might include episodes that are just significant. This focus offers 'a materialist turn', (7) an intersection between collaborative writing and post structural feminist work on memory. This should help us develop different ethical practice when we recall uncertainties embodied affects and creative possibilities. The point is not to avoid pain but to get over resignation and passivity [apparently quoting Braidotti].

The approach foregrounds power and also opportunities for disruption. They shared individual writing fragments as a way of 'embracing multiplicity', drawn on many different perspectives and positions. This breaks down individualism and reveals new affects and practices. They focused on tensions and possibilities and saw rhizomatic pedagogy already as '"pedagogy that embraces uncertainties and departures"' [apparently quoting somebody called Kuby]. They took the rhizome as a driving force, and quote a definition as multiply joined and so on [from TP].

Gannon has already said that we cannot avoid relations with others in language when we perform contradictory subject positions, so this can only offer partial knowledge rather than truth, showing that  dilemmas can be negotiated at least.

They established an online forum to share ideas and support students, and they produced a desire to write from a face-to-face discussion group. They collaborated among themselves, 'writing, remembering, reading and rewriting our texts', which apparently will deliver moments of 'becoming – writing'. They like plugging in theory [oh dear — Jackson and Mazzei], where texts are rewritten after analytic questions emerge. This is materialist, showing affect. There is a lot of in-between. They then considered the conditions of possibility for collaboration, hoping to get a deleuzian spark to break out of language.

Lots of people have talked about the tension in the supervision relationship, the pressures of time and funding, the need to ensure quality and respond to audit. There are a lot of 'workshops recipes and tips', although these often fail to address complexity. The relationship is still seen as highly individualised, a matter of giving expert advice, something privatised — but it should be seen as relational, especially in developing relational ethics. We should think of a learning alliance rather than apprenticeship. At the moment, supervisors are often seen as central but cannot exercise power the shift policies. Again learning alliance will help and disrupt any binaries.

[Extracts follow., with commentaries]

 SF wonders about the effectiveness of training on what to do about emergent affective entanglements, especially if they interrupt pedagogic conversations. She is thinking in particular of 'fears of failure, isolation, uncertainty', her own remembered feelings as well. She finds working away from the office sometimes more productive. She gets her supervisees talking about the relationship and how to do a doctorate and this prompts further thoughts ['" (re)writing" 'me, p.12]

There are power knowledge relations of different kinds at work affecting the possibility of developing learning alliances. One is the 'heroic constructions of leadership', (13) originally masculine. Students also occasionally want credible leaders. Supervisors have to manage this because they know they are not really omniscient. Women face familial metaphors and other gendered effects, such as reworking mother- daughter expectations. Both these discourses prevent women students wanting to exercise power through writing. Supervisors have to be accountable, while enacting an ethics of care, and 'enabling the exercise of intellectual autonomy in others'. They expect each other to be 'competent, autonomous, intelligent women' with consequent uncertainties about not knowing enough.

Back to SF's account — she finds the relation with the students becoming intense as risks increase. RS confesses to being lost and finding herself unable to say what her supervisor meant. She felt bad for not consulting her notes from the last meeting. She felt a need to know where to go and suggests asking for further reading.

AP Relates that she was sometimes afraid she would never grasp all that the supervisor was saying, and hope that she would be doing enough although it never felt like it. The supervisor's words were not what she finally wrote down, although she always seem to be improving. Gradually she became more confident in her 'ability to pick up the threads and weave them through' (15), that she was not personally to blame because ideas were complex.

SF says that someone in the discussion group confessed to be more confused after sessions than before, and noted shared understanding. She wondered why she had not grasped this before, and realised the difficulties of admitting to not knowing. She experimented with different techniques — commenting on the draft, for example and asking what is clear. She wanted to encourage students to work things out for themselves, 'leading–teaching me as we went'.

Supervisors did not always make it easy for students to tell them when they're struggling. They usually cope, but we can at least avoid constant misunderstandings. We have to accept status hierarchies and power relations, although not necessarily conform to them. We should recognise our own blindspots in communication as well as those for others. We have to grasp moments of insight and be prepared to unlearn practices.

Supervision pedagogy is constant improvisation, and this can help with working together. PhD students are often on scholarship and are therefore expected to perform in particular ways. Fitzpatrick and Fitzpatrick 'explore the use of poetry to shift supervisory relations' (17) [!] They wrote about unlearning to be supervisor and students, undoing practice. A range of affects went through them and collaborative writing made those intelligible.

AP says it was necessary to undo and unlearn, especially after reading feminist post structuralism. She realised there was no answer, but she did find a way to think and write about issues. She wrestled with the reading. She kept a writing journal with all the doubts concerns and insights. She shared these. She read in different ways [seems to mean at different locations — in the kitchen, outside]

RS [historical present tense] says her supervisor really tried to make things work and for her to understand how to do things. She can now identify strengths. She wants structure and needs deadlines, realistic targets, although she didn't always like this. She found the session intense, often feels the need to rewrite the whole thing, advice to play by ear doesn't work — she needs deadlines. Her supervisor says she shouldn't push yourself too hard, maybe draw some mind maps [!] But she needs to produce something. Later, she tries it, just thinking, but says it drive so crazy because she's getting nowhere. She tries a mind map — 'not my thing' (19) she gets diverted. Suddenly reading her chapters make sense, she thinks this might have been the whole point of the exercise. She now takes 'no writing, just thinking' breaks.

There are material relations including campus spaces, various rooms and offices they can be important. AP says she benefited from going for a walk rather than sitting down writing. Then she ran and that helped.

SF says the need to operate with multiple perspectives, the views of others, in order to value your work, bounce ideas off each other. Humour helps. RS says one of the students came in for advice and she suggested some emphasis of structure, but her student was more inspired when she said she needed to take the reader on a journey. AP found poststructuralist theory could be fun, that reading groups helps her laugh but not get demoralised, a strong sense of belonging developed. She was encouraged.

Supervisors are continually learning as well. They tend to reproduce the approach that their own supervisor employed even though it cause them trauma. They become aware of many forces and the need to develop ethical responses, including negative experiences. SF: comments help to get off the pedestal as a survivor. She realise that supervisors have to develop 'multiple, intense relations' and there are affects involved. There can be no clear boundaries or recommendations. It's easy to burn out. The main point is to see a process developing even if students can't see yet what they can accomplish. It's a hard relationship and also gendered.

AP says her own adviser says she has made a great contribution and she feels great. She wants to be supportive without second-guessing the student, though. She realises every student will be different. However relations are the key and she is an ally of the student. She has something to learn.

RS says that when she moved to a new country she struggled with supervising, especially with the student who didn't seem to be very well focused, while another one was much more organised and on track. Perhaps the challenges have been suppressed and he is really struggling? She realises we are in this together.

AP&RS have learnt to trust students to have confidence in them, provide suggestions and laugh together, but they also need boundaries, regular meetings and replies to emails. Moving walking running and dancing can help. They should refuse expectations and read for enjoyment, connect with others, find synergies try out new technologies. Collaborative writing helped them realise the effect of unspoken norms and identify critical moments. They now feel unable to become more open and improvising.

They see that students can be isolated and supervisors distanced. So they try to develop a shared language to articulate their relation — 'talking about uncertainty and understanding the entangled process of becoming'. Putting questions generative Lee, creating different desires for knowledge, what works best for other people, in what material environment. Shared humour is important again, there is variety of ways to actually operate organisationally sharing know-how is important.

'In this way the doctoral experience becomes embedded within rhizomatic thinking' (26) [bollox — referring to Kuby again]. There is no need to obey prescriptive lists, because they often miss the importance of reflective practice. Improvisation in writing seem more important. The supportive institutional culture is also helpful, and it should include affirmative Essex in supervisor training. They think they've gone beyond a mere recommendation of student centred learning [which is humanist].

They can get over moments of being stuck and 'new lines of flight take off' (27', because rhizome is where we start up again. There is no need to revert to a linear form. We have instead 'made visible the multiplicity of doctoral supervision – what works for some, won't work for others, what worked then might not work now'. We have all become more aware of demands and less afraid, particularly overcoming uncertainty, fear and getting stuck.

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