Monday, January 31, 2005

Masters Thesis

I've applied for a leave of absence from my masters program. After completing the coursework (including an inexplicable A in the final course, which I honestly expected to fail), I realized that I wasn't ready to launch right into my thesis. The leave gives me a few months to catch my breath and focus on a meaningful thesis question. It has to be related to education and technology (both of which have a fair bit of latitude) and could involve some original research, but wouldn't have to.

I’m tossing around a bunch of ideas, all centered around how people are using (and will be using in the future) the web to discover, define and pursue their aspirations. There’s also an element of mapping aspirations over values, both stated values and how they’re reflected in lifestyle choices (how we spend our time, energy and money), which I’m exploring right now through my lifestylism blog.

An example at the mundane end of the spectrum might be how high school students use college searches and college sites to decide where they want to go and what they want to study. It may also include some aspect of online career planning, which I’ve been working on for the last few years. I think the web can be used in better ways to help people envision their future work, especially by putting it in the context of figuring out how work will fit into the rest of their future life, including relationships, leisure, and learning.

Myron is doing some amazing work with high school kids, getting them to use the web to create a presentation of what they want for the future, using MLS to choose the home and location they envision themselves in, AutoTrader to select their vehicles, Expedia to plan their annual trips, etc... They create a sort of "surface view" of what their future life might look like, and then they add up the main costs to figure out what type of work will sustain those lifestyles, discussing values and choices in the context of what kids want. I love that approach, and I've seen how powerful the learning is for his students.

I'm fascinated by the psychology of aspiration and the concept of possible selves. Eddy Elmer sent me a helpful list of psychologists to use as a starting point for researching identity and self-actualization: Alfred Adler, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers seem to be the most promising.

43Things could be right in the middle of this stuff -— it’s currently the best example of a site that really harnesses the power of the web to help people figure out what they want to do. I love how it connects people with shared goals and informal expertise. It led me to this fascinating paper about goal-setting and the Delmore Effect.

So I’m not lacking interests...just need to focus. Any ideas for further reading, or more specific questions that emerge from these ideas? E-mail me or leave a comment here, and I will be most grateful.

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