Academic Pursuit

According to my favorite etymology website, the Latin prosequi or ‘follow up’ in the English word pursue/uit is also attached to such familiar terms as prosecute and persecute.  Not all followings are positive for the followed, eh?

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I ‘ve gone and joined Academia.edu.  In hopes of attaining what end specifically, I do n’t know.  I do know it reminds me how few marketable skills I can honestly put on my C.V. (Curriculum Vitae or academic résumé).  No positions held.  No peer-reviewed publications.  No lectures or talks given.  One conference attended purely as a spectator.  One Masters of Arts degree (which will have a few transferable skills).  Much reading yet to do.  Much writing yet to attempt.  Many secondary skills in need of considerable sharpening (if not something akin to generation).  Oh right, and there ‘s much networking yet to even begin.   

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It is a considerable struggle not to desire such items (or their betters – in terms of location/timing most likely) for the sake of prestige, easy to forget the lesson of the undergraduate: that you know exceedingly little compared to the senior members of academia.  It is easier to forget the lesson of the graduate student: that senior members also know exceedingly little (at least outside their special lens within their field).  Of course, the latter does not truly abolish the former.  But on the path to becoming an initiate, or a recognized member of the academy, there is considerable temptation to grasp for knowledge-credentials rather than knowledge itself.

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So if this blog comprises the majority of my minimal credentials (lending credence only for those who both find my work intriguing and proceed to apply it in ways that reach back into that dialectic I attempt to participate in), should I radically change my approach?  I ‘m not yet ready to give up judging my location by the searching for some unattained object which is yet my pursuit.

Perhaps it is too much to assume that one day soon I shall be past lacking these base credentials.  Maybe some day later I shall even enjoy modest success (currently defined as a place in which I can continue pursuing these objects and assist others in their intersecting pursuits), but that is a concern for another time.  For now I am only concerned to recall that the C.V. could be littered with items unrelated to the pursuits for which I consider academia to offer any value for me.  In other words, I can’t accept the title ‘Dr’ without having written out some slivers of the inner book.

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What I see is that I also must acknowledge truly that I must start from some point.  In truth, I am at some point.  But I must find a means of locating my voice for the moment so that another one or two might meaningfully respond and so drag me a few steps forward.  Such a pursuit feels to me like an invitation to prosecution, to being rejected for the unknowing choices that lead to me being hereand not there.  But I cannot accept this.  Even to be rejected is to be affirmed as having a location worth requisitioning.  I should remember not to glibly mis-locate others permanently to one sphere of discourse.  Such is a real fear for me, but one I cannot accept bowing under.  Located I must be, though stepping lightly I shall yet attempt.

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So, as to where I am, or at least what this location is: this is an attempt to gain an accent, to try out various intonations in communicating within a discourse.  True, that discourse allows me considerable freedom and may demand much of my reader.  Texts may be chosen at will and need only participate in some skepticism or some sphere of language by which I might attempt to reach out and appropriate a value.  This is a ground of play in which to learn skills that I hope to wield better, and more carefully, when a soberer maturity is attained.  For now it is best that I laugh.  Perhaps later that shall diminish to a chuckle and elicit looks of wondering disdain by those unfortunate enough to be termed colleagues.  But in truth, I feel all shall be well enough if I can yet help others to laugh; for maturity is not the negation of play.

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I guess what I ‘m saying is: while I do n’t expect to be here always, I want to learn things while here that will help me be a better person when I ‘m no longer looking through the fence at the older kids who get to play baseball till the twilight.  I want to be as much that person who does things, not because someone else would like to do the same, but because as far as I know I ‘ve made an honest attempt to do them the right way.  Until then (but most hopefully then as well), I ‘m learning as much as I can.

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Feedback, Update Culture, and Communicative Distress

This article (by Timothy Dalrymple: 14 Feb, 2012) caught my eye this past day.  My first impulse was to give pause to consider why it is I blog (as opposed or congruent to why others do).  But first, a digression (which is n’t really a digression):

Whatever practicalities have lent themselves to checking my phone and e-mail inbox for messages, maintaining a facebook account (and ignoring a myspace one), and, when the iron is hot; blogging, I find myself spending more time checking for updates than meaningfully communicating.  I can pretend to ignore the psychological effects of this with the best of them, but it calls into question whether the returns reflect what I intend.  I can ill afford to fail to define meaningfulcommunication – so I ‘ll choose here communication which either gives rise to right action (orthopraxy) or which leads to a dialogue worth having (the grand pursuit of truth and good together).

In my interactions, those which fall outside the lines of necessary business of course, my attention is more easily captured by the quantitative than the qualitative.  How do I mean?  E.g. on social media I am most apt to notice, amidst the long stream of data, whatever items are ‘getting play’ or getting a lot of feedback.  On facebook and in blogging, feedback can be interpreted by ‘likes’, ‘shares’ (or pingbacks), and ‘comments’ (as well we know).  In blogging we also measure traffic by views.

I believe that in choosing to maintain social interactions through these various mediums we intend to receive feedback.  This is the agony of media in general: we want quick and appropriate responses.  This extends even to conversations where language serves as the only medium — if we are not answered in kind, there is a natural communicative distress.  There is a certain validation in being answered in kind – in communicating meaningfully.

 

But when these are mediated by way of the internet, our expectations take on a quantitative aspect.  We can see displayed for us the gap in minutes since last our communication was answered.  Who has n’t experienced that awkward silence in texting or instant messaging.  In wordpress we can see how many hours it has been since the last visit to our site, which has been the most popular day, week, or month of traffic, and which has been the best trafficked or best ‘like’d post.  Does n’t this lead to a compounded distress?

Please do n’t misunderstand me (at least not too much), I see value in observing these statistics.  But I wonder if, when I ‘m either too high or too low due to the statistics, I ‘m measuring properly.

 

In terms of this blog, I ‘ve carved out my niche and have set in my own mind the measure of success (self-pingbacks make me feel a bit queasy, but narcissism versus nausea leaves no one a winner).  I can’t accurately measure success by traffic, followers, or comments because what I ‘m really seeking to do is consider things from the perspective where the various distresses of communication (not being answered in kind as only one example) are acknowledged and a fruitful dialogue ensues.  Few will find my insights interesting (of those who misunderstand me well enough) and perhaps fewer will find them helpful.  But for those who are open to a journey where we grow through miscommunicating well, there will hopefully be a space for meaningful communication.

I think other bloggers should carefully consider what it is they seek to accomplish because, as Dalrymple well notes, one may lend undue credit to one’s opposing philosophies by giving them voice where answering them with silence would better demonstrate how one answers such items.  The wise choice is, according to Proverbs 26:4&5, either to answer a fool according to his follyorto not.  Wisdom is demonstrated both in the choice (of answering in like or choosing not to) and in the manner with which one carries out her decision.

 

Asking oneself a few questions first is prudent and the article lists a few suggestions: decide if you are (or should be) addressing a controversy, if you have adequately digested the issues and if you are adding something meaningful, assess your motives, and do n’t forget you ‘re addressing people – so be compassionate.

As pertains to the article specifically, I appreciated Dalrymple’s honesty when he described how he enjoyed the thrill of success.  I can’t pretend (at least not well) that I do n’t get excited when the quantitative feedback suggests an upsurge of interest, but I ‘m mostly looking for feedback of a different sort and I ‘d do well to be distressed or thrilled with a more to-scale measure.  To my fellows distressed at the feedback you ‘re receiving, I recommend considering how your communication should be addressed.