Sunday, June 03, 2007

Summer's here and the time is right for dancing in the street

So, May is gone. I've been to France and returned. I had a great time. But I was happy to be back in Austin, especially happy to be able to understand everything everyone around me is saying. You just don't realize how cool that is until you don't have it anymore.

So I learned a lot of french, though it was an incredible struggle, mentally. The effort to understand is more intense than just about anything else I do these days. Not something that I am excited about doing again, though I'm convinced that it's the only way to really improve, at least if you want to do more than just read french.

The one thing that really surprised me though was that there's a whole 'nother (who else says that?) layer of things to learn about France -- the social rules. They are very different from American social rules. No matter what you can say or understand, if you don't know the rules of social engagement, you make mistakes. With as much as my life has involved teaching these rules to people (from pre-schoolers to grad students), it's really bizarre to be inept in this regard. How do you learn these things other than by experience? And what a painful way to learn when you think of yourself as fairly knowledgable, but in fact you aren't...

Well, I'm inclined to put it all behind me. Life is complicated enough right here and now in the USA. I'll write up my research results, opine about the future of libraries in Google's, Amazon's and Newco's world, an impossible task, and move on.

I am taking a course this summer that covers philosophers who have contributed to the research paradigms typically employed in social science research today. This has me thinking about how on earth I am going to structure research about the future of the book and of libraries in a networked environment. It's becoming clear that I can't just put videos/multimedia explications of my research out there and not care about their effects (my gut instinct). Credibility is going to be an issue, if not for me, for my committee and for the ISchool. People are going to care about the credibility of what I do and I have to start caring about the things that are the hallmarks of "good" research in the social sciences. I am curious, I want to know things, I want to know things that have practical value for the future of libraries, Presses and academe, scholarly inquiry, etc. But to convince anyone that my conclusions are worth their paying attention, I am going to have to adopt strategies and techniques, methods, paradigms, etc. that are credible.

I sort of learned about this on the fly in law, without explicit discussion of it. One just sort of comes to know what is credible, what is respected, and why. Here I have to learn it in the abstract it seems. Well, the philosophical underpinnings of scientific research are quite interesting, but in an "out there" kind of way. The idea that this applies to *me* and my research, well that's just a bit of a stretch right now. But I'll get used to it. I have to.

At least I am acquiring the vocabulary to talk about these issues with the faculty at the ISchool. This is just so reminiscent of the law school experience, the vocab, the "ways of thinking," what was important, what was less important, what didn't matter a hoot. But it's all quite different here. Very little seems to be transferable. But maybe more of it is than I currently think. After all, I never explicitly studied legal research in the same way I'm studying social science research. And besides, the primary research materials are so narrowly defined in law. They are, by contrast, all over the place in social science. Live and learn.

I'm starting a new blog for the Texas Digital Library on the subject of open access/ scholarly communication. Between that effort, the UMUC Collectanea blog and this blog, I'm going to really have to get back into the swing of things in a hurry. I haven't been paying any attention to things for the last 2 or 3 weeks. I actually enjoyed being out of touch a bit. It made me realize the degree to which connectedness has become, for me, addictive. Dennis complains about it (how much time I spend at the computer), but I've brushed it off until now. Now I'm really pretty convinced that it has gotten out of hand. That sense that there's so much I have to keep up with, and the good feeling of being on top of it all (an illusion to be sure...). Well, these realizations on vacation are always a source of resolutions, that, just like New Year's resolutions, come to not much of anything after a few weeks. Still, awareness is a good thing. Who would argue with that.

1 comment:

Danielle said...

Georgia, before your next trip, read French or Foe, by Polly Platt. It gives a nice overview of how French customs differ from American (and why you don't smile at people you don't know!)--Danielle