Benjamin Geer on Thu, 16 Aug 2007 18:27:57 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> personal life, impersonal writing (was: The banality of blogging)

On 15/08/07, Kimberly De Vries <> wrote:
> I think that the way
> personal matters are completely excluded here also precludes the
> development of critical ideas from personal experience on the list,
> which is our loss.

I'd say they've been mostly though not completely excluded, and I
agree that it's our loss; I wonder if others feel the same way, too.

Since I've been getting to know more and more people who are doing
academic research lately, one thing that's really struck me has been
the gulf between the smooth, impersonal, omniscient voice of the
academic text, and the messy, contingent, fortuitous,
emotionally-laden personal experience that went into producing the
same text.  In reality, personal finances, family history,
friendships, romantic attachments (which might lead you to learn a
language, spend time in a certain place, etc.), psychological factors
(like how boring it might or might not be to obtain certain
information), unruly cognitive dependencies (like how much proficiency
you really have in that language) and all sorts of accidents (like
whether a certain archive turns out to be closed during the time when
you're able to visit it, or whether a certain volume is missing)
change the direction of people's research, lead people to use certain
sources rather than others, and so on.  Yet the academic text is
written as if it were the inevitable result of encyclopaedic
knowledge, and of choices that depended only on intellectual
necessity.  All the messy personal contingencies are hidden.  Of
course, everyone knows they exist, it's an open secret, but since
everyone else is hiding them, too, you definitely don't want to be the
first one to acknowledge them, because your reputation would suffer.
Reputations are based on how well you can maintain the illusion.

Does it have to be this way?


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