Kimberly De Vries on Fri, 17 Aug 2007 18:28:23 +0200 (CEST)

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

On 8/16/07, Benjamin Geer <> wrote:

> 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.

I've talked to a few women who also were concerned about it; at the time we
wondered how much or little gender was a factor.

> 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.),

This is right on.  And no one wants to admit it.  But I can only afford
traveling to a few conferences per year so when I do, I almost always
consider whether friends will be there or live near by, because other wise
the choice is either travel for scholarship _or_ see my friends.  No time
and money for both, sadly.

Also, at the New Network Theory meeting, Katy Borner (if I'm remembering
right) spoke about scholarly networks and it stood out that in spite of all
our ICT, physical proximity made a difference.  I think we would also find
that social ties made a difference as well, and might correlate to the
occurrence of at least some face to face meetings.

For example, I went to that conference only knowing one person who was also
attending.  I met a few people there and started to have good conversations,
but the schedule was bit packed so my acquaintances didn't develop too far.
But it turned out that at least one of those new acquaintances knew my
friend.  Then I went to Re-Mediating lit and happen to really hit it off
with someone who also knew my friend.  It turns out both of these new people
live in Rotterdam, where I was also staying, so I was able meet with them
outside of conferences and really talk.

We liked each other enough that now we are starting to develop
collaborations.  And now I have numerous personal connections in the NL that
going there has become a priority and has altered the direction of a book
project.  There are scholarly benefits too, but would I have pursued them
without the personal motivation?  Maybe not.

I have recently been thinking that the combination of shared scholarly
interests and personal liking really intensifies both the friendship and the
scholarship.  This could have some basis in cognitive processes; in his book
Descarte's Error, Antonio D'Amasio argues that emotion cannot be separated
from intellect. In fact, he presents convincing evidence that without
emotion we can make good judgements at all.  Further, he claims that part of
what distinguishes experts in a field from novices is the ability to
recognize fruitful lines of research intuitively, and that we develop this
intuition out of the pleasure we experience  from our work.

 --I'm not sure if I'm getting this down very clearly because I've only
recently started putting it all together.  Normally, I wouldn't actually
dare post such an unformed thought here, but since we are talking about what
we can and can't discuss, I figured this is the closest I'll get to an
appropriate moment...

> 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?

Well, Ben, if by this way we mean our all having to pretend we are each only
our brains here on Nettime, then no, of course we can decide it's ok to
sometimes admit there are whole people with lives writing these messages.  ;-)

Do we have to pretend in the academy?  That depends very much on context and
on authority.  Gender studies and composition theory in the US admit a lot
more of the personal into their work and they seem to do ok (but both are
still near the bottom of the totem pole on many campuses).

In most fields if you are famous enough you can probably do whatever you
want though I guess it's possible for anyone to go "too far" and be written
off as a loony or a sell out.  If a highly respected institution decided to
change something, that could have far-reaching consequences, though the
effects might not be visible for some time.

For example, while I was at MIT, Course 6 (the computer and electrical
engineering dept) decided that they wanted students to use "I" when they
wrote papers, even though this goes against what many other schools and
journals do.  When asked if this might not cause them trouble with
accreditation or something, the response was "we are MIT computer science,
who is going to say we don't know about computers?"  As far as I know, that
was the end of any objection.

So for me that boils down to no, it doesn't have to be this way.  Changing
it successfully may require a lot of authority and may cost  some people.  I
personally have decided to try and keep my professional and personal
concerns as integrated as possible because otherwise my own life just gets
too complicated, and I also enjoy my work a hell of a lot more when I work
with friends, when the professional and personal are woven together.

--and I get what you were saying Mark, but I still think individuals can
find alternatives and institutions can change.

--I'll have to think more about your point, Keith.  Your message came in as
I was finishing my own reply.



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