Sometimes, you learn lessons the hard way

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

I haven’t posted here in quite some time. There’s a simple reason for that: the last six months of my life has been pretty hard. My cat died, then I had cancer, and then my father died. All in the last 6 months. It’s pretty mind boggling. The cancer was minor, and I’m recovered from it, but it still threw my world for a loop.

Naturally, my work has suffered from these constant shifts. So much so that I lost sight of what I was doing and started trying to do too much. I was trying to look at a book instead of a sentence.

Let me explain.

When you’re an undergraduate, you look at a field (your major) pretty broadly. Like a whole book, with a number of chapters. It’s still focused, in the sense that it’s one book, but it’s also pretty broad. In graduate school, when you work towards a Master’s Degree, you open up your book and pick one chapter. Your focus narrows and you learn a whole lot about a comparatively small part of your field. There’s still a lot of room to play around, but the barriers are there, and you’re starting to see just how much is actually IN that chapter.

A PhD is when you narrow your focus more, until you’re looking at one of the sentences in that chapter. Just one. You see how much information is packed into one sentence, and you become an expert in that. You become really good at something very small. That’s how it should be.

Instead, I tried writing a prospectus that examined Gender studies, Queer theory, Rhetorical studies, Visual rhetoric, Digital rhetoric, Behavioral Psychology, Communication theory, Identity theory… the list goes on. I was trying to look at the whole book. Maybe even at the whole library.

Needless to say, I’ve thrown out what I had so far. Now I’m trying to focus again. I’m back to my bonzai tree.

Or, if you prefer another analogy: I’ve found that I need to climb a mountain. There’s a path that others have gone on before, and I need to follow that path. I need to meet the Sherpas and become friends with them. I need to decide if any of them are crazy, stupid, or wrong, and I need to decide which ones I like the best. Then, with the help of those sherpas, I’m going to find my own path down the other side of the mountain. Maybe someone else has been there before. Maybe I’ll just be finding a short cut, or pointing out a path. Maybe I’ll be blazing a new one. But what matters is that I learn about THIS mountain, about THESE sherpas.

So that’s what I’m up to now.

And it has me wondering something: Does greater variety beget homogeny? That is, do the additional options for self-presentation (avatars etc) make people LESS likely to be different? Do people become more realistic, or follow the same accepted ‘ideal’ shape and end up with nearly identical avatars?

I don’t know…. but it has me thinking.

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