Research, thought, and deep sea diving

Posted: October 12, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

When I was in college, I was a philosophy major. Twice. I fulfilled every requirement for the major twice over. I didn’t do that because it meant something on paper; I did it because I liked the field. Part of what made me like the field was the idea of how deep I could go into certain things.

Of course, I didn’t know that at first. It wasn’t until a wonderful professor, Marjorie Hass, gave me an analogy of how to really DO philosophy that I found out what I liked about it so much. As an aside, I owe Marjorie a lot; if she hadn’t been sitting at the next table when I registered for my first semester in college, overheard me asking for alternatives to math classes, and spoken up, suggesting I take Critical Thinking (with her), I probably never would have. And had she not given me a book of logic puzzles and then suggested that I take Formal Logic (also with her), I probably wouldn’t have given philosophy a second thought. She started me on a very strange road, and I owe her a lot for that.

But that’s besides the point. I want to talk about one thing she said to me. She said that I need to think of papers, and philosophy in general, as being a pool. I can skim the surface and get some good things, but I can also dive deeper, and get more. And the deeper I dive, the more questions I ask, the more I’ll get out of it.

That’s stuck with me ever since. When I write about a subject, I don’t want to just accept the general thoughts about it. I want to ask the questions that go deeper, examine the cases out on the fringe, and peel back the layers. Essentially, I like to dive down as deep as I can, peeling an onion as I go (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?).

When I wrote my master’s thesis for Philosophy, I examined what personal identity really was. What do I mean when I say I am me? I looked at the different possible explanations for what makes me ME (body? no. Brain? no. Closest continuer? no. Psychological continuity? Only X and Y? there we go.). When I wrote my master’s thesis for English, I examined how we do peer response, what’s wrong with it, and how to improve it (more often? no. more focused? no. throw it away? no. Put the impetus on the students and treat it like usability testing? there we go.)

So now, I’m writing my dissertation. I want to know how we use icons and avatars to create our online identities. But I don’t just want to see what we have done, or what we do. I want to know what we might someday (soon) do. I want to ask those deeper questions, find out what the icon REALLY says, what these things ACTUALLY do, and whether or not everything everyone has said about them is wrong… or at least, if they didn’t go deep enough.

So I’m diving in. Deeper and deeper, following the lines of thought, weighted down by the research, and peeling myself an onion.

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