The Allure of Research

I haven’t posted in a while. One, because the job that is paying for my PhD suddenly jumped the bounds of its original job description, and I lost my marbles. Two, because life itself jumped the tracks there for a little while as we lost our car to the bureaucracy of road safety, and all other activities came to a screeching halt as we tried to replace it (tried to go without – not feasible in our situation. Sorry, Earth).

Anyway, I am now a week behind my self-set schedule for writing a paper that I need to submit by the end of the year. I have spent my weekend furiously flipping through pages and web journals (BTW, if anyone from the BU library is reading this, your journal selection BLOWS), then tap-tap-tapping the info into some semblance of cohesion for the paper.

I find myself drawn to the topics in the books I’ve checked out, repeatedly distracted by their applicability not to this particular paper, but to my PhD as a whole. Ideas about what draws an audience to a multimedia project, what form collaboration takes, structures that work in hypertext environments, how to transition from print to digital. I have to constantly police my own excitement, restricting it to the subject of the paper: online communities formed in the interaction between author and readers of print novels. They’re finite, it’s sure, but I think they’re a significant step in the evolution toward a mainstream digital literature genre.

It’s been a really long time since I wrote anything of an academic nature. The writing itself I don’t find difficult. Rather, I’m worried that it’s too simplistic, that I’m covering ideas everyone knows like the back of their hands, that they’ll be rolling their eyes at such a sophomore effort. Yes, I am aware that my writing will improve, and I will eventually get a better feel for the literature of my area, what level to cover subjects at, what is common knowledge, etc. But as I noticed at the Creating Second Lives Conference, the field is still quite new and I’m not sure there really is a common ground. I guess I’ll see.

At any rate, I’m enjoying it all greatly. I love the atmosphere, that ideas are important, that a discourse is being created. I don’t feel like I’ve had that in a really, really long time. I feel like my brain, on some level, was in sleep mode for a very long while. My MPW course at USC didn’t ever really make me think about anything; nothing was ever up for debate. We weren’t encouraged to contribute to the field – only to write well, get published, and credit the program as much as possible.

But here, I already feel like I’m contributing to some new area of understanding. That what I think about it is helping to shape this new field. My ideas will be challenged, and I’m sure that will deal quite a blow to my intellectual ego the first few times it happens, but hopefully I’ll adjust and be able to hold my own.

I like this academia gig.

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