10/3/05 11:17 pm - QotD
I've just been called "a bastard child of a CS major".
I think that's good, no? Yes?
Today, I was brave and went to a talk by one of my professors (Lisa Ede, who's also my boss, and a great mentor), where I had a great big brain buzz. Well, two actually. One from the talk itself, which was all about what the rise of "citizen reviews" of books on websites--like amazon.com or personally hosted book review sites--might mean from a scholarly humanities point of view. It was partly a "call to arms" for more research and for the asking of more questions and a "hey look at what I've found and I'm excited about researching!" kind of talk. She pointed out how there is a rich source of information about literacy, power, authority, and culture in these websites that could reveal how they may challenge or possibly change the way that our society looks at and/or creates knowledge and authority. The Q&A portion of the talk brought up product reviews, and how those differ from book reviews in that they are about the quality of the product from a consumer point of view, whereas the book reviews are more qualitative conversations or statements about characteristics of the book.
I was supposed to be Lisa Ede's research assistant last year for part of the research for the project this talk was about, but things fell through on both our parts because of excessive other things going on, etc etc, so I've been slightly familiar with her research for a little while. I'm also part of her new class called "Language, Technology and Culture" where we're going to get to explore technologies and education, literacy and other yummy things, and I'm really excited that we get to explore IN CLASS some of the things that she's researching and may lead to her next publication.
Anyway, so that was one of the brain buzzes.
The other buzz had to do with the fact that I was absolutely the only undergraduate student there at the talk, and that most of the professors that I respect (and fear) the most were there. I recognized several grad students I know by reputation and by passing them in the halls too. Lisa even mentioned the work of a grad student I met last year and have a teenie tiny (ok, huge) intellectual crush on. I got that buzz of being surrounded by these "high up there" people. It was pretty frightening, and I really want to sit down and explore why a little better. Some of these people I know personally and as friends, and I see and know them in totally different settings. But here, they were in their element and I could really just listen.
The anxiety that started to build up was pretty strong, but I don't think it's un-realistic. I had this yicky terrifying feeling you'd get as a middle school kid who accidentally walked into the teacher's lounge. I didn't feel I was allowed to be there, and got this panicky feeling towards the end when it came time to try to have conversations with other attendees.
I want to smack myself in the head though, because in any other setting, I'd be fine talking to my writing teacher, or talking to a previous English prof (who just made fellowship btw. it was announced at the talk. congrats to him) about any of these things. No one there was a scary strange "untouchable, sitting on a pedestal" type of person to me in a normal setting. I have lunch with Dennis all the time. I went to Canada with a few of the grad students there and two of the profs there. I borrowed books from another prof there, and like I said before, a friend of mine was mentioned in the talk itself. This wasn't a frightening setting... but I still got that sticky "oops, this is the teacher's lounge" feeling and it wouldn't let me go.
Is it because I've always been a step or two behind someone else most of my life? Always the 'sidekick' or always seeking out people who are smarter than me so that I can soak them up and follow them around? Is it because I was born a girl and I've been culturally trained or encouraged not to take an active, voiced, and public role in much of anything? I don't know. I know that I've always always felt much more comfortable working to support someone else's work, or support and contribute to something I'm passionate about but has already been established rather than trying to call people to a cause I want to do. I've never felt comfortable taking a completely "leadership" type of role. So for me, maybe this setting was frightening because I was expected to have an identity on my own in this kind of setting, and I have never even come close to developing one yet. To borrow some Yagelski language, I haven't written myself into academia yet... maybe that was the source of my anxiety.
Anyway, today gave me buzzes, and made me think about lots of stuff related to my own various identities. I had that sort of meta-consciousness about my behavior at this talk and my sudden urge to get the hell out of there and (ha ha ha) write in my livejournal about it.
...which could be an interesting thing to explore... think blogging is contributing to meta-consciousness and self-analysis? I'd guess yes. Or it's encouraging people who already have that drive to be self-critical and analytical and finally giving them a soap box to stand on.