I had the great fortune to spend my afternoon at Sweetwaters with Jude and Ingrid. While working diligently on my dissertation, I have been somewhat of a recluse. I’ve been too tired to socialize at night and too dogged to interact much during the day. Today, I took a break from writing and analyzing data to reconnect with friends, and I find myself greatly rewarded.
Ingrid, Jude, and I are all young scholars in related fields. Today we talked about the challenges of finding an audience for our work and how audience might determine, in large part, who we are as researchers. We shared horror stories of meeting conference deadlines and the loneliness of dissertation writing. We compared notes on job hunts and what to do with dissertations once they’re written. We traded citations and names of interesting researchers. We even talked about how facts on the internet are sometimes wrong. This all may sound boring or typical for academics, but remember that writing one’s dissertation is a lonely, remarkably individual endeavor. Sure, committee members, student friends, understanding non-academics, etc. are essential to the process, but the bottom line is that a lone scholar spends a great portion of each day alone, silent, writing.
In answering Ingrid’s question about who I interviewed this morning, I found myself remembering why I care about the bridge project I study (because it worked!) and why I’m interested in collaboration in the first place (because we change the world when we work together). When we talked about the differences between departments that focus on the ACM and those that focus on the AoM, I remembered why Michigan was the right place for me (I care deeply about what people are able to accomplish when they work together and the technologies that enable them to do so.).
I recommend getting out of your office, finding a couple colleagues you haven’t talked to in a while, and making a break for a nice coffee/tea shop. Maybe you already knew that was a good idea, but I’d forgotten how satisfying such an afternoon can be.