What a lovely week off I’ve just had. No stress, no pressure, no work, no school, no projects, no plans, nothing beyond the obligatory social engagements during the holiday season. I not only didn’t do work, I didn’t even think about doing work. At least, nothing beyond the “Clean house, do laundry” update to the Zen mantra of “Chop wood, carry water.” I didn’t even think about New Year’s resolutions. The year turned quietly for me, a moment of retreat into restful solitude.
This past semester has been a pretty stressful transition for me. Changing gears to head back to school, changing gears to pick up a new job in a new field with very little practical experience to apply to the technological snafus, in short 2007 was a huge transitional year for me. Lost a job which put me back in school, finding myself asking questions like “What next? Tell me what to do!” being chucked at the great spiritual mysteries of the universe. “Tell yourself what to do; I’m busy,” being the great mystic spiritual response.
Telling myself what to do
Perspective changes have been unfolding a lot. Weariness with drama and indecision has weighed heavily on me in 2007. Yet still, there has been hope, and the bizarre concept that I can pick another way. The only thing stopping me is inertia, which takes effort up front but can certainly be overcome. I’m also slowly beginning to be honest with myself, and happily, I’m finding that this honesty is actually leading me into hope for future paths previously discarded.
I’m starting to really reconsider my decision to forego doctoral studies. I know I want a paycheck, but I also came to the realization that I love theory. Love it. Eat it up with a spoon. I’ve spent my first 10 years as a design and advertising professional working strictly in production, working the practical end of things and getting frustrated with the folks at the top of the food chain who were making bad decisions in production off of skewed theoretical leanings. Didn’t they know?! Didn’t they see?!? Apparently not.
Maybe it’s just my inner laziness manifesting itself, but I’d rather put in the brain power effort over the labor effort of production. I’ve done it, I’ve got my dues card paid in that arena, so now I think it’s time to let myself actually explore the concept of success in academia or research possibilities. Scholarship being its own reward.
I’ve started looking first for programs which offered Informatics, New Media, or Communications at the PhD level which were dealing more toward the social sciences end of things. There’s a number of Communications PhDs out there which deal with Communication Science and Disorders end of the spectrum. I liked looking at Cornell’s Information Sciences PhD program, but I’m a little disappointed in the fact that the Culturally Embedded Computing group’s web server has been down for months. I emailed one of the faculty and asked about it, and was told it was the victim of a hacking attack. I’m still waiting to find out what ‘Culturally Embedded Computing’ is all about at Cornell, but still the site is still down as of today (Jan 2 08). I find myself actually beginning to lose interest in that program’s possibilities just because it’s not maintaining a web presence. (Note to self, study that reaction!) I halfheartedly keep checking back once in a while just to see if they’re finally up and running again. Must have been one hell of a hack.
I’m also finding myself drawn to Northwestern’s program as well. Interestingly, not purely from the Interactive Comm angle. I’m seriously contemplating what it will take to get through into the combined J.D./Ph.D. program that Northwestern offers. It’s six years instead of eight, and it would prep me for a career in Legal Informatics. Intellectual Property rights on steroids. If I pursue that avenue, then it could lead into research questioning the legalities of various technologically-motivated changes. I’m drawn to it because in the ICM501 white paper, my research into Cyberterrorism kept running up against the wall of public policy and the fact that I have little to no legal knowledge. But that’s kind of where I keep trying to get, to that point in the great social contest where rules are applied back to the rule makers, and the ethics and social patterns of how laws are used to influence social dialog and development is pretty fascinating stuff. The ICTs involved just adds a level of complexity.
Think about it. The internet and the digital revolution are completely changing the terrain on which the ideological contests have been played out in the arena of public policy and laws regarding and respecting various ideological platforms. Networked social models are making a huge impact as a revised tactic in the ongoing dispute between methods and needs for control and hierarchy. The international nature of net accessibility creates some pretty intense debates and contests over control. Look at what happened to Pirate Bay with the US attempt to impose US copyright law on foreign-owned servers on sovereign foreign soil and the social backlash this caused.
Planning for the choice
My arguments for ditching the PhD plans posted earlier on the blog still stand. Alex Halavais has certainly come up with great reasons why not everyone should go for a PhD on his blog. But at the same time, if I don’t start really laying down the groundwork, then the choice will have been made by default even if I get to the end of the Masters and decide then that I really want to continue on. I’m cool with the idea that if I have to pay to go for a PhD then I don’t belong in grad school. I’m cool with that being the final litmus test before beginning… accepted without financial aid? Thanks, I’ll go be a professional for a while and try again later if I need to.
My resolution then is to be prepared so that I can make a good choice and a good decision at the end of this semester. If I want to head on into academia, then I’ll be able to do so. But that means a) figuring out what really calls to me as a subject matter on which I would be willing to spend 5+ years of my life studying intensely, then b) figuring out where that kind of research is currently being done and by whom, and c) qualifying myself to join them in that study.
So. No decisions yet. But it’s gotta be a sign of adulthood that getting to the point where the choice even becomes available takes some preparation and doing.
And GRE’s. And LSAT’s. Guess this is definitely a scholastic year for me, no matter how the choice works out.
On with working the plan, now.