Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Balancing knowledge work  §

I'm struggling to manage knowledge work properly.

In order to produce anything of value, I have to collect. The role of the collector is the foundational role in the identity of the academic. (The role of the analyst comes next.) (Yes, I know that pragmatically and pessimistically, neither one of these even makes the top ten in the list of the roles of the academic, but work with me here.)

Thing is, I struggle to balance all of the forms of information flow and management that inhere in this profession.

  • This morning I have spent many hours so far typing and clicking rapidly, collecting a bunch of very useful stuff. (To collect is both to consume and to record at the same time; if either component is missing, then the act of collection fails.) Without this stuff, I would be unable to do the "real" work of the academy.
  • But at the same time, I do have my "real" work of formal writing that I am meant to be working on. I can't fruitfully pursue that, however, until there is some measure of redemption for my problematic of collection. But there is of course so much information in the world in a competitive marketplace of information production that you never catch up with your collection needs, no matter how hard you try. Meanwhile, whenever you are collecting, you are not engaging in writing.
  • Missing entirely are analysis and research (i.e. thinking and working, also separate from writing). Well there's clearly no time for this sorry shit. (1) You're busy working on collection because it is the founding task that is not done (you can't even manage to develop and hold on to a stable worldview with which to work; it jumps about and is full of static like a bad signal, and disappears altogether into obsolescence if you stop collecting for five minutes). (2) The only thing you can possibly cut collection short for (given how far behind you are on it, and getting farther behind with each passing moment) is writing, which is the deliverable upon which you'll be judged and for which you are entirely responsible, as well as the only thing the rest of the world consumes and/or cares about.
  • Meanwhile, where does reading fit into all of this? You know, all that stuff you collect? Plus the books on your shelf? Especially all of the rest of the "classics of the discipline" that you haven't managed to creep through and senselessly underline and take notes about yet, not to mention the "minor classics" and "cutting edge monographs?"

I sometimes wonder how the really productive people in the field do this. Do they just not bother to look around at all? Are they writing purely by pulling things out of their ass? Or? Do they simply not sleep? Are they all speed freaks? Do they all have a special grant that gives them 42 graduate assistants and a free brain implant for downloading PDF files directly to consciousness from the MIT media lab?

Is there a better, more organized road to scholarship?

Is there some kind of self-righting mechanism that I can download and install into myself (or even just into my GNOME panel) that will automagically act as an academic load balancer continually doing pseudocoded maxima-calculations to establish the best working ratios in order to be productive, given my particular typing speed and the stochastic properties of the files in my home folder?

I mean, WTF? This academics thing is supposed to be hard, but it isn't supposed to be continually and unapologetically nonsensical and protopostmetaphysical.

Or is it?

Rant over.

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