Thursday, September 08, 2005

Column A or Column B?

The academic world is very asynchronous and temporally nebulous compared to the corporate world. My personal viewpoint is that of an academic (in music) with two arms typing out code for a computer company every once in a while and it is an interesting one. For example, there is never an end to any projects in academia. Sure, you can get your PhD or you can finish writing an article but where does that take you? A PhD dissertation should be continued, and is often turned into a book. An article becomes nothing more than a local accomplishment in the grand scheme of your academic studies. It's not that there isn't a finish to projects but that there's no finish studying. In contrast, one could imagine a clean break in the corporate world by switching jobs, projects, or just by making one customer happy. The satisfaction is much more immediate and often times, well, satisfying.

Two examples from [my] real life:

1) A coworker needs a tool to help him do some rote tasks. I jump on a projet to write him a little application to help him perform the tasks. In essence a single-minded piece of software that makes one little aspect of my coworker's job easier (and saves him carpal tunnel). Written in a day, debugged and added changes over a period of 2 weeks as we live tested it. Done.

2) I write a paper for a quarter-long seminar. The paper gets turned into an abstract and is sent to both a local and a national conference. I am accepted into the local conference so I give a talk to my colleagues and professors at my university to prepare. Get feedback and suggestions. Then I run off and give the same talk at the local conference. Get feedback and suggestions. Receive news that I've been accepted to present at the national conference as well. Procrastinate. Research some more. Expand the presentation. [From here on it's the future.] Give the paper at the national conference. Get feedback and suggestions. Further expand presentation into an article. Submit article to journals until accepted. Article is published. Feel good. Repeat entire process with another presentation/article but which draws upon similar themes I've explored in this article. Unite both and others into dissertation. Get PhD. Get associate professorship job. Write book exploring further exploring the same theme and satellite articles as well. By now, reference my own articles as a source. Schmooze at conferences. Get tenure. Write articles that meta-explore the themes of my academic career. Get old. Write broad articles (or books) about the history of the themes I've explored. Get older, write historiography of the themes I've explored applied to a broader field. Death. Arrive at the afterlife. Monitor progress of other people continuing my work. See little to none. Discouraged. Stops monitoring progress and goes off to frolick in the heavenly fields with the celestial virgins forever more. Projects finally ends.

Which one do you prefer? Then again, as labored as I make the academic process seem, one is promised fields in which to frolick with virgins. Why else would I be in academia?


Shryh said...

To answer your last question, hot co-eds. Do I get an A?

Me said...

You do. Though could have got an A+ if you had said hot, virginal coeds!

Shryh said...

Virginal coeds? They still make those? =P