An Aside: An Ode to Exploratory Research

With the semester done, the search committee I was on having wrapped up, and – finally – my two article drafts (one on moral panics on the early Canadian Internet and one on WebArchiving) completed, I had an entire afternoon of guilt-free exploratory research.

I love exploratory research. A forthcoming article grew out of exploratory research (blogged about here), when I was messing around with dissertations and citation counts. Now, on the other hand, that obscures out the days and days that I’ve literally spent hitting up against dead ends, batting my wall up against bad data, technical limitations, or sources that never really went everywhere. I have a terabytes of external hard drives, filled up with datasets, some of them representing a few days of work that won’t soon see the light of day.

So it’s nice to have these guilt free days to just play, in a constructive way. I think of it as akin to the Google 20% time. To check out what’s new at the Internet Archive. To take an abstract problem and play with it in a programming language. To listen to a CBC debate on Canadian history.

So what have I discovered today? Read more

An Aside: “An Academic with Impostor Syndrome”

In academia, we talk a lot about the stresses of the job. A lot of this, for me, comes down to these two must-reads: Joseph Kasper’s “An Academic With Imposter Syndrome” in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Aimée Morrison’s “Academic Impostor Syndrome” in the always great blog Hook and Eye.

It’s funny, as we often tend to put forward imposing, confident faces on social media: the researcher, teacher, and administrator with his/her stuff together, progressing forward. Even in a few months where I’ve designed and taught two new courses while moving a pretty aggressive research agenda forward, that voice is always there: “Is this enough?” “Shouldn’t you work just a bit later on the weekend?” “How dare you take a break when others fight for full-time work?”

These articles helped remind me that I’m not alone. Hopefully others find them helpful too.

Back to work, though! Tomorrow, I’m off to Ottawa for NCPH 2013, and am looking forward to a glass of wine on the train.