To continue with my rant from the previous post, I'd like to record here a couple more things that I'd consider as out of the ordinary for me. But more than just activities, the things I'm writing about in this post deal more with challenging myself to see things in new ways, i.e., in ways that I personally have never done before. Some of these "new" ways excite me, some of them make me slightly uncomfortable, some scare the life out of me. But ultimately, I found them all to be insightful and enriching. Seeing things through different lenses opens up new dimensions and possibilities that I've never otherwise considered.
Possibility 1: "You Never Know Who You Will Meet"
Last week, I attended the Sunday mass at Fisher House, the first Sunday mass after the Easter break. The church organised a Welcome Back reception after the service, to give a chance for people to catch up, to meet new people, and to mingle around over coffee/tea and cakes/cookies. As Sister Ann was delivering the announcement, I was thinking to myself: "Maybe I should go. It's a good way to meet people." When the mass ended, I walked out of the chapel, right past the room where the reception was held, and paused for a brief moment in front of the sign that said, "This way to the Welcome Back reception. You never know who you will meet." Okay, I should go, I told myself.
But I didn't. I went straight home.
I was haunted by my failure to resist the temptation to stay within my comfort zone at Fisher House, so when the coordinator for the REAL Centre sent an email to all members asking if we'd like to attend the upcoming meeting online or in-person, I opted for in-person. To 'punish' myself for not forcing myself to socialise at the Welcome Back reception, I made a commitment to do at least one of these things: 1) ask a question or two after the speakers' presentation; 2) stay back for coffee and cakes; 3) have a chat with at least one person (the person must be someone whom I don't already know).
I didn't manage to do number 1), but I did number 2) and 3) and was so proud of myself. Indeed, I never know who I will meet. One of the people I decided to have a chat with over coffee turned out to be someone who directed me towards an epiphany of some sort.
Possibility 2: An Epiphany of Some Sort
The person I decided to have a chat with was none other than the invited speaker himself, Prof Alan Blackwell from the Department of Computer Science and Technology, University of Cambridge. I was so inspired by his research team's work that attempts to explore how the local communities of Namibia can critically relate the logics involved in AI systems to their own experiences, livelihoods and knowledge practices through school mathematics curricula. I of course began the conversation (somewhat awkwardly) by saying that I enjoyed his talk, that I'm very interested to know more, and that I'm curious about the framework that he and his team adopted to underpin the coalescing principles of technology and the cultures of the local community. Prof Blackwell directed me to one of his collaborators, Prof Nicola Bidwell. I looked her up as soon as I reached home, and was totally blown away.
I won't be recording what I discovered through Prof Bidwell's work here, but suffice to say it made me feel like Alice in Lewis Carrol's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, on an endless chase after Mr Rabbit down the rabbit hole. It made me dizzy, nervous, and overwhelmed - but all in a good way. I know this deserves a separate and specially dedicated post, so I'll reserve my thoughts for that. All I want to say is that I just realised I might be venturing into an unfamiliar, yet promising and exciting territory. And to think that it all started from an awkward hello to a distinguished professor.
Possibility 3: To More Awkward Hellos (and Possible Goodbyes)
I guess, sometimes in order to be able to say a proper hello (no matter how awkward), a goodbye is necessary. I find that to be true in my situation. I remember feeling so strongly about approaching my research from a sociological viewpoint, I've been telling that to everyone who cares to listen. I wrote that in my research proposal, my admission essays, my grant applications, my portfolios. I want to be a sociologist - a digital sociologist to be exact. I even wrote that in my essay submitted to my advisor.
My advisor told me that he wasn't convinced. He was quite straightforward about that. He said, he didn't think adopting Bourdieu as an analytical framework will add any value to my research. I was upset, but only mildly. I wasn't prepared to agree with him completely yet, but I'm open to the possibility of changing my mind. Maybe my advisor was right. Maybe he has a point.
I haven't decided if I want to stick with Bourdieu, or to forget about him altogether, or do something in between. But I'm glad that I'm neither timidly submissive nor stubbornly adamant about this whole endeavour. I'm glad that I enjoy chasing Mr Rabbit around, that I'm curious, that I'm excited even, to see where this is going to lead me. It's exhausting, but it's definitely a great exercise. I've been sedentary for too long anyway.
Just to offer a glimpse of where I'm currently at, I found myself reading research on alcoholic booze, bearded pigs, nose flutes, farmers' market, head-hunting, and local beauty pageant.
What a rabbit hole.
Will there be Part 3?
Maybe. We'll see.
Soli Deo Gloria. ~ccj, Cambridge, 8 May 2022, 15:07