Writing builds up in me like charge on a capacitor plate when I don't do it -- even if I write for myself, there's the sense of falling behind, of missing things. (Thank you, perfectionism.) I know that catching some stuff and keeping up the steady beat matters more; if I think blogging is worthwhile, I ought to build it into my day now that I'm no longer at my computer the entire time. I'll need to figure out when, though.
Catching up with things a bit...
I live two hours from my old high school now. I've started to reconnect, slowly, with people from there. I'm still trying to find out where everyone is, so if you knew me from IMSA, I'd... love to get in touch. Sometimes we move so fast we lose each other, and it's a joy to find that again.
Along the same theme, I went to the first Olin reunion this weekend and had a wonderful time seeing old friends and family again -- learned more about college finances, joined yet another reading group (thanks, Steve!) and geeked out with old professors about education stuff for far too short a time. I also enjoyed following Sebastian through a Sunday evening on campus; he and a group of friends regularly meet for dinner followed by pool. He's getting pretty good -- we've both improved dramatically since January 2009 when we first played each other at FUDCon Toronto. After getting us creamed in the first two games, I managed to perform respectably enough to win 5-person cutthroat in the final round. I'm looking forward to next year's reunion, and we're hoping to get more alumni-student interaction into that one; this round was awfully segregated, and apparently at least some of the students felt it too.
Reading. A lot. Qualitative research, education research... I thought I knew how to think about teaching and learning, but I'm really an engineer who can talk to education researcher rather than an education person myself, and the training of thought into these new paradigms is blind, painful, wonderful. (Caryn Park did a great job of ripping apart my first qualitative research designs on Saturday. Ouch.) Right now I'm just going for massive input, trying to read every single JEE (Journal of Engineering Education) paper posted online before FIE, which is in two weeks. This isn't as bad as it sounds; they've only put the past 19 years online so we're talking fewer than 1000 papers.
I'm struggling through reading dissertations (ouch), books (better), and have been finding myself looking at technical books and papers I once considered difficult and marveling at how easy they are; my tech and math skills have atrophied compared to my teenage self, but at least I'm used to thinking in those patterns. Reading education stuff, philosophy, ethnography... it's like a foreign language. I don't know English any more. I need to take breaks every several pages and do situps on my living room floor to blow off the I don't know what's going on!!! frustration-steam. I love it. In addition to reading for four classes I'm taking and one I occasionally audit, I have two book groups and am now going to try
keeping up with the readings from Olin's pedagogy class as well.
A humbling revelation: the undergrads in Olin's pedagogy class have to read more education papers for one class in one week than I need to read for all my classes for one week, and I'm getting my degree in this.
More than ever, I am coming to understand the pressures and the environments that make it so difficult for academics to spend time with open source, and I'm crumbling to the same pressures myself; I'm no longer on IRC, I do more private backchannel, I don't have or create time to step into the FOSS universe because the academic universe is so... all-encompassing. Disturbing; I didn't think it'd happen to me so fast, so quietly. The good thing is that I'm starting to realize this a month into grad school, so there's time and space to figure out what's happening and take steps to restructure the way I'm doing things if I do want to change that.
My declared research concentration at Purdue is "open source and education," and that's how my classmates know me. I go back and forth between my work on that being the (awkward) beginnings of a solid contribution to a revolution... and a bunch of bullshit buzzwords with no substance and no hope for making a difference. I know intellectually that if it were easy to bridge the two worlds it would already be done, but...
The early bridges are shaky and difficult to spot. My Red Hat team has spent years talking about "the open source way" without solidly nailing down what it is, and this bothers me to no end. I'm trying to solidify that, crawling painfully through papers and dissertations trying to understand research methodologies, throwing my own definition (radically pervasive, collaboratively constructed, realtime transparency) against as many walls as possible to find out where it's wrong, and sometime I feel like I'm getting somewhere, but mostly I feel like nobody else is really going to give a shit, because this sort of research and solidification takes too long, falls outside the scope of timelines that FOSS communities and corporations care about; it is the movement of tetonic plates under the deep, deep sea, and sometimes I feel like I'm the only one trying to learn to think this way about this topic, and that I must justify myself to many different worlds and fall short in all of them. I really could use some arrogance and certainty right now, but I did ask to be placed in the position of greatest learning at all times, so... here I am.
Existential crisises: what's the value of TOS, the value of POSSE, would it make a difference if they vanished, can they make a difference 20-25 years from now if we keep plugging, is it worth it? I'm trained for sprints and quick wins; I can't see the longer timescale yet, I can't sense it intuitively the way I can quickly grok how to build momentum on the vast majority of FOSS projects after a little bit of poking, and I wonder if I'll ever grow into it.
The pieces haven't come together yet, but that's okay.
My writing is scattered and long right now, and so am I.