Keeping up

The other week I had a moment of joy and despair. I opened a (rather boring looking) book I had borrowed from the library, with the intention of tightening some of the concepts in a conference paper. I was rather unhappy with the shape and feel of my paper, even after countless rewrites and trying to get some advice from friends. I felt the ideas were not hanging together so well and that the empirical content did not quite gel with the ideas.

I found a paper that used very similar ideas on the same concept I was writing about. How wonderful to see that the idea could float well enough to find its way into an edited volume. However, now I could just suggest that people go read this chapter rather than having to give my paper. I considered withdrawing my paper but, as I had so little else to show for months of work, I tried to shift its emphasis.

I know that you can never read or be aware of ‘everything’ but on the other hand, I realized how much I was missing now with my (somewhat inadequate) higher level of focus in how I use my time. With the countless hours I used to spend following people, terms and ideas through the twists and turns of the online world, I often stumbled across what I did not even know I needed. Now I am going to need to define what I need.

I do struggle to stick to ‘key terms’ because I am interested in ideas that cut across concepts and have gone and collected some less than targeted data. For example, I am interested in the work that concepts such as ‘social exclusion’ do, but I spent time with people who were participating in a suburb.

‘I’ keeps cropping up in this post. Perhaps this is because I know that I need to be able to make myself aware of what is out there. Nobody is just going to tell me. That said, if I could set up a decent system of alerts, maybe it does not need to be such a daunting task.


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