Philosophy Back From Calgary: A Walking Demonstration of the Future, Jamming, 03/06/2016

This actually will be just a short note today, published late after a tiring day of travelling back from Calgary. Four hours straight on a plane can make a guy’s knees seriously stiff.

If I could say there was one take-away from this conference, it's that a lot more people can feel the rot setting in. This isn’t true of everyone. 

I admit that I probably have some selection bias in who I spoke to – the younger researchers who’ve managed to scrape into a more secure position, the younger researchers considering waitressing as a long-term career goal given the anemic and shrinking faculty job markets, the cooler researchers who spent their early lives partying at the Chapel Hill indie rock scene. 

Even something as small as a name tag
can be a demonstration of new
As well as some of my older mentors and friends who are happy to see me still working on these writing and artistic projects. I didn’t tell them about some of the psychologically tougher, stressful, doubtful times. This week was about optimism and creativity.

But I hope Gwen Bradford’s fascinating book on the nature and moralities of achievement can find a mass market accessibility and a mass market price. I went to a wonderful seminar on its ideas the other day, but I found several of the critiques drifting into the over-technical and purely disciplinary. It seems like it could be a popular book, but it needs to get out of the high paywalls of the academic library system.

Something I also think about my own Ecology, Ethics, and the Future of Humanity. My own panel on the book had a pretty small attendance, but an intrigued audience anyway. As I said, part of what I wanted to do was simply get it on the schedule, an act of recognition that people outside the university system had something to contribute to the growth and development of human knowledge. 

My own presence there – specifically my name tag – was a quiet punk gesture. It was the name of an institution, yes, but not of a university. And it didn't read "Independent Scholar," a term that more often invites dismissal, and communicates a kind of pathetic dependency on an institution that keeps rejecting you. Looking at me provoked questions, inquiries. A couple were dismissive when I explained the nature of the SERRC, but many more were intrigued, and glad that such a forum existed.

It provoked excitement. I was a walking demonstration of possibilities for knowledge production beyond grovelling to monopolistic academic journal publishers, budget-slashing administrators. Quite important for folks in my generation, for possibilities beyond grovelling for adjunct positions paying barely above poverty wages as if it were normal.

Why wouldn’t you consider relocating across the continent for a four-month, $5000 appointment at a university that won’t even cover your moving expenses and has no guarantee of stability? That’s just how things are done!

There are other ways.

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