Count backwards with me... This is funny because three days ago, here's the plan: I want to get on my scooter without my helmet and crash my scooter into the ground and see how much damage I can do to myself.
What we're forgetting is: Before this, before all this, before irony, before presentation of self, there was Ben Brown, and he wrote in which he has a positive outlook. Read it, for the haiku, for the kidnapping, right till the end:
I want intimacy -- not physical touch suck fuck intimacy. I want that level of closeness you get with someone after they've seen you naked. Nakedness is the last secret. It's the thing we hide from everyone. Hi, I'll get on national radio and tell everyone I'm on anti-depressants and my father raped me, but good god, you can't see my vagina. Only, after I've seen it, snuck a little peek, you can tell me everything. I can tell you everything. It's the last wall.
With all sincereness, lol, and: here is reality of the internet. We live in this man's shadow.
Sociolinguistic counterfactual: English has a third-person plural pronoun that means "we, but not singular-you," and a possessive pronoun which means "ours but not singular-yours" (for potential use in the currently ambiguous phrase 'come, sit round our fire'). a. Does this influence English-speaking societies to have social groups that are more exclusionary or less exclusionary, or have no effect? b. What factors in the past would cause English to have these words, and related deformed words, today?
Maybe you can help me figure out what to do next.
When I was 15 or 16, I had to collapse my 10 subjects of study down to 3 or 4, and I was planning to do a mixture of science and humanities. But then I found out that to get into the best universities, I'd be expected to specialise: art or science. It was pretty much a flip of a coin. How it got resolved: I did better than I expected in my English (lit and lang) GCSEs, and worse than I expected in Chemistry. I was cross about my Chemistry result and decided to take it for A-level. Since I'd already decided to take Physics and Maths, this meant I was now completely science oriented, and the decision was made. (I hedged by taking English at night-school.)
Since then, it's been a matter of unfolding rather than decision-points. All science for A-level meant science (Physics) for university. I ended up doing new media stuff - that's a whole other story, how that happened - and have moved into doing social software, consultancy, speaking, a book, and so on.
Now I'm trying to decide what's next. My interests: design, embodied interaction, social software--and the subjects surrounding this: philosophy, anthropology, ethics, HCI, and a topic I'm going to call (social) psychological ergonomics. I do my best thinking from a combination of talking, reading, and doing.
The question is: Should I go back to college or not? I'm considering doing a masters for the next year. It has to be in London. I think, if I talked to all the people I know, I could find funding. But should I go somewhere where I'm given freedom to write a design research dissertation (with access to making), or instead a place where I make stuff and the reading is secondary? Or should I stay in industry?
In my head I see a dissertation pulling together all the subjects I talk about and, simultaneously, a popular book on the same topics. As Mind Hacks has caught the wave of the current popular interest in neuroscience (we saw it coming), HCI will be the new pop science (in 2007/8 or so).
What I'm scared of is missing the next bubble. I missed the last one because I was still in education. I don't want that to happen again--although it doesn't matter so much if, as part of the academy, I'm able to play a part in shaping the boom. I'm also nervous of not being able to make and do, and of not being around the right people. Maybe design isn't the field for me (maybe it's not multidisciplinary enough); maybe academia isn't right for me; maybe I'm not looking in the right places; maybe I'll get typecast in a position I don't enjoy.
This feels like my most significant decision for the past decade, and the one that will most shape my life for the coming ten years. I've no idea what to do. Last time I tried to make a decision was last year, but then the book came along and I did that instead. Before then there was another offer too good to refuse. This time I really have to decide, the time is right, because even if I decide to keep to the status quo, this time that means I'm staying in industry, pretty much for good. And whatever happens now is significant because of my age, and because the subjects I'm interested in are coming to fruition both with people and technology, and because of all kinds of other externalities (funding bodies and so on)... But I can't work it out, and I need to make a decision, I think, in the next few weeks--not only which way to turn, but which college, what focus, which subjects.
Maybe you can help? Advice welcome.
A little more context: I quit my job at the BBC. I have a couple more weeks there, at the end of March, but - apart from one project I'm doing right now - I'm now a free agent.
It's a paradox of the work I do that it involves capturing the isness and tethering it, while at the same time I know it shouldn't be like this. But it has to be done if we're to do anything at all. We've made these same decisions over evolutionary time: Carved the world into objects and forces: nameable things. Created a neural semiotcracy over a billion years. And we try to escape it every day. And we know this because we see it expressed unrepressed in technology, where it can exist in grids and axes without the moderating influence of a world of becoming to shake it apart. And so, in technology, we have to resist reification even more.
But just because I know this, it doesn't mean I have to shy away from production and doing, even when it works counter to my beliefs. I can't inhabit only a world of ideas operating on other ideas--thinking and doing inform one another, and so it is our job to make thinking rigorous and doing fluid, without losing the essence of either. Doing - production - constraint of self and others - exerting power - is thinking that affords fixity, and is between ourselves. It's difficult, but it is a more open thinking, that by exerting pressure on many gives freedom to them all. I won't take either position, but will react towards the balance.
Know this: Every single flag I place in the ground is a compromise, and every flag and every compromise I resist. But I will go on placing those flags. I will inhabit paradox. I will not be unpowerful, just as I will not want it. Don't assume otherwise.