Contemplating Kuhn

For those of us who were just admitted to the University of Oregon for this term, our classes start tomorrow after a long and tiring week of orientation meetings and activities.  Those of us who are embarking on the (newly renamed) Media Studies PhD program in the School of Journalism and Communication will be meeting together for the first time for a course called Proseminar IA, which is a broad overview of the major theories and schools of thought within the realm of communication and media.

Our first assignment for the class was to read and react to The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn. This was my first exposure to Kuhn’s work; for those of you who are unfamiliar with the man, he was a linguistics and philosophy professor at MIT (he died in 1996), and his specialty was science history.  The book, as the back cover puts it, “challeng[es] long-standing linear notions of scientific progress [as he argues] that transformative ideas do not arise from the day-to-day, gradual process of experimentation and data accumulation, but that the revolutions in science… occur outside of ‘normal science,’ as he call[s] it.”

In other words, Kuhn has a big problem with the fact that scientists discard disproven notions as progress marches on; he would prefer more reflection on how we got here.  The end.

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This or that?

At some point, usually after qualifying exams have happened, every doctoral student has to begin writing his or her dissertation, which will ultimately end up as a lovely dust-covered leather-bound book somewhere deep in the stacks of his or her respective university library (this is how one “contributes to human knowledge” officially). But you have to start thinking about what, exactly, it is you’re going to write well before those qualifying exams occur; in our program, for example, you have to develop some sort of focus statement document thing roughly a year into your studies, and that is essentially the time when you decide what it is that you’re going to research and write about. This is the point where your professional hat is more or less hung on the coat tree of your permanent focus, to use a horribly tortured metaphor.

I’ve been thinking about this for a bit because I have two rather divergent fields in mind that both fit under the umbrella of “Communication and Society” (though apparently at some point in the last month that was changed to “Media Studies,” unbeknownst to pretty much all of us), and yet they really don’t relate to each other at all. Thus my dilemma–which do I ultimately pick?

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Enter Eugene

Prior to my arrival in Eugene this past Saturday, I had precious little information to go on regarding life in the town aside from what I had gleaned from my two or three prior visits, what I had read on the Daily Emerald‘s website in the meantime, and what I had been told from faculty and staff after being accepted into the SOJC’s PhD program.

As a knowledge fanatic I had also done as much research as I could, too, poring over the Eugene and Lane County Wikipedia pages, not to mention UO’s “Campus Profile,” where I learned that (not including faculty and staff) the school is nearly as big as the town that I grew up in in North Carolina. (You can read the Wikipedia page there that I’ve linked to in order to get a sense of the typical small town mythos that plagues the place.)

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Hello again

If someone gave awards out for the most inconsistent bloggers on the planet, I’m fairly certain I would come close to the top of the list of honors–I started blogging (personally) as an undergraduate at Wake Forest University between 1999 and 2003, prior to the development of tools like WordPress or Blogger. I actually hand-coded all of my new entries into HTML and manually updated my archives, just because at the time there was no easier/better way of doing it.

There were several other personal blogs that roared to life but then sputtered, each with a fairly interesting-sounding name–Ryan Sometimes, 86th Street… and most recently, Gaussian Blur.

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