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baboon2004
12-10-2009, 12:29 PM
I've started an MSc recently, after 10 years away from formal education. I'm enjoying it greatly, but had underestimated the difficulties that a return to reading 'academese' would pose. I'm simply out of practice in interpreting simple points that are couched in unnecessarily complex and codified language.

Anyone have any tips (possibly from similar experience) for getting past this? Should I simply accept that some passages are completely opaque to me, and may or may not mean anything, or persist in trying to extract their meaning, with all the potential for madness, violent head-clutching and caffeine abuse that this entails?

baboon2004
14-10-2009, 10:24 AM
Any thoughts? Anyone experienced the same 'Emperor's New Clothes' feelings on reading many an academic text, and unsure how much time you have to invest in soemthing before you can be totally sure it's empty of any content other than pretension?

Which is a pretty wide topic, come to think of it - less so with music, but defintiely with film and literature. Surely someone else must hurl books/DVDs across the room in frustration?

mixed_biscuits
14-10-2009, 10:41 AM
What subject are you studying?

baboon2004
14-10-2009, 11:26 AM
"Development Studies", which could be a bit of a misnomer and could equally well be called "post-colonial studies"...

vimothy
14-10-2009, 11:54 AM
Development and post-colonial studies sound very different to me. I would expect that post-colonial studies will be thick with "academese"; development studies, less so. That said, I kind of like pretentious jargon, so I'm probably not the right person to be responding to this thread...

four_five_one
14-10-2009, 01:23 PM
Just out of interest, where are you studying Baboon?

baboon2004
14-10-2009, 02:06 PM
Development and post-colonial studies sound very different to me. I would expect that post-colonial studies will be thick with "academese"; development studies, less so. That said, I kind of like pretentious jargon, so I'm probably not the right person to be responding to this thread...

yeah, sorry, shoulda qualified that - could be called post-colonial political/economic studies, or something. Some of the writers studied are certainly post-colonial theorist however, so there is a fair chunk of academese in many of the books I'm reading. I think this is what's slightly surprised me.

i don't mind the jargon so much as the particular sentence/argument structure, that i don't think is always that watertight. Or rather, when it isn't that watertight, it can be hard to tell if this is due to my bad reading of it, or a flaw in the argument itself, due to the particular ways in which it is framed.

Dunno if that makes sense. I suspect not.

baboon2004
14-10-2009, 02:07 PM
Just out of interest, where are you studying Baboon?

studying at the uni of london (birkbeck)

vimothy
14-10-2009, 02:07 PM
Birbeck?!?!?! Um...

four_five_one
14-10-2009, 02:13 PM
Ah, I just started at SOAS, right next door.

baboon2004
14-10-2009, 02:17 PM
Ah right - my lectures are in SOAS buildings - all very incestuous! How're you finding it?

baboon2004
14-10-2009, 02:18 PM
Birbeck?!?!?! Um...

What does the 'um' signify?!

vimothy
14-10-2009, 02:22 PM
In my head, Birkbeck is home to the most pretentious, irritating academics and the most academese academese. Maybe I'm confusing all the Zizekregore doing stuff at Birkbeck with all of Birkbeck being in the Zizekregore, though.

baboon2004
14-10-2009, 02:30 PM
Well, that's fair enough if it's been your experience. My friend works there and is very far from being either pretentious or irritating, so I can vouch for him and a few people I've met through him! Tho of course i have knowledge of some awful people there too...

Such is life - I get the impression that there's a fair smattering (or more) of both ultra-pretentious academics, and also academics who see their role as a job with no application to the real world, in most universities. the latter I find particularly galling.

Besides, the lectures have been informative and straightforward - it's more a mior percentage of the reading lists that have struck me as overly indulgent for the points they are trying to make.

You'll have to explain- does Zizekregore = disciple of Zizek?

vimothy
14-10-2009, 02:41 PM
Zizekregore = Zizek + egregore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egregore)

baboon2004
14-10-2009, 02:51 PM
ok, interesting.

Anyways, i don't think any of those with who I'm grappling for meaning have any particular connection to the college itself, and are considerably less clear than the lecturers who selected their readings.

vimothy
14-10-2009, 03:07 PM
Anyway, in answer to your question, I'd persevere with the weird jargon. Sometimes, it's worth it.

Mr. Tea
14-10-2009, 03:26 PM
It's funny, one of the laziest Hollywood cliches is where a 'science nerd' character explains something in technical jargon and someone says "Does anyone here speak English?" or words to that effect. Whereas in scientific and technological disciplines, jargon is generally well defined, so once you know what the words mean, sentences involving them are actually quite simple. "We applied [a process] to [a thing] and we got [this result]" - you could be developing novel photoelectronic semiconductors or debating the finer points of baking the perfect Victoria sponge cake, there's not really a big difference in verbal complexity. But (I would tend to assume, and baboon's posts seems to bear this out) it's in the humanities/social sciences that genuinely complex and sometimes semantically problematic jargon comes into its own.

Mr. Tea
14-10-2009, 03:29 PM
Zizekregore = Zizek + egregore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egregore)

'ego' + 'ogre'? ;)

vimothy
14-10-2009, 03:39 PM
it's in the humanities/social sciences that genuinely complex and sometimes semantically problematic jargon comes into its own.

I'm not convinced that there is actually that much difference in terms of effect. This is the subject of much debate at work (a maths ed research project). The most common story is one in which learning mathematics is akin to learning a new (formal) language, and that curriculum is structured in a linear fashion, such that students who miss the first few lectures are totally screwed. This is supposed to contrast with the much simpler humanities disciplines, where it's all wisyh-washy opinion based no right answers type of stuff. Except there are obviously conceptually very advanced theories in the humanities (Foucault, e.g.), and a lot of the conceptually advanced stuff requires a similar approach to learning as maths or other STEM subjects. So just as no one is going to be able to understand partial derivatives without first understanding a great deal of different mathematics, and then spending time with partial derivatives doing examples and getting inside the concept, no one is going to be able to come at Mille Plateaux, say, without first spending time with Marx, Freud, Lacan, Spinoza, etc, and getting inside the concepts.

vimothy
14-10-2009, 03:44 PM
Of course, the opacity of much academic humanities discourse really does hide a fundamentally vapid core, but that's not necessarily a function of the opacity per se, as we know from reading texts that are both opaque and "deep".

four_five_one
14-10-2009, 03:51 PM
Ah right - my lectures are in SOAS buildings - all very incestuous! How're you finding it?

Classes are pretty good. But as a first year undergrad at the age of 23, other first year students have come as a bit of a shock. Everyone seems so very, well... young. I didn't think the age difference was that much, but it really is. I imagine I'll get over it. Probably need to find more graduates to hang out with.

baboon2004
14-10-2009, 04:14 PM
This is supposed to contrast with the much simpler humanities disciplines, where it's all wisyh-washy opinion based no right answers type of stuff. Except there are obviously conceptually very advanced theories in the humanities (Foucault, e.g.), and a lot of the conceptually advanced stuff requires a similar approach to learning as maths or other STEM subjects.

I'd definitely agree with this. i feel as though I am missing some basic grounding in certain areas, as though I'd missed a few lectrues (which actually didn't exist, but anyway). BUT I have been know to groan frequently when authors give a concrete example of what they have been arduously explaining in complex theoretical prose over the past few pages, my reaction being....well, if that's what you meant, why didn't you say it?

While I obviously agree that opacity and profundity can go together, i think there's such a terror (and I have anecdotal evidence of this from friends who are academics, in relation to the atmosphere in many departments) of being 'found out' as being ultimately vapid/lacking in original thought/'simplistic', that it is a defensive impulse to couch much academic writing in an 'experts-only' language to circumvent this possibility.

vimothy
14-10-2009, 04:18 PM
You could be right about that. I can only speak to what I know; the people I work with (social scientists) all have something to say, they're just generally not too good at saying it, and it all tends to come out in this generic academese. I think that this is a fairly common problem in the social sciences. A social scientist who can actually write is a rare thing indeed.

baboon2004
14-10-2009, 04:20 PM
Classes are pretty good. But as a first year undergrad at the age of 23, other first year students have come as a bit of a shock. Everyone seems so very, well... young. I didn't think the age difference was that much, but it really is. I imagine I'll get over it. Probably need to find more graduates to hang out with.

Good God, I'd imagine so. When I went into college recently to use the library on a weekday, I was stunned by how young everyone seemed. Of course I knew that would be the case, but to actually experience it was like stepping through the set of a (overcast) teen movie.

I think taking a few years 'out' before university should be mandatory.

baboon2004
14-10-2009, 04:33 PM
You could be right about that. I can only speak to what I know: the people I work with (social scientists) all have something to say, they're just generally not too good at saying it, and it all tends to come out in this generic academese. I think that this is a fairly common problem in the social sciences. A social scientist who can actually write is a rare thing indeed.

I'd have to agree - but it seems so much simpler to write well/clearly than to write in general academese, in principle. I suppose when you've read a thousand papers written in that academic style, your own writing becomes altered.

We need more academics who can talk in the vernacular of the common man, more.....sidewalk social scientists, if you will.

3 Body No Problem
14-10-2009, 04:56 PM
I'd have to agree - but it seems so much simpler to write well/clearly than to write in general academese, in principle..

The opposite is true, as you will find out in a few years, when you'll begin to be at the top of your field. Writing about a specialised subject in a non-technical language (without loosing precision) is difficult and for many advanced sciences essentially impossible. The reason to use specialised vocabulary is that it makes communication with other experts in a given field more easy. You can take all the mathematical texts in the world and express them in everyday language. The price of this translation is that texts would increase in length by a factor of 5000.

Just stop whining and start learning the terms of your chosen trade.

scottdisco
14-10-2009, 04:58 PM
The reason to use specialised vocabulary is that it makes communication with other experts in a given field more easy.

correct.

3 Body No Problem
14-10-2009, 05:03 PM
I think taking a few years 'out' before university should be mandatory.

I also think that sometimes (I went to university when I was 23), but it pushes the problem just somewhere else (i.e. what else should these immature brats do). If you study late it aggravates the problem of realising only one or two years in your course that you've picked the wrong field.

I wish I had gone to study earlier, because in the years between high-school and university I did essentially nothing of interest (because I had not idea what to do with my life). I only went to study because my parents put severe pressure on me to do so. At uni I met so many new and interesting people that I could have met years before.

baboon2004
14-10-2009, 05:33 PM
The opposite is true, as you will find out in a few years, when you'll begin to be at the top of your field. Writing about a specialised subject in a non-technical language (without loosing precision) is difficult and for many advanced sciences essentially impossible. The reason to use specialised vocabulary is that it makes communication with other experts in a given field more easy. You can take all the mathematical texts in the world and express them in everyday language. The price of this translation is that texts would increase in length by a factor of 5000.

Just stop whining and start learning the terms of your chosen trade.

To your first paragraph: For advanced sciences/maths, I'm sure this is true, absolutely. For social sciences, I think less so, and i think that kow-towing to 'experts' just because they use a particular way fo framing their thoughts is part of the problem in bridging the awkward gap between much of social science academia and reality. I know this wouldn't apply to maths, physics etc in the same way, however.

Again, I'm not so much referring to specialised vocabulary, as much as a specific kind of sentence structure. I can't emphasise this enough (well, I can...)!

To your second paragraph: Don't be such a patronising twat, please! Thank you. You wouldn't say that to me in person (although, sigh, you'll probably claim that you would), so don't be insulting over a message board. We're not on youtube, y'know. Quite what constitutes 'whining' about a genuine problem I'm having, I don't know anyways... :rolleyes:

3 Body No Problem
14-10-2009, 05:50 PM
Again, I'm not so much referring to specialised vocabulary, as much as a specific kind of sentence structure. I can't emphasise this enough (well, I can...)!

Sorry, then I misunderstood what you meant.

BTW, there's a second dimension to specialist language: it allows the expert to see quickly if an interlocutor has put in the work to master the field. This is a proxy indicator for the likely quality of a discussion. It's like the mandatory "Related Work" section in a scientific paper. If you don't do it right, experts may simply decide it's not worth their time to engage with a paper/discussion.


To your second paragraph: Don't be such a patronising twat, please! Thank you. You wouldn't say that to me in person (although, sigh, you'll probably claim that you would), so don't be insulting over a message board.

Hehe, I say this all the time to my students (when necessary), because it shuts them up every time. It's a really effective rhetorical device. Highly recommended.

Corpsey
14-10-2009, 06:01 PM
Surely posting on dissensus for six years has prepared you for it? :D

padraig (u.s.)
14-10-2009, 06:24 PM
But as a first year undergrad at the age of 23

1st yr undergrad at 25, tell me about it. but it's actually not all that uncommon these days - here at least, can't speak to the UK - and esp. b/c I'm doing my first 2 yrs worth of credits at a community college to save $ (b/c of the crazy system we have here, I pay ~$2,000 a semester right now, as opposed to ~6-7K/semester at a 4 yr state school or 14K/semester & up at a private school. yes, it's a very crazy system). there are loads of older students, both those going for the first time & those going back to get more training or retrain for a new career. most of the time, there are at least half a dozen people in the class my age or older.

I find that it really depends on the class tho - like English 101-102 are full of kids right out of high school. plus no one wants to be there, they're just fulfilling prerequisites, so those classes are pretty dreary (tho I still enjoy writing papers). OTOH, all my science course have had a much bigger age range and people studying things that they're interested in or which are at least relevant to their majors so they're compelled to put the effort in. not a lot of academese, either, tho I'm not doing any social sciences beyond the prereqs (which I'd gladly skip if possible).

I dunno, I can't say I'm glad I didn't go to school earlier, but I certainly don't regret anything either.

slightly crooked
14-10-2009, 06:41 PM
I did similar to the OP this time last year, returning to academia after 7 years away & also felt a bit of a sense of culture shock in getting to grips with the particular style of writing and argumentation. While, as others have suggested, I don't think there's any way around getting to grips with the particular terminology in the long term, a few things that worked for me were:

-Find somewhere to get a foothold. Find a topic/idea/theory that really appeals or interests you and spend some time really getting to grips with that set of literature. Then when you have to approach new material you can try to assess how it relates/differs to the material you are more familiar with, which can (sometimes) help to provide a way into the new stuff.

-Even within academic writing there can be massive differences in argumentative style between authors. Some people just seem to be closer to your wavelength than others in the way they think and present a case. When you find someone who constructs an argument in a way that resonates with you, I find the terminological difficulties don't feel so problematic.

-Review articles can be really useful when trying to get your head around a body of literature. You don't necessarily have to take the author's opinion of the material on board, but a good review article can help you get your bearings as to different approaches and the particular points of controversy between them.

-Try to figure out which texts are absolutely crucial. Sometimes you don't have to puzzle over a paragraph for half an hour trying to figure out what they meant, but in some key cases you just have to bite the bullet and keep reading the thing until it does make sense.

Oh, and it does get better once you get into it...

mrfaucet
14-10-2009, 07:04 PM
I have been know to groan frequently when authors give a concrete example of what they have been arduously explaining in complex theoretical prose over the past few pages, my reaction being....well, if that's what you meant, why didn't you say it?

This was what really got me (I did philosophy). So often I just found myself thinking 'get to the point'. Sometime this is just because they want to be rigorous, discounting every possible alternative before moving on, but others it is because they are just following tenuously related lines of thought that could easily be cut from the paper/book with no real loss. Then there is Plato whose dialogue format means you have to read through what seems like pages and pages of "of course, it couldn't be any other way Socrates".

Sick Boy
14-10-2009, 07:40 PM
This was what really got me (I did philosophy). So often I just found myself thinking 'get to the point'. Sometime this is just because they want to be rigorous, discounting every possible alternative before moving on, but others it is because they are just following tenuously related lines of thought that could easily be cut from the paper/book with no real loss. Then there is Plato whose dialogue format means you have to read through what seems like pages and pages of "of course, it couldn't be any other way Socrates".

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mixed_biscuits
14-10-2009, 07:43 PM
Unclear expression benefits poor arguments yet does good ones a disservice - and the writer knows this.

Mr. Tea
14-10-2009, 08:50 PM
Unclear expression benefits poor arguments yet does good ones a disservice - and the writer knows this.

Reminds me of: http://xkcd.com/169/ (I'm sure there's an XKCD for every occasion)

On the subject of necessary vs. unnecessary jargon, I think it's worth pointing out that in the humanities/social sciences, the concepts under discussion are often concepts that are used in everyday conversation - they may be discussed in terms much more complex or subtle than the way most people think about them, but it's fundamentally different from talking about quarks or telomeres or uncountable sets or whatever.

I mean, suppose you're a social studies professor and you're doing some research on factors that affect the percentage of state school pupils from different neighbourhoods that go to Russell Group universities. Now obviously anyone with a reasonable grasp of English knows what a state school is, what a neighbourhood is and what a university is. If they didn't know what the Russell Group is, they could type it into google and find out in about two seconds. Of course the prof is bound to use more abstract concepts in his paper, such as aspiration, privilege, prejudice, self-image and so on, but again, these are non-specialised words that most people understand. So I would assume there's a kind of spectrum of possible styles he could use in writing this paper, ranging from erring so far on the side of caution (towards transparency and understandability, I mean) that he effectively dumbs down a lot of the more subtle and probably more important points, to a hyper-abstruse style where each idea is expressed as abstractly as possible with a deliberately obscure vocabulary and gratuitously tortuous sentences.

I'll admit I'm speculating like mad here, but does this chime with anyone's experience of this kind of discourse? I just mean that when you're discussing ideas most people could get some kind of basic handle on, even if they'd have to study for years to understand all the complex interrelations between them, there must be some kind of choice as to whether you use more-or-less everyday language or go for super-abstruse jargon. Whereas in the natural sciences, medicine and mathematics, you have no choice but to use jargon because you're talking about concepts that don't occur at all in lay usage.

nomadthethird
14-10-2009, 09:24 PM
In my head, Birkbeck is home to the most pretentious, irritating academics and the most academese academese. Maybe I'm confusing all the Zizekregore doing stuff at Birkbeck with all of Birkbeck being in the Zizekregore, though.

Dude, no way. That would be the European Graduate School.

nomadthethird
14-10-2009, 09:32 PM
1st yr undergrad at 25, tell me about it. but it's actually not all that uncommon these days - here at least, can't speak to the UK - and esp. b/c I'm doing my first 2 yrs worth of credits at a community college to save $ (b/c of the crazy system we have here, I pay ~$2,000 a semester right now, as opposed to ~6-7K/semester at a 4 yr state school or 14K/semester & up at a private school. yes, it's a very crazy system). there are loads of older students, both those going for the first time & those going back to get more training or retrain for a new career. most of the time, there are at least half a dozen people in the class my age or older.

I find that it really depends on the class tho - like English 101-102 are full of kids right out of high school. plus no one wants to be there, they're just fulfilling prerequisites, so those classes are pretty dreary (tho I still enjoy writing papers). OTOH, all my science course have had a much bigger age range and people studying things that they're interested in or which are at least relevant to their majors so they're compelled to put the effort in. not a lot of academese, either, tho I'm not doing any social sciences beyond the prereqs (which I'd gladly skip if possible).

I dunno, I can't say I'm glad I didn't go to school earlier, but I certainly don't regret anything either.

I just got second highest in my class of 140 on a bio exam :D (Neither of us in top two got perfect scores, either.) I'm pretty psyched because this class is difficult.

Much more difficult than anything I ever took in a philosophy department. Or any other humanities department, for that matter.

If you (by this I mean the royal "you") don't like learning new terms, keep to to the humanities, because there are far fewer of them than in science, and the ones that exist are far more intuitive and easier to guess at.

My brother was a history major and from what I gather the challenge there is the sheer volume of information available, so everything is about research, research, research, and then making persuasive arguments based on either challenging or supporting prevailing views on x, y, or z history topic.

mixed_biscuits
14-10-2009, 10:05 PM
I just got second highest in my class of 140 on a bio exam :D

Nice one!

Room with a view
14-10-2009, 10:09 PM
what are all these young people going to uni going to do for jobs when they get out ?..teach? i mean hasn't the arse just dropped out from the whole law, economics, politics, accounting, paper pushing type jobs and what sort of McJob does humanities/social sciences qualify you for...blogging ?

Sick Boy
14-10-2009, 10:29 PM
what are all these young people going to uni going to do for jobs when they get out ?..teach? i mean hasn't the arse just dropped out from the whole law, economics, politics, accounting, paper pushing type jobs and what sort of McJob does humanities/social sciences qualify you for...blogging ?

Virtually anyone can get a paper-pushing office clerk type job. I did it for two years with virtually no qualifications whatsoever. Personally, I feel if people are going to university, particularly to take humanities, in order to get a lucrative job, they are going for all the wrong reasons firstly because they are horribly mistaken that it will produce this effect, and secondly because when University is treated mostly as a socialization machine (a "parental holding tank" according to a former professor of mine), the standards for admission drop and so with it the value of the education.

If you want a job it's best to get some specialized grad school qualifications in there, particularly with humanities. So many people at my university though are 18 years old, have just come out of High School, and are at University on recommendation (or command) of their parents, taking philosophy, sociology, or something similar and struggling, all under the delusion that it will result in loadsacash down the road. It is a shame because all these people would probably be much better suited spending their time doing something else, almost certainly to their benefit.

Mr. Tea
14-10-2009, 10:39 PM
My (younger) brother never went to university and he's already making much more money than I ever will. This is because he is Good At Computers.

Room with a view
14-10-2009, 10:42 PM
it just seems like the job market is bloated in the middle with paper pushers who dont actually produce anything but get paid fairly well to consume as much time/energy/money as possible covering their arses to keep their jobs. i suppose i'm talking civil service really but when you de-evolve their jobs they got nowhere else to go so drain the welfare system to breaking point.

where are the jobs of the future and what sort of training should i be pushing my kids into? i really dont think getting massively into debt with a student loan to study something totally irrelevent is the one but whats the other choices when we're conditioned that its the 'right' thing to do and anything les is tantamount to failure.

nomadthethird
14-10-2009, 10:57 PM
what are all these young people going to uni going to do for jobs when they get out ?..teach? i mean hasn't the arse just dropped out from the whole law, economics, politics, accounting, paper pushing type jobs and what sort of McJob does humanities/social sciences qualify you for...blogging ?

I got a grant writing job (originally in non-profit academic grants) with a philosophy degree.

Turned out to be a happy accident. A headhunter asked me "do you have a problem with animal research?" I said: "NOPE!" and the rest is history...

Edit: Thanks, MB. Now that there's someone to compete with in my mind that'll keep me motivated.

Sick Boy
14-10-2009, 11:00 PM
where are the jobs of the future and what sort of training should i be pushing my kids into? i really dont think getting massively into debt with a student loan to study something totally irrelevent is the one but whats the other choices when we're conditioned that its the 'right' thing to do and anything les is tantamount to failure.

I feel like anyone should just do what it is they are interested in really. If your kids are interested in studying something "totally irrelevant", and feel that the benefits of the education outweigh the debt, then that is what they should do. If they are interested in making a lot of money, they probably shouldn't do that.

massrock
14-10-2009, 11:01 PM
Yeah, just encourage them to learn Chinese.

Slothrop
14-10-2009, 11:08 PM
A numerate degree from somewhere vaguely prestigious still seems to be a good bet for something well paid and / or reasonably interesting - as long as there's lots of stuff, people will need to count it and keep track of it, as long as there's uncertainty people will need to figure the odds and as long as there's lots of information people are going to need to analyze it. Computational stats is looking particularly healthy as people start accumulating vast amounts of undifferentiated information (via web 2.0, loyalty cards, that sort of stuff) and want to sift it for opportunities to make money.

The complete collapse of the finance / IT / management consultancy jobs market seems to have been mostly wishful thinking tbh.

But yeah, it does seem a bit sad to think of a well paid job as the most important thing to get out of the university system...

Room with a view
14-10-2009, 11:15 PM
the eldest daughter has bought into the hiphop fame thing and wants to be a star. shes doing art history and drama in her final year at high school. she wanted help with her homework the other night, something about perspective in the rennaisance works of the old masters and all i could see was golden arches. maybe i shoulda kept up them tennis lessons when she was younger.

padraig (u.s.)
14-10-2009, 11:15 PM
what are all these young people going to uni going to do for jobs when they get out?

I have a trio of cousins who are currently pursuing the Holy Trinity of collegiate uselessness - anthropology, sociology & philosophy. I asked my aunt about it & she was like "well, at least it's nice to know they'll be around for a couple more years after they graduate with worthless degrees, can't find jobs & move back in." got a sense of humor, she does, given that she's paying for those degrees.

that's another thing about comm college - no art history majors, that's for sure. everyone is either nursing (huge that one, like 1/4 of the student body), engineering, one of the natural sciences, etc. or something else practical. when you're paying for it yourself you're much less apt to waste a year or two figuring out what to study.

Room with a view
14-10-2009, 11:25 PM
yeah but unless you're some uber geek driven to a career path since the nappy stage what does an 18 - 23 yr old really know about what they want to do/be for the rest of their lives?

one of my mates has given up a career in entertainment technology to become a paramedic. reckons theres money in pain and carnage.

vimothy
15-10-2009, 10:49 AM
Was in a meeting the other day and someone mentioned a piece of research that suppposedly shows that an undergrad humanities degree actually subtracts from your earning potential over the course of your working life.

four_five_one
15-10-2009, 03:12 PM
All this talk of careers and practicality is rather depressing. I don't think kids aged 18 should be thinking about careers, really...

nomadthethird
15-10-2009, 03:16 PM
Unclear expression benefits poor arguments yet does good ones a disservice - and the writer knows this.

Narcissists, however, do not understand that words should be for communicating, not just for expressing.

baboon2004
16-10-2009, 02:22 PM
as an counterexample of what i meant when thinking of this thread, am currently reading a really good piece by Stuart Hall on representations of race/representations of The Other, where he's demonstrating his points with practical examples from popular media. Whereas he could have chosen to couch it in highly theoretical language, while making no more profound points. I like and respect the approach he's taken - both from a personal perspective, and from the perspective that it doesn't alienate other casual readers needlessly, including those who might take a lot from it and wouldn't read it if it was framed as an 'academic text'..

i'd probably think differently if I lived in a society which didn't seem to simultaneously privilege and stigmatise thought/analysis as 'something intellectuals do', thereby patronising 99 per cent of the population. This board is a good example of something running blessedly counter to that trend.

padraig (u.s.)
16-10-2009, 11:07 PM
This board is a good example of something running blessedly counter to that trend.

eh not really I mean. come on, what &#37; of Dissensus regulars are highly educated (as well as male, white, generally middle class, etc)? not all, but this isn't exactly a broad cross-section of society.

also, from a friend's dissertation proposal something that made me think of this topic. it'll probably be old hat to anyone with a background in this stuff - the proposal is full of Focault, Derrida, Deleuze, etc. references - but anyway, quoted from some dude named W.D. Mignolo, in reference to my friend's "locus of enunciation" (which I guess is a fancy way of saying POV)


scholarly discourse (as well as other types of discourse) acquire their meaning on the grounds of their relation to the subject matter as well as their relation to an audience, a context of description...and the locus of enunciation from which one "speaks" & by speaking, contributes to changing or maintaining a system of values or beliefs

which seems to sum up academese, at least of the social sciences variety, to me.

Bettysnake
17-10-2009, 08:40 PM
Anyone have any tips (possibly from similar experience) for getting past this? Should I simply accept that some passages are completely opaque to me, and may or may not mean anything, or persist in trying to extract their meaning, with all the potential for madness, violent head-clutching and caffeine abuse that this entails?

This is a 'state the bleeding obvious' question but are you taking handwritten notes in the oldfashioned way? I'm doing an Open University MSc and i find rewriting tricky passages 'normal' english bullet pointy fashion really helps. oh and only ever reading the first and last chapters of books helps.

I do think its harder studying part time - if you're working, looking after babies etc as well as studying there's always other things troubling the edge of your consciousness (is the baby eating the carpet? did I send that email?). Having said that its also brilliant and I'm a total Open University fangirl.

owengriffiths
18-10-2009, 02:07 PM
Having said that its also brilliant and I'm a total Open University fangirl.

http://mos.totalfilm.com/images/e/educating-rita-800-75.jpg

Forgive me, I couldnt help myself

baboon2004
18-10-2009, 03:31 PM
eh not really I mean. come on, what % of Dissensus regulars are highly educated (as well as male, white, generally middle class, etc)? not all, but this isn't exactly a broad cross-section of society.


you're right of course* - i was more meaning that the debate on here is generally approachable but not facile.

* actually, overwhemingly male yes, but not sure about race or class or formal education - i'd presume there're a fair few autodidacts round these parts?

baboon2004
18-10-2009, 03:33 PM
This is a 'state the bleeding obvious' question but are you taking handwritten notes in the oldfashioned way? I'm doing an Open University MSc and i find rewriting tricky passages 'normal' english bullet pointy fashion really helps. oh and only ever reading the first and last chapters of books helps.

I do think its harder studying part time - if you're working, looking after babies etc as well as studying there's always other things troubling the edge of your consciousness (is the baby eating the carpet? did I send that email?). Having said that its also brilliant and I'm a total Open University fangirl.

that's a good tip - am trying to work more this way, but breaking old habits is tough. I'm reading more articles than books, but the first and last chapter method usually works if I am given books to read.

Yep, studying part-time is absolutely brilliant all in all. I'd had it verified precisely how much I missed formal intellectual stimulation (that sounds filthy, somehow).

Yes, the baby is eating the carpet. It must be stopped.

tgpb
19-10-2009, 04:36 PM
i've just signed up here (hi everyone) and this thread seems like a suitable place for a first post, considering i've just started on a part time MA in (cough) Cultural Studies at (cough cough) Birkbeck... god we're everywhere.

my background is a degree in Music - and not a particularly theoretical one at that - though i was always interested in the theory side of things and tried to apply it in my writing. i am however, up to this point, almost entirely self-taught in terms of theory, philosophy, criticism etc., so have always regarded this type of thinking (in academese) to belong purely to the private domain (i.e. reading, writing), whilst tending to be more 'layman'-esque in public (i.e. at work, with friends). this makes it difficult formulating vocal arguments in real time(!) as i've always kept the two domains separate - and will probably continue to do so seeing as i only have lectures/seminars one evening a week. meanwhile, the level of fluency others (of incredibly diverse backgrounds) seem to be able to wield can be quite intimidating...
so any tips there would be greatfully received....!

HOWEVER, i seem to be quite happy with the reading involved and can offer the following (fairly obvious, perhaps patronising, certainly practical) suggestions:
- personally, i can't engage with anything properly if it's on a screen - it has to be physically in my hands. my brain is trained to flit around too much otherwise. printing/photocopying is the only way. sorry trees.
- always read with a pencil, underlining everything that seems to be particularly pertinent to the main argument, making comments, drawing lines, numbering arguments, summarising at the bottom of the page etc. this means you never just glaze over - or if you do, your lack of understanding is evidenced by a particularly blank patch, so you can go back to it later.
- as suggested above, rewrite stuff in your own words, in bullet points, or even full paragraphs. (then you've already done some of the hard work later when it comes to showing understanding in an essay).
- i don't know if it's a bit of a faux pas to use a good dictionary of terms relevant to your field? like those penguin ones are pretty good. i'd say do it, but keep it a bit hush hush.


sorry for the lengthy first post! way to endear myself to the community...

in summary then, breezes.

Pestario
20-10-2009, 02:59 PM
welcome to dissensus tgpb

I read your blog :cool: