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New Year’s is a great time to consider . . . time, and how well we live our lives while we have it.
As a did in 2013, I developed some goals and intentions for the upcoming year. I moved this to the top of my site up here, both to keep me honest and to help me easily recall what I hope to focus upon.
I would not mention these and share them publicly if these were not valuable, doable, and within reach (with some stretching). While I will hope for help and support and positive intentions, these are the things I hope to accomplish in 2014:
1. Engage in Timely Communication
I want to engage in communication, such as via Inbox ZERO (delete, delegate, respond, defer, or do) and Social Media (Twitter replies, Facebook replies, etc.), in a more timely way to better engage in and maintain conversations with networks.
2. Use a Thoughtful, Evidence-Based Approach to How I Use My Time
I completed my PhD in Educational Research in 2013, and as a result I tend to observe things around me in researcher-mode, questioning and seeking to find evidence to guide my actions and beliefs. All this takes time, and I hope to make the best use of it.
3. Approach Nature through Principles of Somatic Experiencing
I feel in many ways I am too removed from nature — food, living, breathing, exercise, living in New York City, etc. I will plan to spend more time directly interacting with the Great Outdoors.
4. Maintain Financial Balance
I want to be more aware of what I spend, and where, in an effort to help me move forward toward meeting my goals.
Let the new year proceed, and may we live in interesting times.
There have been a variety of memes over the years to summarize one’s own research, perhaps in 100 words or in haiku, though the newest meme for this seems to be started by Raul Pacheco-Vega here and here and here. While the #myResearch tag has been tried before, it seems to have caught on this time (reasons for it just may be some interesting research in itself!), due perhaps because the right people seeing it, researchers have free time on Saturday evenings, it is the beginning of the semester, the current moon phase is waning gibbous, or choose your own reason. It is not clear why it caught on now, but thankfully it did.
Whatever the case, I find it useful to clearly and concisely state what my research is about — it keeps me focused AND there are possibilities for identifying other people doing related work. This is what I said:
I have been thinking about what New Year’s Resolutions I should grab onto for this year, with an eye toward how easy it is to have so many I readily forget, propose unreachable ones that defeat me before I begin, or even such ideal ones that . . . well let me leave the ideal ones for the Übermensch or somebody else with the time and wherewithal to focus on the unfocusable.
With this said, taking stock of what is realistic and needed, without seeming like work (hey, who gets excited with focusing on work?), I want to try to do something new for 2012. I do not want to focus on giving anything up–that only stays exciting for a day and motivating for about two. I also don’t want to focus on cutting out or stopping anything, as that also feels like I am doing without (and once again, I will not realistically be able to maintain it).
This year I am hoping to take an appreciative inquiry-inspired approach to my 2012 goals. I am planning goals that will advocate doing something positive, rather than not doing something negative. I will reenforce the behavior and direction I want to promote, and leave the bad habits and such alone, as the focus on the good will help to reduce those more unpleasant ones. While I will avoid SMART goals, as that will add a certain amount of pressure that I don’t need (once again, too much like choosing to do work), I am hoping these will still meet those same criteria.
Thus, my 2012 goals and my New Year’s Resolutions are:
1. I Will Finish My Doctoral Thesis (Dissertation)
I have spent nearly all my life in college and university, and have a handful of degrees and such to demonstrate the wide breadth of knowledge and skills and experiences I have had along the way, but now ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I need to finish all of this formal stuff so I can in turn engage in all the nifty research and living that I have been putting on hold. I will finish my PhD (meaning defend it in the viva and fix anything that needs fixing) by the end of 2012.
2. I Will Engage in Fiscal Responsibility
I have never been good with money, and as I am self-funding my PhD now may not be the best time to start this, but I have to learn (or remember) some self-restraint. This does not mean I will get out of debt or stop spending anything (recall the appreciative inquiry above), but I certainly can have some restraint, something I will positively mention as engaging in doing something good, rather than focusing on stopping something not so good. I will focus on being responsible (something good) that still allows me to move about my day given my commitments and situation (cf. thesis work above).
3. I Will be Timely with Communication
Seems simple enough, though I tend to read emails or see Tweets or blog posts or the like, note to myself that I need to reply or post, and then move on. These electronic reminders then sit in my Inbox or in open tabs, while I busy myself with other tasks as I consider my replies and process or debrief what I want to reply to, or not. This means I at times take longer than I prefer to answer or file or delete (cf. Inbox Zero). So, rather than list exactly how long things will remain unanswered or unresponded to (too unbending for my personal life that will make this all feel like work), I will again focus on the positive by following the path of timeliness. Even as I am writing this I am down to only 6 items in my Inbox, so great strides are afoot!.
I have been working on this post for the past few days, and think it is now time to air in public. I know I wish to be around people who focus on these three seemingly unrelated items, and hope this will in turn help me to improve toward that unnamed person!
I had initially thought of open content as a panacea, and in many ways too good to be true. You know what happens when things are seem that way, right? Why share quality content without generating revenue? How good can free stuff really be? How can we confirm free content is of sufficient quality to be able to rely on it?
After the somewhat contentious live session (I reacted somewhat strongly when the concept of “doing the right thing” was raised, as if an objective “right thing” exists that is naturally self-evident), I started to think of open content in a different way, one which is much more skeptical than I initially began. Open content here was described as something that can be free or for pay, depending on the delivery mechanism. Let’s face it–people work because they get paid. Sure, volunteer efforts are done for the benefit of others, and non-profits exist to work toward their mission while covering their costs. It seems that open content tries to do the latter, but since some of the open content providers that were discussed in the live session were for-profit companies, I cannot get my mind around how open the content really can be. Consider Google, in that everything it does is oriented toward revenue, including providing all those nifty and (on the face) free services. Even its “free” Android operating system is on track to generate $2.5 billion in advertizing revenue. How free is free when strings, often very hidden ones, are attached?
In this way, are companies that provide goods under an open content license doing anything different than implementing a business model that revises a traditional publishing method into a new dissemination strategy? Yes, the content, such as in Flatworld Knowledge, can be freely available in some forms (provided the economically-focused users want it in that way), or still available in a traditional manner (for cost). What this means is they get the benefit of being considered a “good” company that is committed to sharing available resources (like Google, perhaps, which claims “You can make money without doing evil.” However, I am not sure Google would be classified as an open content provider, even given its freely available Reader, Documents, GMail, and the like), while strings are still attached on the back end. Go ahead and look at the website–how can a company exist without revenue? OK, try to see where they generate it; I could not locate it. That alone makes me suspicious, ironically, of something that claims to make solid content freely available.
I know, what is the big deal? If companies can provide open content and thereby benefit some people, then what is the harm in that? Nothing, insofar as the process is transparent. I am always skeptical when it is not clear how a company makes money, as companies are companies to generate revenue for stakeholders (or else they would exist as non-profits). In this way, it reminds me of how Google was free and then ads appeared and then they started tracking user movements. Facebook does the same thing by selling user movements and interactions to advertisers. I am still wondering about Twitter’s business plan. But these are all known to be revenue-generating companies. Are open content generators just doing the same thing under the guise of being generous content sharers (for those who are economically challenged . . .)?
Granted, I agree that issues around peer reviewed journals and the tenure process and annually updated textbooks are all imperfect systems, though I am not convinced open content academic providers are the magic bullet to what comes down to fundamental issues of supply and demand. I don’t have answers as to why costs are so high in academic books and publications, except to say that for-profit providers of content do what providers of everything else do–they charge what they believe the market will bear. Perhaps open content providers will help to change that, though I believe the problem lies more with the corporatization of education itself, with the content providers simply following along.