Fridays In The New Academic Paradigm

Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, CAN
Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, CAN

Twenty years ago I was finishing up a 2-year deal as a Student Assistant Editor of The Journal of Planning Literature in the Department of City and Regional Planning at The Ohio State University. It wasn’t a paid Graduate Assistantship and how I wound up on the editorial staff is the topic of another blog.

The academic paradigm of the early to mid 1990s was vastly different than the one of today. The Internet as we knew it was perhaps 3-5% of what it is in 2015. In fact, the Internet in 1995 was still mostly an academic venture based on what used to be called the Bitnet (dust clouds encountered here).

As a Student Assistant Editor, it was my job to write up to 45 journal abstracts and 90 journal listings per quarter. It was a tedious job that required a lot of patience, good skills at data transference via floppy disks (more dust clouds encountered here) and the ability to wait for a particular journal to put to print a salient article that had been published some 3 or 6 or even 12 months prior.

For example, if some noted New Zealand researcher had published an article in a New Zealand regional planning journal on a Friday, maybe there would be a peer-to-peer e-mail (professor-to-professor) from the North or the South Island sent to Columbus, OH. (Incidentally: I would not get that e-mail).

As it was, my job back then was as a graduate “gopher”: I would be knee deep in the stacks wading through my assigned journals, frantically copying journal article listings and making notes of the strong ones for future abstracting.

(Sidebar: I took a trip to England in March of 1995 and visited the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. In their library lo and behold there was The Journal of Planning Literature! Still the library staff at the University of Newcastle looked at me as if I were a gopher attempting to find the hole from whence he had originated).

If this noted New Zealand researcher, the one in question, had been visiting Ohio State, we would have welcomed him/her into the Department, shown him/her the offices of The Journal of Planning Literature, given him/her a brief applause and then returned to work. The PhD students would have gone to lunch with him/her while the Master’s students would have been issued a “back-to-work” glare….

A flash of light and I wake up in a new paradigm in September of 2015. If a noted New Zealand cultural anthropologist published an article in an academic journal last night, it would be immediately available for review this Friday morning. Using legal, ethical and moral means, I would be able to get a printed copy of said article before lunch on Friday.

Then Friday evening, I would be able to at least give it an academic fly-by (a “speed-read”). Then on Saturday morning, with my bifocals affixed, I would be able to give it a good academic read over a collegial cup of coffee. On Sunday morning, I would be able to type up at least a one page abstract of the article. Given that I am an old and wily graduate student, I would attempt to sneak that draft of said abstract into the e-mail traffic of Sunday night knowing (wrongly) that it would not be read by my Professor until the following Monday. Then when the reply e-mail comes back late Sunday evening requesting that I revise and present the abstract on Monday morning, I now realize that the old 1990s paradigm has little relevance in the second decade of the 21st century!

In short, the academic paradigm of Fridays has changed and alas I have had to change with that change. Archie, Veronica, Jughead and Gopher (Massive dust storm generated here) have been replaced with this new decentralized network that includes this blogsphere. And so 20 years from now when you see the changes in the academic paradigm, on a Friday, remember that it was a Hockey Anthropologist who pointed them out to you!

My View of Anthropology: Five Fields!

I see Anthropology as the study of human potential. By the term “human potential,” I mean the vicarious expressions of life as experienced by real human beings in their physical, linguistic, cultural and historical environments. These vicarious expressions are based in cognition, which provides the backdrop for the entire field of Anthropology.

Anthropology is classically defined as an integrated social science based in four fields: Biological Anthropology, Linguistic Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology and Archaeology. Anthropology is a meta-social science precisely because it studies all things human. But Anthropology, the study of human potential, has the much more potential than that.

I say that there is much more potential in Anthropology because I believe that the four field model is somewhat of a dated paradigm: Arguably there is a 5th field of Anthropology: Ecological Anthropology, which is defined as cultural adaptations to the environment. Ecological Anthropology is growing in importance and is a reflection of the increased interest in the Anthropocene. And if you want to study human potential in the context of climate change, you need to be in Anthropology but you should ground yourself in Ecological Anthropology.

At the nexus of Ecological Anthropology and Environmental Social Science are a broad range of disciplines, sub-disciplines and in-disciplines including Human Ecology, Cultural Ecology, Environmental Sociology, Environmental History and Environmental Psychology, just to name a few of the salient tangential approaches to human-environment interactions.

I am in the Socio-Cultural Track in the UA Anthropology Department but the reality is that I am an Ecological Anthropologist with a Cognitive Turn. I believe that the Ecology shapes Cognition which then turns around and shapes Ecology. And I am all about Hybrid Ecologies that are simultaneously symbolic (Emotional Ecology) and non-representational (Affective Ecology). In fact I would argue that hockey is surrounded in Canada by both an Emotional Ecology and an Affective Ecology.

You haven’t studied the phenomena of “Hockey Night In Canada,” (CBC) have you?