Saturday, July 16, 2011

Practicing What I Preach (while preaching what I practice)

I've got another week of vacation left, but then it's back to work. And to kick things off I've decided to draft a 40 paragraph paper in 20 hours, which will follow my "ideal" structure. (Do note Peter's reminder not to confuse those ideals with the achievable reality.) That is, it will have a three-paragraph introduction, five paragraphs of "background", five of "theory", five of "method", and then three five-paragraph sections presenting my "results", followed by five paragraphs of "discussion" and two paragraphs of conclusion.

My outline so far looks like this:

I. Introduction
§1 Publication is increasingly important in academic life.
§2 Since its inception, social epistemology has rightly construed knowledge as "the property of a distributed network of exchanges" (Fuller 1993), i.e., as embedded in what Foucault (1972) called "discourse".
§3 In this paper I propose a vocation for social epistemologists: that of "resident writing consultant", an "archivist" in Foucault's sense.

II. "Publish or Perish", Then and Now (Background)
§4-8 The history of "publish or perish" can be traced back to before WWII and forward to today's Denmark.

III. The Archives of Babel
§9 Bernard Bolzano's "Theory of Science" presented itself as a kind of "grammar" of academic writing, i.e., the rules by which treatises were to be written.
§10 Inspired by Wittgenstein, this dream was taken up in earnest by the logical positivists in the early 20th century.
§11 In the 1960s, an interest in "paradigms" (Kuhn) and "discourses" (Foucault) began to replace the positivists' focus on a logic of propositions and occasioned the so-called "crisis of representation".
§12 The resulting "post-modern condition" has been unfairly allegorized by invoking Borges's "Library of Babel".
§13 Social epistemology attempts to recover from this condition by emphasizing the "rhetorical function of representation" over the "representational function of language" (Fuller 1993).

IV. Inframethodology
§14 Foucault's "archive" is the site of discursive practices that lie between the corpus and the language.
§15 Inframethodology is a level of epistemological analaysis that lies "beneath method".
§16 Research is here construed as a craft.
§17 Knowledge is taken to be an ability to converse.
§18 The social epistemologist can best study these practices by engaging with them directly, i.e., supporting them.

V. The Resident Writing Consultant
§19-23 Since 2007, I have been the "resident writing consultant" at a major European business school.

VI. Research as a Second Language
§24-28 My basic approach was to go at the problem of scholarly writing through an immersion in the actual discourses/paradigms that the scholars I was supporting participated in.

VII. Writing Process Reengineering
§29-33 A significant component of my consultancy became helping scholars protect and manage their writing time.

VIII. Discussion
§34-38 There are several lessons to be drawn from my experience as a writing consultant.

IX. Conclusion
§39 This paper has forty paragraphs. [I really like this little bit of meta-writing. But it may be a darling I'll have to kill.]
§40 Johannes de Silentio (Kierkegaard) and Bartleby the Scrivener (Melville), both of whom were "supplementary clerks" are the literary partron saints of social epistemology construed as resident writing consultancy.

Please notice that this outline consists of a series of claims, not a series of topics to be discussed. Even where I have not yet decided on the key sentences of each paragraph (and even in the cases where I am just guessing at what I will be saying), I have made the effort of articulating a claim I believe to be true. This allows me to discuss (with myself and others) how I know them to be true and, to some extent, what I mean by them. Do let me know what you think.

Like I say, starting on the 25th, I will be spending four hours a day, a half hour at a time, writing each of the 40 paragraphs enumerated here. At the end of those 20 hours of work, then, I will have a pretty solid first draft. Obviously, I've spent quite a few hours already planning this out, thinking about it, etc. Now that I know what I want to say, I have to write it out. Then I can begin to think about how good my ideas really are.

The deadline for this paper is early 2012. So I'll have plenty of time to schedule a revision process as well.

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