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Excerpt from a notebook: working in the margins is not always a bad thing

December 1, 2010

I managed to squeeze in an attendance of Irene Pepperberg‘s talk yesterday. She may not be known to most people but she is a model for many who work in animal studies and animal behaviorism (the latter being a completely marginal field in academia, so much so that you won’t find them in most ‘elite’ universities (except in their Brain science center, where they are more interested in quantitative than qualitative measures). She recounts her early experience (i came in as she was talking about her graduate school days in an alpha-male geek environment of chemistry) and her struggles trying to get appointments and positions in her work with animals, particularly parrots. I am getting her Alex Studies book but for the lay person not too interested in the scientific details of her work, you may want to get this really nice book (I have the audiobook version), Alex and Me. I wonder if it is open knowledge that MIT Media Lab once tried to develop Interpet for pet grey parrots so that they will be able to escape boredom the way humans do. And this was like a decade ago, but I only knew of it early in spring this year when I visited the MIT Media Lab.

While there is much to be said about her work, in this short note to the self, I want to remind me that it is not always a bad thing to be working in the margins of things, even when most people are not too interested in what you do until you achieve a measure of fame (if you ever do). Most importantly is to believe in the veracity of what you do and knowing what what you do can slowly, and even in a small way, change the status quo of things, including in the supposedly more ‘radicalized’ intellectual world (which, if you stay long enough in, will know is far from radical).

I’ve spent much of my past month (almost) working on this project while squeezing in classes and readings (and seminars and conferences). Now I got less than two weeks to finish my final two projects (my increasing insomnia might have something to do with that). I also have some last minute RA duties to complete before I move on to a different role next semester next January (winter break feels so short!). Probably after this, I’ll get to write up and catch up on all the non-school related writing, including writing about wikis, wikipedias and wiki as a new age of the Watergate Scandal (or Profumo Affair). At any rate, people are writing about the wikileaks all over the internet (and on social networks), such as here. I am not so much of an IT girl with current events right now so I’ll let you go to others for that.

Have a great three weeks to the start of another holiday season (and Thanksgiving just passed).

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