Friday, September 08, 2006

I'm an imposter, you're an imposter, we're all imposters together

A chance run-in with a member of my committee:

He says, "Hey, have you read [new book in the library]? I think it might be useful for your thesis."

I hear, "Are you actually doing any work lately?"

True answer, "Right now I'm trying not to read anything that might make me feel stupid."

My actual reply, "Yes, I heard about it and I plan to read it. But it's in [X framework], which I'm not very familiar with, so it's going to be hard going."

He says, "Have you thought about learning [X framework]? Do you think it would be a helpful perspective for your topic?"

I hear, "This theory is important! Why don't you already understand it?"

True answer, "It's hard. I don't like it."

My actual reply, "Maybe... I did think about using it, but I wasn't sure the payoff would be worth the time spent learning a whole new theoretical framework."

He says, "What framework are you using?"

I hear, "You DO HAVE a framework, don't you?"

True answer: "I kind of scrounged one up on the basis of whatever overlap there is between the framework I used for my MA and the framework my supervisor uses, then removed any theoretical stuff that seemed too hard."

I reply, "I'm kind of basing it on [Y framework], but trying to make it accessible to people working in different theories." (People like YOU, for instance).

He answers, "Is that the same framework as [main supervisor]'s?"

I hear, "Did you just make that up?"

True answer, "Yes, I just made it up."

I reply, "Not really. But there's enough in common between the two that we are doing fine."

And his final comment, showing he saw through the entire thing: "You know, sometimes you just have to write in whatever framework you are most comfortable with and then make up some plausible sounding justifications to put in the introduction."


Rebecca said...

Yes but, more importantly, he signaled that it was okay! Cool for you.

shrinkykitten said...

Oh poor baby - that sounds so totally anxiety provoking! Did you walk away and collapse into a heap?

BernieRA said...

Don't you love it when you're sure you are the biggest doofus around, and then you find out the others are jsut doofuses (doofi?) who talk a good game?

turtlebella said...

This is such a classic grad student - member of committee interaction! I just love how you interpret everything to be as negative as possible. It's what we all do! I can even take the briefest of expressions as it flickers across my advisor's face and create a negative tirade out of it. But in the end it sounds like he said something understanding and!

sheepish said...

What he really meant: You know, nobody really understands those frameworks. We all just kinda make stuff up and BS our way through. Carry on!

wolfa said...

Hmm. We could do it differently.

He said: "Have you read . . . "
He meant: "I haven't read this, but it would be nice if someone else read it and then summarised it for me."

He said: "Have you thought about learning . . . "
He meant: "Have you considered that if you learned this theory you could explain it to me?"

He said: "What framework . . . "
He meant: "Can I get any use out of this thesis?"

He said: "Is that the same . . . "
He meant: "Darn. I already know that one."

Final sentence of his: look, he's honest. People use the frameworks they were taught, then explain why they're the super duper best frameworks, absolutely no question. Or they change to another framework that makes things work, but that isn't accepted, so you say that it's right because of whatever. It's really not a bad thing, it's some idiocy that people hide it.

StyleyGeek said...

I love Wolfa's interpretation! And thinking back to the conversation, that could definitely be what was going on!

And sheepish is right too, I think.

Turtlebella, this guy actually is very nice. I just get nervous when instead of his usual strategy of talking at me for an hour while I sip coffee and nod knowingly, he actually asks me questions that might have a right or wrong answer.

(Case in point: a few days ago he comes running into my office and says, "Have you heard the news? There's a paper about to come out with convincing evidence for a genetic relationship between the Athapaskan languages and a European language. Guess which one!" And then he made me take three guesses, each of which was wrong and made him look that little bit more disappointed in me.)

Shrinky -- it only provoked anxiety until the last sentence, which made me walk away and collapse in giggles.

Rebecca and Berniera -- exactly!

wolfa said...
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StyleyGeek said...
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wolfa said...
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wolfa said...
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StyleyGeek said...

Excuse all the comment deletions, but this post just got linked to by IHE and is getting visitor-bombed, and I don't want to be the first online source breaking the news mentioned in those comments. Especially if I didn't get the details right.