Tuesday, October 21, 2008

336. A Sketch Essay on Inherited Versus Acquired Academic Families: A Delicate Relationship Between a Professor and His Daughter (Lamarck-Darwin)

I don't want to inherit an academic family (through my father, a scientist). I want to acquire it. I want to earn trust and respect. I need to sweat intellectual blood, re-arranging neurons in my head just to EARN my academic family. And then it will all have meaning.

Basically, I started a Question Reality Google Groups, which can be found at http://groups.google.com/group/questionreality in which I have made a somewhat religious effort to collect precious quotes from my college experiences within the last five years that I have failed to write down (bad me). Furthering the notion that my existence only has worth or merit given that it is searchable on the internet. *Sigh.* I wrote down the above quote (in big orange letters) and it ended up prompting this lengthy essay on the relationship between me and my father (both of us scientists). Quite cathartic. Amazing to say that I was able to write well simply because I had excessive sleep the night before... I slept from 5pm to 7am. 14 flippin' hours. Shows you how EXHAUSTED I was! Sleep-deprived. Etcetera. After Dr. Sweet's midterm (yesterday), I had come to realize that right now it is IMPORTANT TO WRITE and POST ON MY BLOG. Freeform structure. It is a huge burden right now to worry about formatting my writing for multiple different media sources. Like writing for the Daily Nexus (UCSB's undergrad newspaper). If I write something that ends up being optimal formatting for a media source around town, all the better. But I shouldn't constrain my mind to creating it's own structure. For example, this essay below, I should not worry about it's length or structure. The most important thing is that my mind just took my through a coherent logic structure that was good enough to place on the internet. Glory Halleluliah!

Essay Starts Here.

The above quote is in response to my problems for going to graduate school at UC Riverside. I was having huge psychological problems because around campus I was not regarded as "Victoria" the "scale girl" (which is my name at UCSB), but I was perceived as "Rich Minnich's daughter," or the "daughter of that famous fire ecologist." Which is cool in part, but very frustrating because I am attempting to mold and earn my own Intellectual Identity, along WITH my father, but at a healthy distance.

Things at UC Riverside became so absurdly bad that I was approached by scientists who shifted their adult voice into baby-cootsie-coo tone as their minds shifted into flashback mode, "Oh! I remember back when you were yay high (three feet from the ground) and you would run around the lawn outside the geology building, making and playing with paper airplanes with Sadler's kids." Excuse me, but HOW can I take my academic career so seriously when they know me at such a personal level that they probably even know MORE about me than I do myself when I existed as a naive kid?

UC Santa Barbara is an optimal place. When I first applied to the College of Creative Studies, I purposely removed any information in my application that my father was a fire ecologist and climate scientist at UC Riverside. Dr. Armand Kuris and the CCS committee permitted me to join CCS without knowing my deep historical roots in science. Hence, I earned my admission independent of affiliation with my father. Though, a month later, Armand called me into his office, and he said, "Victoria, why didn't you ever tell me that your father was a scientist?" I guess he found out through the internet, but I admitted to him that I wanted to be seen through his eyes independent of my father. I think he admired this notion, but he said that my academic record seemed very suspicious from the start (being involved in science fair projects at an early age and all), let alone to acquire an email account from ucsb by the name of "bioweb" (I should have received a patent or copyright for that name because in 2000 I was essentially the only person on google who affiliated with "bioweb" and three years later, three biotech companies named themselves "bioweb." Perhaps I could have gotten quite a bit of money from the invention of a single word!). Armand also had a student by the name of Dana Schulman who was so obsessed with octupii that her email account was "octopus" at umail.ucsb.edu. Talk about extreme biological identities. Armand further pointed out that most of his CCS biology students ended up having someone in the family affiliated with academia, whether a father or mother was a professor or a brother or sister was a graduate student.

Though, when it was time to apply to graduate school--more specifically the Bren, under Dr. Oran Young, I do admit that I informed Oran about my intentions and how they were very closely tied with my father's history of research in fire ecology and his role as a scientist in the greater arena of stakeholders in society. The primary factors that I told Oran is that (1) I lived with a father who knew something that would ultimately affect people's jobs, taxpayer's dollars, people's homes, and people's overall survival. He published articles in Science and various other respectable scientific journals. He knew this for FIFTEEN YEARS, and no one in society (journalists, policymakers) paid much heed to his work, for multiple reasons: (1) people were in denial of this knowledge (2) there was another ectoparasitic scientist who lived to counteract my dad's research and chronically hogged the journalists' and policymakers' time and energy (3) my father was very timid and isolated, he did not make much of an effort to voice out his concern (though he said the most important thing you need to do is WRITE not SQUACK) and (4) my dad was not affiliated with any credible journalists for quite a bit of time. There were multiple dimensions of communication gaps between science and society through the lens of my father and I saw him for fifteen years LIVE IN FRUSTRATION because no one was listening to him. It's a psychologically turmoiling thing, you know.

And then the October 2003 Fires hit. BAM. Then the October 2007 Fires hit. BAM BAM. People started to become desperate. A Shifting Baseline of Poor Smokey the Bear Management led to an EXTREME EVENT of too much fuel build up over the last hundred years burning off during extreme October Santa Ana Winds. When people are desperate and in a state of shock (loss of lives, loss of homes huge expenditures in taxpayer dollars), that is the only time they start to question their bad habits, existing traditions, and conventions that they once thought was the Truth: (1) Smokey the Bear fire suppression and Hollywood tanker shoes (2) listening to the other squacking ectoparasitic scientist camp who was promoting Smokey the Bear (hmmm, this scientist no longer seems to make sense anymore) (3) vicious cycles of repeat journalist reporting that had no sense of deeper time frames of environmental issues... etc etc etc.

Desperation and shock from the October 2003 Fires and October 2007 pulled the veil from the public's eyes. And so the desperate public and the desperate journalists found my father. Finally! And they hit him really hard. It is strange. From information deprivation to information overstimulation! My father was hammered by journalists so much that UC Riverside had to cut off his phone line and filter out calls so my dad wouldn't go nuts (talk about journalism being homogenized and spinning their wheels, every news source is in the race to get the scoop, and every news source is competing with the other news sources, so they have to quote other news sources and gather information from the same people just to keep up with the competition). My dad at that point needed an Agent, and UCR ended up playing the agent/manager role to filter out the insane bombardment of people who were trying to reach my father.

Then the second wave of problems come: from the media's disregard of my father's research to the media's DISTORTION of my father's research to whatever news sources multiple agendas. Hence the birth of INDUSTRIAL MEDIA ECOLOGY: tracking the formation of scientific stories (from the university knowledge factory) and how they are transmitted and distorted through society, the sources and sinks. How the knowledge is being used by various stakeholders.

It's almost as if the media comes in repeat waves an periods of deadened silence. One, day the media cares about my dad as if he were their dearest, intriguing next door neighbor and the next day they act like he doesn't even exist. He is a forgotten name in a lost pile of emails and phone calls. The Metabolism of Media is so ADHD / hyper / short term / instant gratification that it's almost like a dysfunctional hummingbird with a heart beat so fast that it's circulatory system was going to explode.

The media makes my dad as the center of the universe in the fall (severe fire season) and now ever since my father released his book on "California's Fading Wildflower Legacy" (an historical ecology book on shifts of the flora of California) the media will start to hit him hard in the spring, when all the residual spectacular wildflower blooms emerge in the deserts, hills, and around the coast. (I was in part sad when the Los Angeles Times started an Outdoors Section because all the barren places where my father and I and other scientists would enjoy in peace and solitude are now flocked with newspaper-educated cocoon tourists with needs of fleeting instant gratification--from snow bunnies to desert bunnies to beach bunnies--such that now our research sites have been an Environmental Disneyland. Such tragedy. Lack of education is bad. But too much education is bad too. Like I said, I like people. I hate humans.

I am wondering whether journalists operate on a Routine Cycle of Repeat Human Dramas, much like a news' stations' B roll. Like every single day of human existence has a REPEAT THEME, whetter it's hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally, annually, decadally. This recycling of human drama, tell me about it. So, technically, my father is attacked on a seasonal basis, in the fall and in the spring. Summer and winter season is when things are quiet--media wise--but there is always academic drama occurring on a daily basis. That sucks. Media and policy drama is just a few too many layers for a scientist to deal with.

So, that is why I promose my existence as an environmental media Ph.D. student, which I elaborated with Dr. Young. There are three missions of the university: (1) research, (2) teaching and (3) outreach. Most professors focus on research and teaching. Outreach carries out as far as being a judge for a local science fair. Uh, cool, but too local and small-scale. I propose that in order for the university to diminish its role as an Intellectual Disneyland Floating on the Ivory Towers, it needs to create roles of scientists involved in research and OUTREACH. I think it is very critical for a scientist to chronically pursue research projects, just to maintain intellectual sharpness and skepticism. Whereas journalists think they have credible information if they quoted a "credible, famous person." Journalists don't attempt to track down the source of the scientists' conclusions. They just assume the scientist is the "expert" and the scientist "knows what he is talking about."

Honestly, I don't need to collect data to show there are severe problems between communication and collaboration links in science and society. It's FLAMING OBVIOUS. Everyone can see this DISCREPANCY BETWEEN REALITY AND MEDIA REALITY, on a DAILY BASIS! There are problems at multiple scales (1) the assumptions of journalists and policymakers (2) how journalists and policymakers collect their data (3) the NUMBER of journalists and policy-makers, the number of MIDDLEMEN involved in tweaking and transmitting the information.

So? Voila. Here is cute little Victoria full of pure vision and purpose, determined to be that little cavegirl dancing around her troubled father to protect him and become all the things that her father desperately needs to become a functional scientist in the circus arena of public stakeholders of Planet Earth. So, over the years, besides acquiring the traditions and methods of scientists and knowledge that spans the environmental sciences (and hard sciences of human behavior), I have acquired multiple forms of storytelling skills, such that I can adopt any one story and any one message into 101 or a million-and-one different ways, such that it can be disseminated as truthfully and as optimally-emotionally-engagingly as possible such that it can be communicated and remembered by most audiences (which I have immersed and done research in) in a potentially most lasting impactive way. How should I call this? ADAPTIVE STORYTELLING? Adapting one story into a million possible INFORMATION PACKAGES such that it SUITS THE BASELINE OF KNOWLEDGE AND ATTENTION SPAN of multiple different audiences? Sweet! For example, 101 different representations of the rock crab, there is no right or wrong way to perceive a rock crab, correct?

If the university internalizes the Environmental Media role rather than relying on National Geographic and CNN to do the job, it minimizes several problems, mostly the distortion of scientific information from several sources of middlemen with various different (profiteering) agendas.

So, overall, I live in a situation of catch 22. The evolution of my thought processes and my role in the university has largely been derived from the relationship with my father, but at the same time, when I am in the university in pursuit of a Ph.D. I want--and NEED--my own Individual Intellectual Identity, which had been greatly honored in my experience at the College of Creative Studies, and has been honored thus far at Bren.

I remember having a conversation with Becca in concern of these issues (Becca is a very intelligent, creative graduate student working under Drs. Steve Gaines and Bob Warner). I try to keep this information about "my father is a professor" very low key. I only tell my close friends (or people who I attempt to become close friends with). I have seen other students "abuse" this knowledge to "inherit" their contacts in the university rather than "acquire" them. I know as a Professor's Daughter, born and raised, playing on the university campus in Riverside, California, I have a historical (heritage) advantage in concern of knowing the ins-and-outs and formalities (the OVERALL ABSURDITY OF BUREAUCRACY) of this academic niche space in society. A love-hate relationship, indeed!

But, with my conversation with Dr. Oran Young, it was inevitable for me to discuss my relationship with my father over the years, because it is truly the driving force that compells me to acquire the title of "environmental media Ph.D. student before the "true discipline" of environmental media actually comes to EXIST at UC Santa Barbara. There are only three environmental media Ph.D. students at Bren, and they are all under Oran (formally), though I have found out how other Ph.D. students have added a media component to their research.

So, as a scientist, now taking a step back from my years of scientific practice and am now accounting for the notion that "science is done by humans," (which has led to the revelation of the intersubjectivity--not objectivity of science, scientific practice is driven by value systems, a whole can of worms, etcetera). I am now essentially on the same page as my advisor, Dr. Young, who investigates the human dimensions of environmental change and the institutional dimensions (or is it "institutional framing") of scientific practice. I must now account for the quirks and perks of human behavior, the underlying PSYCHOLOGY and SOCIOLOGY of scientific practice and the decision-making of the diverse stakeholders of Planet Earth.

Thanks to Dr. Young and Dr. Melack, I can assume a role as "scientist in an artist's body," much like Dr. Milton Love (my most inspiring fisheries biologist with a tattoo of a wrangler and rock fish on his arm, VERY real marine biologist, I do say) exists as a "scientist in a humorist's body" without any shame. To live my dualist personality of being systematically creative, expressed in pieces of art and pieces of legitimate science.

All in the name of being my father's Right Hand. Err. Much needed Extra Left Hand. So we can exist ambisinistrously!

There are multiple dimensions of research that fill in the gaps between my knowledge as a scientist and Oran's research:

(1). Institution-Ecosystem Mismatching (pardon my untechnical language) Gaps and Overlaps of institutions (laws) and organizations in wildland fire management of southern and Baja California (spatial and temporal lag times in science-policy-media, gaps are institutions that need to be connected, and overlaps are institutions that overlap in law-policy, that are either conflicting and contradictory or synergizing (which is non-problematic). The goal is to match Institutions and Organizational Operations/Management with understanding Ecosystem Processes (Julie Ekstrom's research, gxd bless her soul, though I'm not religious!).

(2). The Psychology of Scientific Practice and Cognition of Stakeholders of a common resource/environment at small-and large-scale systems. What do people know and not know about a resource/system? How did they come to know and come to such conclusions? Why do people do what they do? What are their underlying motives and purposes? How do people collect data and information about their environment? Film can be a tool for mapping spatial cognition of a stakeholder's environment. This is the core essence of Ecopistemologizing and EvPsychinMyDailyLife. This is where I see the interesting flicks coming from. I have already established some interesting new techniques in interviewing people, which involves ART as a "cognitive mapping" tool. For example, I had each stakeholder to say words that related to the resource in 60 seconds. Another tool is to give the stakeholder an opportunity to DRAW the resource from MEMORY. Cognitive mapping-based spatial-artistic interviews of the resource. VISUALIZED INTERVIEWS.

(3). Industrial Ecology and Industrial Media Ecology. Tracking the sources and sinks of a resource in the human system (e.g. like I did with the rock crab). A little bit of old news here, I call it more so Ecological Structure and Process Knowledge. Industrial Media Ecology assumes the the University is a Megacorporate--Or MegaPublicaInstitutional Factory of Knowledge. First, you must assemble the protocol as how scientists generate knowledge (e.g. the "sacred" scientific method that no one seems to be able to pin point and track down the exact clarity of the method, or it's organic roots of the method, what is the underlying psychology of scientific practice, if you remove any form of institutionalization of scientific practice). Then you track how the science is being published and/or produced. And then you start to track the "mass-energy flows" of scientific information being disseminated into society... (the prism of Dr. Nancy Baron's slideshow): (1) policy-makers (2) non-profit groups (3) journalists (4) general public. The multiple sinks of scientific information, and then you start to analyze how this scientific information is being tweaked and distorted given the number of "middlemen" in the process, and then how the information is being used. And whether any changes of behavior occur, from the individual to mass-scale level and whether at the mass-scale level was it bottom-up or top-down change? I essentially have a project here with my father's research. I know the science, and now I have to systematically track the literature emerged from my father's research in the realm of business, government, and journalism.

I guess between me and my dad, we both think very similarly in terms of scale-based issues. We are both left-handed, go figure. He focuses on the plants and the physical parameters, and I have come to shift focus more so on the psychological parameters and human dimensions of environmental change. I have come to view humans as very peculiar and fascinating, multi-dimensional creatures, from a biologist’s (and evolutionary psychological) point of view. If you have those two factors covered—the natural sciences and a naturalist’s view of the social sciences, you've got a dynamic duo covering nearly all elements of the spectrum!

As you can tell, I love my dad. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be where I am today. I just think it's important that I have a healthy academic/bureaucratic distance from him such that I can establish my own credentials in my own terms. It will force me to create and earn my own academic family, in addition to inheriting his.

KEY WORDS: inherited versus acquired wealth, industrial media ecology, university factory of knowledge, academic family, scientific distortion, media metabolism, media reality, adaptive storytelling, adaptive management, individual intellectual identity, absurdity of bureaucracy, psychology and sociology of scientific practice (the social contruction of reality), intitutional-ecological mismatch, gaps and overlaps analysis, psychology of collecting, visualized-cognitive interviews, university factory of knowledge, INDUSTRIAL MEDIA ECOLOGY AT UCSB: DR. ROLAND GEYER AND POST DOC BRANDON I MET AT BREN SOCIAL.

1 comment:

Victoria "Stokastika" said...

In this essay, this was the "above" quote I was referring to: I don't want to inherit an academic family (through my father, a scientist). I want to acquire it. I want to earn trust and respect. I need to sweat intellectual blood, re-arranging neurons in my head just to EARN my academic family. And then it will all have meaning.