Community Means Crossing Boundaries

Cohorts, communities, peer groups. In thinking about Avi Santo's recent post, I find myself excited by the possibilities of what a community or cohort might now mean for me as a scholar. Pierre Levy highlighted the "collective intelligence" of these communities—their ability to leverage the diverse knowledge and skills of many different people in order to generate some kind of new understanding or experience. This has always struck me as an apt description of what can and should happen among scholars. I believe in the power of crossing borders and boundaries, especially intellectually. In such an environment, scholars can share information and knowledge with others in their fields more effectively and quickly. Just as important (perhaps more so), they can also share that information and knowledge with others well outside of their fields and disciplines. I am excited by the prospect of not just getting to know, say, a research team in astrophysics in the building across the campus. I want to know more about their work and how it might impact what I do in my own research, as well as ways my own research might positively affect their work.

But it goes further for me. I dislike intellectual boundaries—maybe "despise" is the better word. Like most scholars, I pursue my research because of a deep desire to constantly learn about something I find important. In my case, that is a rich interest in participatory cultures that use networked web applications to mediate their social and creative practices. One of the best ways I can continue that knowledge and learning is by crossing both disciplinary boundaries and workspace borders. I am a scholar, and I work as a User Experience Designer for a design and development company in Minneapolis. My scholarly community straddles industry and academia, and I relish opportunities to get my industry colleagues into a dialogue with my scholarly peers.


Refreshing thoughts - especially when you ackowledge the overlap between the academy and the workplace. One nagging constant throughout my education has been the dualism between my occupation and my studies. When a conenction between the two exists (and I'm able to see it), it invigorates my work and research. 

In the classroom, the promise of discovering new theory and vetting my own is what makes education so enriching. With the (misguided) debates regarding the relevance and viability of higher education, I'm constantly reminded of how the opportunity to revel in commonality and difference with my peers at the same time is far more valuable than a paycheck.

Reading this post and Kris's comment reminded me of the recent uproar about the Forbes article that listed university professor as the least stressful job of 2013. It was an example of one community (non-academics) misunderstanding what it means to be a member of another community (academics). I feel that the types of border crossing that Dave is discussing here can help inform many of those who look at an academic's schedule and just see a year peppered with various "breaks" become more knowledgable about what our profession entails beyond teaching in the classroom.

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