I am currently studying for an MA in Art&Science at the University for Applied Arts in Vienna (die Angewandte). At the opening of the course we had to present something about our background. I prepared a recreation of a scientists desk to try and illustrate the mild chaos that can ensue from the multiplicity of tasks we need to do and keep track of. I accompanied it with the following text:
The practice of my science
The lowest of low-tech: digging holes in snow, weighing snow in a Ziploc with a hand held scale, pencil notes in a book. Aching muscles in a majestic setting, it takes exactly how long you expect it to, results proportional to physical effort and preparation.
High tech: electronics, precision sensors, laser scans, surrogate worlds coded into reality on supercomputers: It all takes much longer than expected.
In answering a question , another arrives, then …
Read (so many) journal articles | (Read books to understand the articles) | Learn how to code … then learn better | Write a proposal; rewrite it | Buy the gear; program, test, install it | Prepare a new course – its got to be innovative | Teaching/grading/coaching/mentoring | Analyze the data | Read more papers about statistics, get confused and frustrated | Write a paper, then another, another … more is the way we are judged | Respond to reviews, and review others | Accounting, meetings, reports, emails, journalists | Looming conference deadline | I should tell the public what I do …
Really? Should I?
It’s a messy storm of activity. Time to think deeply only snatched in between things. So much for the ivory tower. Is this what you imagined?
Actually, this was a refection on how I feel about being so rushed in science. If I look at my schedule as an Associate Professor, one full day/week is taken up with meetings, then 2-3 with teaching (including preparation time, and assessment time, and responding to students questions), so theres at best about 1.5 days/week for ‘all the rest’ of the rest of the activities. Its not much time in which to produce innovative science and outreach, when viewed that way. On the other hand academia is flexible and I think we need to use time blocking and heavy handed prioritising to boost the outputs of what we want to achieve. This start-of-MA exercise really helped crystallise in my mind what I love and struggle with about working in academia. An interesting beginning for sure, and a first example of how ‘artistic’ practice can help self-reflection, resetting proprieties and shine a different sort of light on issues.