On Going Public

This week I made a poster for the Linguistics Department’s Open House. It’s about my dissertation proposal… The newly revised one… The one I don’t have any feedback on… I’m a little very nervous.
I am definitely one for showing the messy work that happens behind the scenes, making the process public should anyone want to see. I think it’s humanizing and community building. It also helps alleviate my imposter syndrome – by honestly showing how messy the dissertation process is.
So I’m not so sure why it feels so jarring to be making a poster on an unfinished idea. I’ve been telling people about a completely off target idea for months. I do this all of the time – tell people about directions I never end up going in.
But this time it feels different – I’m hesitant and anxious about it. I think the difference might be paper. When something is digital, it can be edited, modified, altered, and adapted theoretically forever. The digital, while public, is not permanent. Ideas on digital platforms serve to make more ideas – no resources are used (except time). Creativity breeds creativity, all of which is ephemeral. If I tell you about my ideas, write a blog post about them, or even put together a manuscript, the record doesn’t exist in anything I can hold. Obviously sending a draft of anything is somewhat real, but documents can always be edited later.
Paper, on the other hand is not. Paper is real, it is an object in the world. Once printed, it cannot be altered. Once used it can never be used again. Something so permanent does not seem to be the platform for an unfinished idea – a work in progress. I still made the poster. I will still defend my idea and hope I sound like I know what I’m doing. Because, ultimately, I don’t – it’s all a work in progress, even if it’s on paper.

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