We don’t know the people we cite

So, I had a cool drinks-at-Lisa’s-place get-together with Lisa and temporary Seattlelite Liz Lawley. They did most of the talking, mind you, which was fine by me because I soaked it all up like a sponge. I got at least three names to follow-up on and am amazed at how well connected some people are.

Towards the end, Liz got an email from Nick Yee who explained a little about the crazy shit going on in his life recently. Apparently, while finishing up his doctoral degree at Stanford, he went through some serious health issues. Yikes!

That got me to thinking… I just cited him in my general exams, and I’m amazed at how little I actually know about him and his life and the lives of all the other people I cited. Again, why does academic writing need to be so disconnected? Are ideas the only thing of value about our colleagues?

But the fact that Lisa and Liz then started reading Nick’s webpage and kept saying how great a person he is… Well… okay, ideas aren’t the only thing we value… but there’s this sort of hidden side to academics that is not apparent in our writings, and it seems to me that there’s this personal side to it that is extremely important that is not transparent at all… (thinking about Brandt‘s writing on sponsorship here… and what I wrote previously about how you have to go to conferences just for the social networking…)

I met Nick two years ago at DiGRA in Vancouver. A bunch of MMOG scholars had drinks at a bar. (I also met Lisa in person for the first time there and was introduced to Daniel Pargman and Jonas Heide Smith there… which just proves my point about conferences…) Nick IS a great guy. But again, I hardly know him, and, frankly, I hardly know any of my colleagues (or future colleagues if you consider me an apprentice-type) or the people I routinely cite in my writings.

Is that sad or what?  Is it a problem with me, the system, and/or my lack of money to go to conferences?

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2 thoughts on “We don’t know the people we cite

  1. In my dissertation I cite a lot of authors whom I don’t know and I am having a lot of trouble for doing just the contrary of what you mention — if I am writing something about which I know one of my friends has written about, I go ahead and I cite my friend because it is important being cited (and it’s hard when you are not a Ph.D. candidate). Well, I am having a lot of trouble because my supervisor is of the opinion that only when you don’t know the people you cite, academic integrity is preserved.

  2. Hi! Thanks for commenting. That’s very interesting! I actually think you *should* cite friends because supposedly you’ve had a chance to talk with your friends about common interests and research and you have a better sense of what they write about. The part of academia I like is sitting down and talking to people. I think it is unrealistic for your adviser to suggest you shouldn’t cite the very people you have conversations with. It also seems like it would be very difficult to not talk to and make friends with the people who you would likely cite, at least in education–I don’t know what discipline you’re in. I thought that academia was this whole political system with complex power dynamics and camps of thought. It seems stoic to take on the view of your adviser but also not really sustainable…

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