One Right Answer(s)

It was a frustrating, fizzling end to the quarter (in the not-with-a-bang-but-with-a-whimper sense of things ending.) There were four hours of presentations in the histcon seminar, which was a bit much. I sent an unmodified draft of my term paper in as my final, and enacted my usual end-of-term ritual: I created a new directory for the term on my laptop and put everything in there, moving it out of my active "school" directory. It wasn't as cathartic as it has been at the end of past terms.

Various things have been going on at work. I realized yesterday that I'm cut off from doing about 50% of the potential support stuff I could be doing because I'm not set up on a Mac. I'm going to see if they have an old beater G4 lying around somewhere that I can use to help my Hawaiin-shirt-clad officemate in his tasks. So far I've basically been building PCs and dismantling different PCs. Also, I have been forcibly reminded that much (most?) of IT is just brute physical labor. RAID arrays are heavy. So are CRT monitors from 1998. Good thing I'm 230 pounds of pure muscle.

One thing I've also been reminded of is the scientific worldview. Computer techs frequently have backgrounds in sciences besides C.S. Two of out of the three guys I work with have physics degrees, and I remember at my first long-term software job everyone had B.S.'s in math. They're thus kind of predisposed to expect a given question to have one right and many wrong answers, which is a funny thing to run into coming from a humanities background in which there are many kinda-right and many mostly-wrong answers to everything ("of course, fascism was a disaster, but one can still appreciate the power of the critique of liberal democracy it shared with various Marxist movements of the time, especially following the apparent political and moral bankruptcy of liberal democracy in World War I.")

In my experience, this leads computer techs to argue trenchantly and (usually) inflexibly in support of what are really just their opinions. The thing is, they're really good at it. Most of the techs I've worked with are excellent writers and interlocuters - they think logically and argue forcefully in defense of their positions. They're also much less willing to back down or seek a conciliatory position in a debate than most humanities types are. I think what it boils down to is that they're trained to not second-guess themselves nearly as much as we are; we're supposed to interoggate our own opinions and our own positionality in our writing, while they're trained to find solutions and fix things.

A good point the Sith Lord made during the world history seminar last term was that there's something to be said for the highly-charged, argumentative atmosphere in humanities seminars that exists in a lot of universities in Europe, because it forces you to interrogate your positions for the sake of defending them, not just conditioning them. I don't like arguing, but it's starting to occur to me that people are going to come after my writing, eventually, and that I should probably start thinking through how to defend my positions (better) as a result.


another kind of nerd said...

Yes, my friend, IT is an interesting world. I don't think I've ever mentioned this, but I'm an unofficial member of the IT world as I'm the ONLY person in my department where I am... I'm surrounded by IT people. I see bigger things you could be doing beside hauling hardware to and fro. Taking over the world would be a good example. I'm just sayin'... somethin' to think about.

kungfuramone said...

Oh, dude. Things are so going to change when I take over. Shows I like: back on the air. People I loathe: out of office. Wars: over. Free wine for my homies: there will be it, lots.