Public Intellectuals

Mark Greif’s “What’s Wrong with Public Intellectuals?” gets at the issues that are also keeping the supposedly quite new area of “public musicology” about forty to eighty years behind the times: http://chronicle.com/article/Whats-Wrong-With-Public/189921/

Excerpt:

“A large pool of disgruntled free-thinking people who are not actually starving, gathered in many local physical centers, whose vocation leads them to amass an enormous quantity of knowledge and skill in disputation, and who possess 24-hour access to research libraries, might be the most publicly argumentative the world has known.”

My Comment:

That might actually work if the 83% of PhDs who never land permanent, full-time academic positions actually had 24-hour access to research libraries. I certainly have no such access myself, and neither does most of that “large pool.” Also, my attempt at a collaborative website for public music history & culture, OurMus.Net, did not succeed for reasons similar to the difficulty Greif and his colleagues at n+1 had in soliciting useful public writing from early-career academics. Most such people simply don’t know how to write for anyone other than themselves. That has got to change.

Career Archetype Test

On the Career Archetype Test, my top categories were Sage (81%) and Revolutionary (75%).

Apparently,

The Sage never stops learning and has a desire to understand everything.  This understanding doesn’t necessarily mean a desire to act on that truth, which can sometimes keep the Sage a dispassionate observer in his or her own life.  If Sage is dominant, you will feel most comfortable in a learning culture where people are valued as much for their knowledge and expertise as for the amount of work they generate.  Strengths: Discovering the deeper truths in situations means that the Sage is less likely to get caught up in an emotional reaction to short term problems.  You may have a capacity for critical analysis and tend to be a good strategic thinker.  Traps to avoid: The Sage can study issues forever and never act.  There is also a danger of getting caught up in a particular way of studying an issue, shutting out new or revolutionary ways of doing things. (from Sage)

By comparison, and in contradistinction to the end of the previous section,

Revolutionaries are unconventional risk takers with a tendency to do things differently just to be different.  Revolutionaries are rarely content with the status quo and will create new ways of doing things, even when the old ways are working just fine.  If you have a strong presence of the Revolutionary archetype you will feel comfortable in a work environment that encourages innovation and gives people the freedom to be themselves.  Strengths: Revolutionaries are innovators.  The innovation applies not just to products and process, but also culture and thought.  If you are a Revolutionary you are comfortable taking risks and usually don’t care what other people think about you.  Traps to avoid: The Revolutionary needs to avoid change for change’s sake.  Anarchy and chaos can overtake the reasonable order and discipline it takes to get everyday tasks accomplished. (from Revolutionary)

Those sound about right, but the only job types both in Sage and Revolutionary are Education and Science and Research, with IT-type things (computer software, hardware, and executive/consulting) also under the former category and Arts and Entertainment also under the latter.  My next three categories were Explorer (68%), Creator (68%), and Magician (62%), which certainly also explain my: (1) adventurous, but chaotic and unfocused, self-reliance, (2) inspiration, vision, and single-mindedness, and (3) over-complicating desire to redefine the issues in order to meet a new situation.

None of that is much help in my job search, though, I have to say!  Indeed, the fact that my highest “grades” on these scales are not actually very high underscores the issue that my diverse background (Ph.D. in musicology, academic research, university course instruction, professional choral singing, arts admin, IT studies and work, website and web content development, small business programs, etc.) has not actually coalesced into an employee profile that makes much sense in the “real world.”  I guess the results do motivate me, however, to think more about the idea of writing digital-only e-books on music-related subjects (for students and lifelong learners) and maintaining a related purchase, media-clip, and discussion-hub website.

Music and Labour – conference

Friday May 24th’s “Working Situations II” is going to be a weird session, with a pair of papers about improvisational live electronic music and remix aspects of electronic dance music and my completely unrelated and semi-autobiographical one about the academic, alternative-academic, and non-academic labour situations for Ph.D.s who specialize in popular music.

I find it interesting that the conference is, on balance, largely about economic uncertainty impacting the music industry.  So, I guess my paper on economic uncertainty also impacting music academia is at least semi-related to that.

Employment Counselling and Jobs vs. Career

My self-employment business advisor is still optimistic that http://ourmus.net (a collaborative community for music history & culture) can move forward and be successful in making me some income.  However, music scholars probably think that the way they do things (peer review, committees, etc.) actually works properly and that something also directed towards the public would not be sufficiently academic.  Meanwhile, the music-interested public would probably find the site too academic.  A “happy medium” may not be possible.  My self-employment coordinator (different from my advisor) got me an unrelated appointment with an Employment Ontario job developer.  However, that person has not really been of any use to me, probably because my background (in academia, music, and IT) doesn’t fit the types of jobs and employers she encounters.

I’m also now enrolled in an individualized job-search program.  The employment counsellor for that (actually a friend from my past!) and I concluded that I should do my academic work, music-making, and IT/website activities on the side (“evenings and weekends”).  For employment, I should use my local network outside of those areas to find some other type of work.  The areas of work I have in mind could be in administrative assistance (at a business, social service agency, church, or school), arts admin (at a museum, library, or performance organization), retail (such as technology, musical instrument, and/or other music-related sales), or publishing (editing, web content, etc.).  I have some people advising me in those employment directions, as well.

Meanwhile, I’m now lined up to do a book proposal for a “listener guide” about Rush’s music.  So, hopefully that project will move ahead.  The editors involved are both fans of Rush’s music, so that helps!  In addition, four out of six of my conference paper proposals have been accepted this spring, although I’ve had to bail from two of the four for lack of money.  The two I’m doing are about songs and mini-musicals in The Simpsons (in less than two weeks) and on the employment situation for popular music university courses (six weeks later).  I also still have possible conference papers coming up in July and October.

Khan Academy vs. OurMus.Net growth timelines

For Salman Khan (of Khan Academy) to expand his project from his cousin Nadia (2004) to:

  1. dozens of users (2005)
  2. hundreds of users (2006)
  3. thousands of users (2007)
  4. tens of thousands of users (2008)
  5. hundreds of thousands of users, quitting his job as a hedge-fund manager, getting $110,000 (from the interested spouse of a venture capitalist), an actual office, and a handful of employees (i.e., other than himself) (2009)
  6. millions of users and getting multiple millions of dollars (from the Gates Foundation, Google, etc.) (2010)

took:  1. one, 2. two, 3. three, 4. four, 5. five, 6. six years.

By comparison, from my initial handful of business training sessions in September 2012 to the point of making my vaguely similar OurMus.Net a reasonable success (i.e., also on my own), I have:  six MONTHS!

Nerd-Sourcing

I’m going to consolidate some of the open-source materials on http://www.openculture.com/category/music into my own site at http://OurMus.Net.  The range of music at Open Culture is narrow (a lot of punk and blues, for example), but at least this way I can “nerd-source” some of the things that are already out there on YouTube and elsewhere.  I’m going to do the same thing with music-related blogs.

This kind of collaborative and open-source work is at the heart of Web 2.0, as explained by Tapscott and Williams in their 2006 book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. They point out that: “If a small, underperforming company in one of the world’s oldest industries [mining] can achieve greatness by opening its doors to external input and innovation, what would happen if more organizations followed the same strategy?  Couldn’t just about any social or economic challenge be solved with a critical mass of self-organized contributors seeking an answer to the problem?” (2008 edition, pp. 268-69).  They could easily be talking about the pseudo-scientific peer reviews, closed loops, sub-disciplinary silos, and hidden-away trailer groves of academia, and music academia is easily one of its worst culprits.

As the authors of Wikinomics also suggest, new, upstart, start-up, “non-legacy” organizations “can experiment for very little cost and at very little risk on the Web, and in ways that incumbents can’t.” (p. 301).  However, they are point out that: “Self-organized projects … marshal the efforts of thousands of dispersed individuals, sometimes in miraculous ways.  Loose, voluntary communities of producers can self-organize to do just about anything: design goods or services, create knowledge, assemble physical things, or simply produce dynamic, shared experiences.  But don’t overlook the fact that these communities operate according to well-defined norms and have internal structures and processes to guide the group’s activities” (pp. 295-96). 

In their followup book, Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World (2010), Tapscott and Williams indicate that: “Collaborative communities not only transcend the boundaries of time and space, they can reach across the usual disciplinary and organizational silos that inhibit cooperation, learning, and progress” (p. 19). Also, in their chapter on “Rethinking the University,” they paraphrase Brown and Adler’s 2008 EDUCAUSE Review article by saying that: “[O]ur understanding of content is socially constructed through conversations about that content and through grounded interactions, especially with others, around problems or actions” (p. 142).

In Music History & Culture, it’s time to move on to something that should actually prove to be of great benefit to millions of people:  a free, online, open, shared, and collaborative community that generates “public musicology” simply by being all of those things.

MuSNet, mark II

If the profession in which you spent the past dozen years or so never resulted in you getting a continuing full-time job (or any job at present), would you try to develop something that would almost certainly end up useful to only a few hundred others in that field? Of course, you wouldn’t! So, I’m going to stop trying to do that right now, in favour of developing a music history & culture educational website that will potentially become part of an existing, large-scale, foundation-supported initiative and thus matter to a vastly larger number (millions) of people. My small business advisor and self employment coordinator are probably not going to like my change in focus, but this renewed approach is seriously the only way I will be able to move forward.