Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fasting and Feasting

In order to maximize productivity, and in the name of curbing some of my distractions (oh all right--my biggest distraction) , I am going to try an experiment next week. Starting this evening, I am going to seriously restrict my internet usage for one week. By restrict, I mean that I am not going to use it for anything except work (which would entail email and using the library for research). Even with my email, I am going to designate "email check" times--maybe three times a day near meal times. I am one of those people who keeps his email inbox totally free of unread items, which means that I am constantly checking it. It's pretty ridiculous, actually.

The biggest "sacrifice" will be leaving my Google Reader RSS feed aggregator alone for the whole week. I rarely surf the internet anymore, preferring to have my interests sucked nicely into a common place via rss feeds. But I have A LOT of subscriptions and get hundreds of updates every day. I probably spend at LEAST an hour throughout the day cruising through them. Next Saturday, when I break the fast, I'll post some stats on how many unread items I have. My guess? I think it will be well over 1000.

What am I going to do instead? Read. I have several books I need to read in addition to the articles assigned as part of my regular week's work. A friend of mine (in my cohort in the program) and I were talking about the difficulty of diving into scholarship in the field without much theoretical training to support the jump. We were both Lit majors and started the program without MAs, so swimming through professional scholarship can be a bit rough, especially when those scholars base their arguments or use as examples prominent, complicated critical theory. For example, in my current study of Visual Rhetoric, many of the articles that I am reading site semiotics, structuralism and post structuralism as important theoretical concepts for their analysis. But if I have never done much study of those theories (and considering that even the theory that I have done some study of is very abstract--as theory tends to be--and therefore difficult to completely grasp), it makes reading the article very difficult. I suppose this is the case for a lot of new graduate students, so rather than complain anymore, I am going to take on the problem on my own. In the future, I am going to have "theory Saturdays" where I spend at least an hour on the weekend away from the assigned texts of that week and focus on one or two of the theorists mentioned in the readings. Summer will also be a good time to get my theory on...feasting on knowledge.

But since it's crunch time, I just need to read as much as I can all the time, thus the timely fast. Fasting from food, as I know from past experience, always gives me a feeling of (hunger) cleansing clarity in my corporeal constitution, so I am hoping this will do the same for my mind, man. Groovy.


  1. We went on vacation for a week last summer, and while I checked my email sometimes while gone, I did not check the feeds. And I had 2400 updated items when I got back. Couldn't believe it, because that means I read 2400 updates in the course of a usual week. Yipes!

  2. Way to be man. It is liberating to let your feeds pass by for an amount of time. That is one of my favorite things about vacationing where there is not constant reliable internet.

  3. hey, i know i'm late to this, but wanted to mention that the critical theory seminar (offered most falls) is a great way to get caught up on some of the more esoteric stuff without having to try and figure out what's important on your own.

    And, even if you don't want to fit the class in, the evening lectures are usually open to the public, so you can attend and start absorbing stuff.

    a lot of the theory you're running into, while it's nice to eventually read some of the big-uns, you can probably wait for awhile, absorbing from its secondary use which thinkers you find most interesting and then focusing your attention on those.

    Aside from a small number of inescapable theory junkies who will make you feel like you're behind because you can't refer casually to Kant, Foucault, and Derrida in the same sentence, most people at this level won't really raise an eyebrow at you not having all the major figures down.

    besides, getting really caught up on this stuff is what a fields list is for.

    definitely don't beat yourself up for spending an hour or two a day on keeping in touch with the (internet) world.