Grip of the Committee

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They did give me exactly what I needed during my prospectus defense, even though a hazing frenzy seemed to build as we spoke. Perhaps I still give off the vibe that being clubbed with a two-by-four is the only way to get my attention.

I had meant to mention my science fiction mind at the beginning of the presentation - not that they aren't already aware (!), but to highlight the challenge of fitting my perceptions into academic boxes. Science fiction was the first wholistic knowledge system that I encountered, followed by fantasy. The frame of a person being randomly at a juncture in time and space from which things unfold seems, as near as I can tell, to be the deepest level of neuronic organization in my brain: cognition overlays the rhizomic net.

They want me to fix the time/space of the study in accordance with pre-established knowledge. This is the tricky one. The other feedback about clarifying and expanding the details of methodology is useful and productive: although I have confidence that I will successfully navigate whatever happens during the fieldwork process, anticipating the possibilities (a series of "if-then" imaginings) can only help. Most of this nitty-gritty I have intended to do in August anyway; now I just need to organize it sensibly for them as well.

The crux of the matter seems to be a concern that I won't deliver something that they expect, emphasis on lack of surprise. We are entering into a contract, and my conformity to the terms of the deal is demanded. The conservative bent of academia weighs heavily here, and the question of whose authority is in play is, in fact, the very point of the entire exercise. What else is voice if not the ability to put words into action? I clamber through my own extraordinarily limited exposure to this world, (this lifeworld?), taking in so much: not "feeling" as in mere emotion, but sensory perception. English lacks common vocabulary to distinguish among types of "feeling," hence I am often in trouble/at risk of conflation.

Not only that, I'm not so keen on reifying institutionalized authority of any kind. So, for instance, in this moment of spacetime, I do a Google search (gasp!) to see if there's anything out there right now that complements the notions I have in mind. Nice! So what that I can't translate the text of Blommaert's rejoinder; or that the "lifeworld" reference I found has to do with computer science - these two references say what I intend:

"The concept of a lifeworld will not appear as a specific mathematical entity in our formalism. The intuition, however, is this: while there is an objective material environment, the agent does not directly deal with all of this environment's complexity. Instead it deals with a functional environment that is projected from the material environment. That projection is possible because of various conventions and invariants that are stably present in the environment or actively maintained by the agent."

Such an eclectic, synergistic mode of knowledge construction is anathema to the stable march of paradigmatic knowledge sanctioned by universities. How, why can I trust the authority of these authors? What if they "got it wrong" and I, foolish and naive that I am, perpetuate the error?

Now we're into morality.

Granted, I have not always understood the nuances or sophistication of certain ideas at particular times. So what? I have understood others. Yes, I am not always as clear as seems desirable - not only to others, to me, too - and (!) clarity is also an interactive accomplishment. The challenges presented by my committee carve edges into the frame of what this study will actually become.

What environment is being actively maintained by discourses about simultaneous interpreting in the European Parliament? What stable conventions and invariants are currently present? Which functional environments are being projected? My role in the projections of Members of Parliament and EP Interpreters matters just as much as their role in mine: this is what makes the proposed research action and process-based. Nonetheless, all that swirl does have a center: a contractually fixed point-of-reference in the practice of simultaneous interpretation.

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