Dear potential readers of this blog,
it has been a long time (well, in fast-paced research and blog publishing terms at least) since I was actively working on my project. One of the last active posts here – funny enough – was a collection of some more theoretically inspired thoughts on procrastination and not-writing. After more then half a year later I here want to give just some insights on the practical side of my not-writing. So what happened meanwhile and why it isn’t going as smoothly as I would like it to be. To some extent this is also my own acknowledgement that the problem for me too is more serious than I realized before.
After my last conference summer/autumn my scientific work dropped rather soon for at least two reasons:
1.) I was not at all satisfied with my project and the circumstances which it was contextualized in. In some part this might have happened just because of my experiences at the different conferences. Especially the PDC 2012 gave me lot to (re)think about and questioned my own scientific positioning. Am I really an STS researcher, or is it actually the case that I am still a computer science person and could not decide to commit to that? Wouldn’t it be better to try to work within Participatory Design instead of always keeping some critical distance (although it also might just be out of uncertainty or insecurity) and ‘only’ doing meta-research? On the other side it is still important to me to introduce critical (queer-)feminist research practices in STS, and a part of that also might be to look into successful patterns of participatory research and make those attractive to STS researchers themselves. Well, yes, it’s fucking political! But what else did we expect – it’s science.
2.) The second reason was that we are not free to do as we like and that there isn’t money for nothing – at least for most of us, and so for me. Somehow my research project just seems to big to do it as a plain master thesis. On the other hand you rarely can make a payed job out of writing a master thesis. Well, at least I did not manage too. So I had to look for other incomes. And now I have too much other work going on. But even before I got my new jobs I could not really focus on working on my scientific project, because I somehow always had to worry about where to get money from. Also nothing new: precariousness seems not to be a good basis for doing critical research. But this is easy to recognize theoretically. It is still another thing to be in just this dilemma: either living on the edges always worrying what the next day will bring along in order to have ‘time’ for doing research; or doing some day job in order to have at least outside this job a free mind to do research. I tried the first approach for some time, it did not work out very well. Now I am trying the latter approach. Since beginning of this year I am working for 20 hours a week as a network and systems administrator at the Institute for Theoretical Chemistry at University of Vienna. Besides I have some web programming project going on. Additionally I am engaged in several activist projects: producing a brochure on antisexist practices and methods, organizing a kvir-feminist festival, establishing a sort of queerfeminist workspace at the Austrian-wide students union, and then some other minor things here and there. Ah, yeah, of course I still try to get some computer science students into critical engagement with their own discipline(s) through different events and activities at the computer science faculty here and in context of a local informatics grassroots group, the /bin – basisgruppe informatik. From November to February we also had some meetings of the Feminist And Queer Technoscience Studies group in Vienna – this was very interesting and motivating, but somehow this project has fallen a bit asleep. Oh, and I forgot that I am also participating in a year long programme to become a group trainer (group dynamics and process oriented group supervision/mediation/coaching and stuff). Ok wow, sometimes I just need to spell it out in order to see that it actually is too much.
But what to do with all of that? I could not let go of all political/activist projects, and I think this is not what queer-feminist research should be about: to have to abandon activist activities in order to be able to do research. Ok, the alternative would be to abandon the daily wage work activities, but well, then we’re back at approach #1, which seldom works out for long. Of course another option would be to get payed for doing actual research. This too seems a bit unrealistic granted the local circumstances and that it is ‘only’ a master thesis project. So my current strategy is to get rid of most projects until this summer (or more nicely put: to not start follow-up projects any more) in order to find more time for finishing my thesis. But in the end I still would like to combine all of that I am doing now. Because the day job as system administrator is actually fun and interesting too – and it somehow grounds me in ICT practices and research. It would be nice to combine that with STS research. Isn’t it all about interdisciplinarity these days?
Well, put a long story short: if everything works out at least approximately like I have planned it, you will be able to read more regularly from me again starting this late summer. And maybe I even find time in the next few days/weeks to put online a short report of this year’s IAS/STS Conference in Graz, where I co-chaired the “Queer perspectives on STS” panel with Birgit Hofstätter, who is part of the Queer STS Work Group in Graz. Also I realized that I still have not published my report from last year’s PDC, although it is already finished. Well, not very actual anymore, nevertheless perhaps to some interesting. So I’ll try to put that out too.