From the Kommisar's Desk...

By Tom Dobrowolsky, MLIS Day


On the importance of Colloquation: written to all of the People but especially being a missive to New Students of the Information School.




Welcome to All! Welcome to an exciting and challenging year during which you will prosper intellectually, professionally, and socially!


Your head is swimming with exciting ideas about... information, of all things. Mention of that word excites you, though your Gentile friends don't understand the tingly feeling it gives you in places you didn't know you had. You are in the right place, my slippery friends. You have a pile of articles which you will fall terribly behind in reading by tomorrow. You are wishing that somebody could just read them to you.


Save those references, though; you'll be surprised when they will come in handy in your future studies or research. In fact, save all of the bibliographies that you ever receive while in the School. By the time you graduate, you might just win the Largest Annotated Bibliography Award and reap the voluminous rewards it offers. Regardless, rest assured that you will not only learn many things, but you yourself will become a fearsome and menacing instrument of bibliographic control and dispenser of obscure arcana.


Of course, this personal transformation will involve busy periods of profusely sweaty study during which you might forget about the existence of an outside world and the people who populate it. (Please do not forget about your right to modern plumbing and its accompanying duty to bathe, however; Information is some gritty, slippery, and greasy stuff.) It may thus be hard to recognize that people around here are participating in and conducting obscenely interesting work and research. For example, you yourself may be busy sitting in a smoky pub researching whether or not these places really are, as alleged, wellsprings of great ideas.


That is where my parable begins.


Earlier this year, some colleagues were decompressing at a local religious (“libation-oriented”) establishment. After some amount of Peer-Based Reflection, the subject of presentations, interesting independent studies, and connecting to one's fellow students came to the fore. They realized that they had a tendency to get caught up in their own work and, thus, were not aware of the interesting things their colleagues were doing – people in their own department. Thoughts circulated around the communal table and the idea of sharing and presenting their work in an informal manner was born. Collocutrix General Chelle Batchelor stepped forward and spear-headed the effort to make a Student Colloquium reality.


But is this merely a rash and hasty reaction fueled by too much "spirit" and the stress of winter quarter? History provides us the answer: such Colloquium is not without precedent.


Several months ago, a student was digging in a neglected corner of one of the School's immense vaults of perishable and dry goods when she uncovered a most fortuitous find. The unearthed arcana turned out to be a collection of old issues of this very paper and this Ark was promptly turned over to the Benevolent Co-editor for further study. As the political officer aiding in ascertaining the propriety of such information for public consumption, I was there. I likewise drew on my spiritual authority and gave my blessing for some of the enjoyable fruits of these findings to be displayed in future issues of this publication.


Among other juicy bits of knowledge, the editors discovered that generations past had their own forms of colloquia. Some were completely informal – such that colloquium was included in quotes – while others sounded more official. As we are uniters and not dividers, our upcoming Student Colloquium aims to split the difference: people will present serious and hard-hitting academic work of their own, yet we will maintain a casual and informal tone.


But aside from honouring the history of the School's past students by reinstating similar institutions, how will you benefit from, for example, hearing me talk about graffiti grammar and show pictures of faded, painted brick wall advertisements? Well, in addition to presenting interesting topics, the Colloquium will ask presenters to speak a little on how they got to their topic. Thus, to return to my example, I will speak about setting up the independent study that forced me into the arduous tasks of walking Seattle's streets and talking pictures of graffiti and signage. Similarly, others will speak about their independent studies, their participation in faculty research projects, their directed fieldwork, and their volunteer opportunities. This should help get you thinking about the ways that you can pursue your own interests and help you to get involved in the vibrant opportunities available to you. This is an attempt to spotlight the various ways that you can get involved at the School.


But the other equally important aspects of the Colloquium, which ought not be overlooked, are the hallowed academic traditions of shameless self-promotion and networking. You will notice how I effortlessly plugged my own Colloquium topic a paragraph ago; I will also talk about the connections that I made with people in the process and the outcomes to which they have led. This collegiate atmosphere into which you have plunged is rife with opportunities for future collaborations, for updating your personal Rolodex of experts in various topics, for becoming comfortable speaking in front of crowds, and for pursuing what I will call human citation chaining. My other boss at this paper, the Gritty and Hard-nosed Co-editor, wrote a fantastic piece last month on the value of connecting professionally and congenially with one's peers. The Colloquium is a fantastic way to get started. [G.&H.-N.Co-Ed. – Thanks Tom, I’ll get the first round next time we go out “networking.”]


Best of all, it is effortless: you just show up and people speak at you about something. It is sort of like an audiobook of a scholarly article... but more entertaining because it is live and because you can get to know the author afterwards.


Now if only all of our assigned readings could be converted to audiobook format...




The first meeting of the Student Colloquium will be Friday, 8 October 2004, in room 420 MGH at 3:30 PM. Please see the short announcement in this issue for further information. [Click here for a list of topics of future sessions.]


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