Tuesday, November 14, 2017

An itinerant scholar in the Age of the Internet

As you probably noticed... 

... I've been traveling a bit--hence the slightly erratic SRS posts over the past month. This will probably continue for a bit more time as I keep moving around the planet.  

Taveuni, Fiji

Both the springtime and the end of the year tend to be a busy time for me.  In the last 3 months of 2017, I will have visited Taveuni, Fiji; San Diego, CA; Washington DC; Pensacola, FL; Chapel Hill, NC; Knoxville, TN; College Park, MD; Cairns, QLD; Brisbane, QLD; Poughkeepsie, NY; and New York City, NY.

Pensacola, FL

This is what comes from being an itinerant scholar.  Even now, in the Age of the Internet and high bandwidth connections with live streaming 360-degree video, there's still an ineluctable value in actually being present.  

Why is that?  Couldn't I just phone (or video) it in?  

Knoxville, TN
As my friends Judy and Gary Olson wrote in 2000 paper, Distance Matters.  One of the more surprising findings from their studies is that people behave differently when they THINK you're far away.  It's a kind of unconscious bias: if I believe you're far away, then I tend to trust what you say less.  This is makes no rational sense, but it's been studied many times.  

What's more, when I visit you in your workplace (or university), we have the chance to have lots of informal, high-touch (notice I didn't say "high-bandwidth") interactions.  I've been in a lot of high quality videoconferences, but the quality of physical presence (with all of the nuances that seem to get lost over video) is powerful.  

UCSD, La Jolla, CA
What's more, when I visit you, we can have informal side discussions that are incredibly valuable.  When you're on a video call, the conversation is framed within the time of discussion--everything before and after (which turns out to be incredibly valuable) doesn't happen.  

Even though physically traveling to another venue is kind of a hassle--it's almost always worth it.  (Especially when that venue includes scuba diving, which doesn't work well over video...)  

Besides, when I travel, I pick up all kinds of ideas for SRS Challenges.  You'll be seeing a few during the next year!  

Me playing chess with statue. Georgetown, DC.
I think I'm winning.
In other news, I'm also trying to finish up my book.  I'm realizing just how much time writing a book takes.  Even if you've got over one thousand blog posts to draw from, editing some of them into a reasonable book takes a huge amount of sitting-and-typing.  

Thanks for hanging in there with me as I travel hither and yon.   It'll all be worth it! 

Still searching!  

Reference:  Olson, Gary M., and Judith S. Olson. "Distance matters." Human-computer interaction 15.2 (2000): 139-178.


  1. The statue is Jan Karski, Polish WW2 hero and Georgetown professor: http://www.thehoya.com/statue-honors-jan-karski/.

  2. He's one amazing man. Born Jan Kozielewski, beginning in 1942, Karski reported to the Polish, British and U.S. governments on the situation in Poland, especially on the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Holocaust of Polish Jews. This same statue appears in front of the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York City.

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  4. I like a lot Dr. Russell playing chess photo. And about scuba diving, this video is awesome 360: Nadando entre tiburones martillo en las Bahamas. Swimming with Sharks in 360

    About time, now I guess will be worst since Holiday Season is about to start. With Thanksgiving added to everyday activities. In any case, each time you post, I (we, I am sure) learn and have the best time so whenever you can, will be perfect.

  5. are you familiar with this?
    near the 'plex
    thought this was an interesting twist - still winning?
    Jan Kozielewski… Go
    Georgetown U

  6. Dan when are you going to be in NYC? If you are speaking Anne and I would love to try to attend.