Bio-sketches are Vile (CVs and Résumés, too)

Bio-sketches distinctly upset me. “Write something about yourself” takes on a new and terrible dimension when wooing and explaining what you do and why people should listen. I have always hated the “first-day” exercises where the professor encourages students to “share something” about themselves. I think that I eventually developed a “name-rank-serial number” approach to this. Interested parties can visit with me socially, as I would with them, after the class session.

I so upset by bio-sketches primarily because I strive to shed philosophical notions of ego. In this vein, “I” dislike seeing “I” so much, but there is little that may be done for it–other than writing flabby passive-voice sentences like this. I can help others, then temporarily embracing ego and identity as necessary artifacts and side-effects of language is the price I must pay. I hate the chest-thumping that sometimes seems mandatory in academia. I dislike the binding of self–and the defining of self–that seems requisite.

In the past, I tried to write a bio-sketch. However, I have never written one to satisfaction. I am not the smartest person I know, but this is by design–after all, who wants dopey friends? So I must write something that is the academic equivalent of, “I’m a genius,” and I just cannot bring myself to do it, or to write anything that doesn’t sound either forced or rehearsed. At this point, I’d settle for, “I’m reasonable” or “I’m approachable” or even “I’m thoroughly pissed at some people now and I’m going to remedy this,” though this last one probably isn’t recommended for press. I’d settle for these things because it would mean that I had moved beyond, “I’m burned out,” “I’m exhausted,” “I’m out of hope.”

This inability to write a good–or passable–bio-sketch, I think, comes down to Integrity. I am not comfortable outlining what I “do,” as I “do” quite a few things, none of which are terribly interesting to academic journal readers. And when I start to think about what it is that I have done academically, the obvious accomplishment is being four years ahead of other publication with respect to an idea I developed and implemented in my MS thesis. But that sounds too self-congratulatory and smug to me (even here, even now, I feel the need to point out that I’m stating fact. I learned things, wrote some software, taught something interesting at my defense; good times.), so I don’t write about that.

I have to wonder: do people really believe the things they write about themselves, especially when the copy is studded with self-congratulatory and -aggrandizing text? Is it indeed the case that who we are is what we tell others about ourselves? I think not, favoring a shared-dialogue view, but the only logical explanation that appears to me is that people who write self-congratulatory prose about themselves must believe that who they are is who they describe.

A quick word…

“What do you do?”

This question strikes terror into me. What do I do indeed. I “do” IT, I “do” compassion, I “do” learning and teaching, but what do you do is slang. It means, “how do you make a living?” or “what do you do in school?” or “why can’t you buy a cup of coffee?”

I have been in graduate school since 2003. I earned my MS in 2005 and have been working toward a PhD. I have been done with coursework since 2006. I am still working toward the completion of my degree. Indeed, it appears that PhD is short for Pretty Huge Debt rather than a doctorate in philosophy.

If any academics read this, I “do” work at the intersection of cognitive psychology and information theory. It is “cross-cutting” and “multi-disciplinary,” which NSF loves to request and universities are loathe to support (at least, at the graduate-student level). Its future implications are interesting, but the immediate task, the groundwork of future research, impossibly dull. For non-academics reading this: I “do” academic work that I find impossibly uninspiring, with no direction and zero input.

I am writing this in lieu of sleeping, and with the sad realization that this sounds eerily like a page out of a blood-soaked diary. For academics and non-academics alike, hopefully the following posts will shed some light into what higher education in America is like.