Monday, April 10, 2006

Style over Substance

I fell into the seductive, but obvious, trap of style over substance.
You see it all over. The New York Times is a classic example, what with its Jayson Blair scandal, and the college e-mail story. I am always shocked when I read an article about something I know and how they get it wrong. I am shocked because I am surprised they get it wrong. I should know better; they always get it wrong.
Television of course gets it wrong all the time. It's a fictional show; I get that, I do, but it still makes me angry that the producers of the Gilmore Girls have Gettysburg close enough to Philadelphia that a school from CT can make it part of their overnight stay in Philadelphia. The lighting on CSI drives me nuts. Everyone is backlit into a halo, but not one character has full light on their face. (They are not *all* standing in each other's shadows.)
Magazines. Discover magazine, which one would think would be interested in accurately representing scientific endeavors, had a story a couple/few issues ago about a mathematician who crochets hyperbolic spaces. The blurb on the front cover and the first paragraph kept calling it knitting, because the copy editors could make all these funny puns like "Knit Theory." Trouble is, the mathematician pointed out that her creations could not possibly be knit, and knitting is not crocheting.
And the internet. Well! the internet. I mean, we all know how accurate that is. (Although I have to say that bit in Grey's Anatomy where the kid thought he was doing something brilliant because he got it off the internet was pretty funny.) Okay, sarcasm doesn't really work here, but I'm running out of specific examples.
Of course, I don't need specific examples. Everyone has a story of how something was misrepresented because the misrepresentation sounded better than the truth.
And now you have me.
In my last entry, I tried to write something that sounded good. Something... literary. (Yes, I do know it wasn't. This is what I was trying to do, not what I succeeded at doing.) And in the process, I made some statements that led to misrepresentations. So I wanted to correct myself.
I have had a very good experience with advisors in graduate school. I don't know if this is unusual or not, but this is my experience. Most of the professors in my department are willing to help students do what they -- the students -- want to do. Most of the professors in my department -- and the few outside of it about whom I hear stories -- are genuinely enthusiastic about helping graduate students find their own paths to this idea of "research" that the professors love so much. Very few of the professors I know of IRL have their own agenda that they push on their students to the detriment of the students' interests or education.
However, there does seem to be a disconnect between grad-student-bloggers and professorial-bloggers within the discussion of grad-student/professor interactions. (My belief is that it mostly comes from the fact that -- much like stories of undergraduates (e.g. thosewho come begging for/expecting high grades) -- it's the frustrating stories people want to tell, need to tell, and it's the frustrating stories readers like to pass along; however, since I'm not the one starting any of the threads, I can't say that with any authority, just as opinion.) I was trying to use that disconnect to write something fancy.
Style over substance. It will trip you up, every time.


Blogger BrightStar said...

I hope my comment didn't stir up anything less than positive for you. I was just trying to participate in your blog!

10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Michelle said...

I know! I'm getting really into style, too. I'm kind of wondering why they have to be so mutually exclusive.

10:22 PM EDT  
Blogger ceresina said...

B* -- no, it didn't stir up anything negative, I just realized how I had fallen into this trap. I mean, I knew I was skirting it (to overextend the metaphor, and now I will stop using it). But: re-reading the entry after seeing your comment, said entry just went in a direction I hadn't wanted to go.
Michelle -- Hi! Thanks for stopping by! And I absolutely 100% believe that some people can manage style & substance, but I'm not one of them, not under the time pressure I put myself. Hopefully I'll figure out how to manage it when I factor in review time!

2:41 PM EDT  

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