Posted on | January 4, 2013 | 1 Comment
Just before Christmas I went public with the news that I’ve been hired as a Researcher in Residence at the new Intel Centre for Social Computing based at UC Irvine. This is the last of a series of centres Intel is funding across the US and internationally. It’s a massive investment.
This latest centre is particularly significant for the humanities and social sciences. The research themes set an agenda that will be transformative for what we understand internet studies, the socio-digital, and human-computer interaction to mean.
Obviously this is about as good as it gets for me. I couldn’t have dreamed up an opportunity this exciting. Until very recently I have put off talking about it because I didn’t want to jinx anything while my visa petition was being considered. Also because the timing has been extremely awkward while I have been on sabbatical from Sydney.
Officially I am leaving Sydney this month after four years on faculty, which followed my previous four year stint as a PhD student. The postdocs at UQ in between were the most fortunate years I could have had immediately after my degree: the ARC fellowship I had from 2007-9, coupled with the Research Excellence award I received from UQ, were major injections of support that helped me travel, experiment with new research methodologies, write books, and develop international links.
Sydney has offered brilliant conditions in support of this work too – in a department with some of the sharpest minds around. But there is no question that without the investment others were prepared to make in me early I wouldn’t have had a chance at a tenured job at a sandstone campus. Since then I am grateful for all of the time I’ve had to teach, meet students, learn from colleagues, and enjoy a new part of Sydney in postcodes 2010-11.
I don’t have much of an eloquent position on industry/academic alignment. Others have more considered feelings about the state of higher education and research, and it’s always hard to compare the Australian context with the US. My interest now is knowing more about technology and its industrial setting in ways I could never imagine from Australia, and bringing others along for that ride.
On a personal level, I have wanted to try something different for a long time. I have been uncomfortable with the competitive and elitist dimensions that seem to come attached to working at a big university; upset and confused about the limited leadership guiding the profession; and unconvinced that academia is as great as some people within it say that it is. The past year has been particularly grim on this front locally, with some of my closest and most valued colleagues singled out for unconscionable managerial intervention.
But this move is also as simple as acknowledging that I have never left school. I feel more than ready to take a step towards that. It’s time for some new horizons, literally. And from February they will include watching the sun set from a different direction, somewhere off the coast in Long Beach.