Lago notes that academia is ruining the Internet for him: upon reading an interesting blog entry, his reflex is to respond with a bibliography of all the relevant readings that should have been done before the entry was posted. I’ve noted a similar character in my present academic training, and it grates upon me. One of my most frequent complaints takes the form of asking, “where’s the white-board?” In most of my previous experiences a knowledge of the literature was very useful. However, at some point we would gather around a white board, define our terms, sketch a model, and thrash out a design or understanding that we were happy with. In the social sciences, it seems, one cannot even think without first burying one’s self under a century of literature.
A problem characteristic of the engineering field is the “not invented here” syndrome: engineers are likely to resort to their own designs without first consulting the field. Yet, I find myself wishing I had that sort of problem again as I feel myself growing trapped in a morass of unimaginative citation.