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I Am an Academic's Computer
April 24, 2012 - 9:37pm

I hate it when she does that.

Why does she have to hit my keys so hard and so fast? It’s as if her brain is running to break the Olympic record in Academic Writing, or as if she would forget her next thought if she waited one more second to write the last one (to be honest from the way she looks so blankly at my screen from time to time, I sometimes think this is the case; she forgets what she’s going to write because obviously her brain is faster than her fingers).

I am an academic’s computer. My job is not easy. You may think that it is fun to accompany the intellectual journey of an academic. From one side, you are right. Although I don’t have direct access to her mind and cannot read minds, I am the closest thing there is to know how her brain works. But I swear that sometimes, I just wish I belonged to some kid who would endlessly use me for playing games. That would be boring, yes, but would be an easier life for a computer!

Normally, as a machine, I am supposed to work in an organized fashion.  Files, folders, categories, tabs, they are all invented to make life easier for my users. But nooooo, she is determined to confuse that system.  She’s interested in too many topics at the same time. She thinks it’s important, as she values interdisciplinary research. Then she creates files here and there, leaves them in unrelated folders, replicates them under different names such as “last version, final version, final-final version”. She uses the desktop as if it is some kind of a staging area where the files have to wait for a certain time until they can be properly (I wish) categorized under sections where they belong to.

Then, when she’s surfing on the internet,  how many tabs can one open on one browser at the same time on average? I am confident that there as well, she is after another Olympic record, this time in Academic Surfing.  Yet her surfing is not always academic; since she wants to keep up with the modern times, social media is also on oftentimes.  Her favourites is a long list. There one can see the variety of things she is interested in which she never has the time for, as she spends most of her time with me!

She often eats and drinks as she works. She’s generally good at keeping the drinks away from me. So far I have not had a flood over my keyboard, but I cannot say the same thing for food crumbs. Although she tries to keep me clean, I could occasionally use a more aggressive cleaning procedure on my keyboard , something like the back scrub you would get if you ever went to a Turkish bath!

Emailing is another issue. She keeps two email accounts: one personal and one professional,  trying to separate these two spheres of her life. But from the amount of emails she forwards from one address to the other, one can see that she’s not very successful at that. The amount of emails she receives from her contacts, groups, listservs, etc. is enormous.  She hardly reads them but she doesn’t delete them either, for who knows why!

As if the people at her university and in her own country are not enough, she’s so enthusiastic about making foreign contacts and being a part of transnational academic networks that her sleeping routine is oftentimes disrupted and along with hers, mine. As she waits online to chat or Skype with a colleague in Sweden, USA, Japan, Australia or Argentina, of course I am working overtime again. And don’t even get me started with all this traveling involved where I must accompany her to countries she goes to and conferences she attends!

The worst is, as she is no businesswoman, nor does she have a rich husband, she cannot always afford to update her technologies. Once you become her computer, you have to stay with her at least for the next 4-5 years. You cannot retire as easily as other computers, your memory becomes insufficient for the new generation programs, your hard-drive is always full, she can only support you with external hard-drives where she copies many documents and then spends hours figuring out which one was the latest.

Actually, she is not all bad. At least she likes technology in general and computers in particular and values the work the we do.  But if I wanted more information about her, I would also consult her cell phone and see what it has to say!

Istanbul, Turkey

Itir is a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.


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