These days I'm trying to resist the possibility of becoming an academic celebrity. Not that there is any danger. While relatively popular with the students - my philosophy is that you can't please them all, and if I did, I should have cause to worry - there is little chance that my research should achieve the heights of enchantment. But I look around. It strikes me to see how many of my colleagues, suddenly, both in Denmark and abroad, give interviews in the popular media about their research. While what they say, more often than not, makes a lot of sense - which is, however, more often than not completely missed by the interviewing journalists - the insights often fall pray to the journalists' leading questions. These often are of this type: "can a person like me make use of the ideas produced by a person like you?" - in this relation the journalist often casts herself as 'the little ol' me', while the academic is seen as the grand ol' giant. Same old story. The answer is often a more polite than enthusiastic yes. The interviewer knows before hand that the interviewee knows that the interviewer knows that she will get an affirmative nod. It has become the norm to give people what they want to hear. Everybody knows. Then there is often an extrapolation from the individual experience - when little me is trying to learn something in 5 minutes - to the general public interest. Thus the next leading question is: "how can we all use your research?" That is the point when I stop listening. I start fantasizing about what I would say. First it would be this: "No, you probably can't use my ideas". Then it would be this:"yes, I only do it for fun", and third, it would be this: "if someone later will find ways to apply my ideas, yes, I would be honored, if I were still alive, and no, it wouldn't make any difference, if I were dead." And then, just to round it up, I would embellish with some examples, leave out the 'often' and simply say: "now listen, do you think that Einstein discovered all that he discovered on purpose? for the unambiguous benefit of mankind? for pragmatic reasons, so he wouldn't get fired if he didn't publish enough?" I would rather think that Einstein did all that he did because he simply could: intellectually his head helped him, and materially he didn't starve, so he could engage in other activities than hunting. And obviously, hierarchically, the authorities didn't bother him.

It occurs to me that at least in Denmark there is a tendency to uniformize people's ideas. Mind you, we all still fancy doing our thing, and getting on with our program, but we also have to get on with the party's program. I know all this, because I come from a society for which programs, especially the 5 year plans, are all about saying yes to everything. So, I'm waiting: any journalists out there in need of enlightenment? I can do it in 5 minutes and 3 seconds flat. You can then file my name under the dustbin. Future generations will find it and start cultivating the 'no'. I predict that they will have a lot more fun.


Bent said…
I know you think it's only mediocrity that stands between you and celebrity, but actually the two usually go hand in hand:


PIKANT: Aalborgensisk forsker roder i undertøjsskufferne - for videnskabens skyld

AALBORG: Interessen har været stor for AAU-lektoren Christian Jantzens pikante projekt. Også i rygepausen.

- Nåh... Der kommer undertøjsforskeren, griner en kollega i retning af ham.

Og han forstår det sådan set godt. Sammen med blandt andet en kollega fra Syddansk Universitet har han brugt to måneder på at undersøge, hvad de blonderede over- og underdele betyder for danske kvinder.

Misundelige kolleger

- Mænd går ufatteligt meget op i kvindernes undertøj, men de fleste er ikke ret gode til at købe det. Det ser man jo også efter jul, hvor konerne og kæresterne skal have det byttet til den rigtige størrelse og model, siger Christan Jantzen.

Undersøgelsen blev til et kapitel i bogen Forbrugssituationer - Perspektiver på Oplevelsesøkonomi. Som forsker i Oplevelsesøkonomi er hans interesse mere akademisk.

- For hvordan kan det være, at en forbrugsvare som det her kan give identitet og vække følelser som ekstase, fortvivlelse og ja, eksistentiel panik, spørger han.

Alligevel har det ikke skortet på jokes i forskermiljøet. Især hans kollega, Per Østergaard, fra Syddansk Universitet, har måttet høre meget.

- Jeg ved, at hans kolleger har grint af ham i årevis, siger Christian Jantzen med et glimt i øjet og tilføjer:

- Men de er nok bare misundelige over, at de selv har sådan nogle kedelige emner.

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