Before digging into my experience at the celebration of research, I want to distribute credit where credit is due. Personal relations aside, I was quite impressed with Carl-Philips research, as it both incorporated all aspects of science, technology, and society, but additionally tackled an increasingly relevant topic. His material fits together spectacularly well, and his supporting research form a solid vehicle for his argument. As I told him after presenting our posters in-class, it’s rather unbelievable how well his whole corpus points towards the same conclusion. It’s uncanny and indicative of a thoroughly fleshed out topic. Well done!
Ronny, too, landed out of left field with her artistic interpretation of the creation myths. He work was highly detailed, well thought out, and hung well together. She additionally wrote a number of excerpts surrounding the myths and her interpretation of them. If the STS department awarded inter-disciplinary awards, this project would have my vote. I must confess, I first was skeptical of her research proposal, as I felt it strayed too far from the academic heart of this course. I have been proven wrong.
Now for the part of this post where I talk about myself…
In anticipation of our final research papers, we were giving the opportunity to workshop our topics with the class. Rather… I would describe this workshop process as ‘gentle’ peer review, as I would argue that is was far too late to change my research entirely.
Or so I thought until Professor Rizzo , in roughly three sentences, altered the trajectory and conclusion of my entire argument. Originally, I drew my conclusions surrounding the perennial aspirations of transgression as depicted through fictional literature across many eras. I cited works spanning Hercules to Zorro, but Rizzo pointed out one tragic flaw: the absolute nature of religious transgression as compared to the seemingly flexible nature of social transgression. See, Zorro transgressed against government and law in order to cultivate tales of the modern vigilante. Macbeth, Fauste, etc. transgressed against God, which, at the time, was beyond heresy and bordered on lunacy. Of course, looking back at religion after quite a few lectures on Darwin, I can see how modern academia has steered away from the creation myths. To individuals pre-evoluntionism, religion was the law — the unquestionable state of the world. To question the law is to question a social construction, but to question god was to question one’s very existence. Rizzo pointed this out, gave me some suggested reading, and disappeared among the poster boards.
This, I feel, is the value of the event. This is why peer review is so important in academia. Without Rizzo, I would have gone ahead and submitted a flawed argument. Or, more importantly, without Rizzo I would not have learned from this oversight. Peer review is not there to workshop your paper in search of a better grade. Its sole purpose is to expose you to new perspectives and areas of academia previously unknown to you. It’s as much of a learning experience as it is a ‘code review’. And for that, I am grateful.