Reflections on my work and life experience.

The Unifying Principle - My Philosophy

As widely as my interests and experiences range, I have always sought a unifying principle to pull them together.  In each case, what fascinates me is the way many perspectives come together into a composite image of the whole, and the way that those perspectives lead us to connections from that single entity back into a greater pattern.

In art, we are taught that in a three-dimensional world, we must view an object from many angles to learn how to draw it.  You don't know the shape of a horse if you only view it from the front.  You move around it to learn its frame.  You view it under different lighting to learn its contours.  You let it move to learn its anatomy.  By studying it under all these conditions, your depth of knowledge grows and so does your skill.

In writing and literature, language forms a bridge between the isolated worlds of our own minds.  Words are symbols made of sound, which we collectively tag to objects in order to share a common reference.  Context is the subtle, shifting network that constructs our definition of a word.  It is the stumbling block to language, because no two people share the exact same context, and thus we don't share the exact same definitions of words.  Symbols (words), signified (objects), and context form a complex, constantly changing web of communication over which our ideas and experiences flow.  A good communicator learns to navigate that network of perceptions in order to get her ideas across intact.  A great communicator learns to manipulate the network to produce whole new dimensions of communication.

In social networks, perspectives and connections take on new depth.  Whether we are working with a team, making friends, or coming to terms with human diversity, understanding requires a shift in our perceptions.  We must both reach out to communicate our own experiences and be willing to listen and accept the perspectives of others.  With every new perspective comes new connections, as we learn things we never knew before, and things we thought we knew come into new light.

Computers and the internet are tools for forming those connections, in an arena built as an interface between our minds and technology.  You could say that the internet itself is a manifestation of the human network.  New perspectives--new knowledge--lie at our fingertips, and every time we reach out to bring one to us, we establish a new connection, both physically between computers and mentally as our minds build a new bridge with information.

It all comes down to connections, and it all came together when I learned about network science, a scientific field that focuses on the patterns of connection.  You might be familiar with the theory behind it in the guise of the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game.  The idea is simple; the implications are overwhelming.

Having found my direction, I want to take it further and put my understanding to good use. At work, I have begun to develop and manage projects such as the La Vie digital yearbook collection. In my own time, I am taking formal courses toward a Certificate in Information Sciences and Technology via Penn State University's World Campus. Within the next two years, I hope to enter a Master's program for Information Systems. Eventually, I may pursue a Ph.D. in the field of network science.

However, my focus is on staying solidly grounded in an applied setting. Information Systems appeals to me because of its emphasis on material results. The value of knowledge is in its use, and I want to put my knowledge to good use, by improving my workplace and the world at large through finding ways to conserve resources and reach out to people who need help. I see no reason to wait until I've begun to pursue an advanced degree. I have already improved my current workplace through projects such as an inventory of archived files on CD and reorganizing the file structure of our department's collections server.