Friday Forum: Beyond Obfuscation
It seems that most academic-types have a penchant for words that they cannot spell without consulting a dictionary; I am certainly no exception.
To obfuscate is to cause failure through bewilderment, to foster discouragement with complexity, to breed paralysis through conscious efforts to confuse. …or it is the fruit of over-analyzing things. Hard to know what exactly one is doing. A little analysis can be good. But perhaps analysis is like salt, a little bit will do just fine in most circumstances. Maybe the real skill of engineers is learning how to use analysis like garlic where a heaping mound turns into goodness.
We have this terribly nasty tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be. It does not help living in a culture that rewards jargon-laden complexity as a sign of appropriate “education.” But as I think about my life as an academic, I realize that I do not write to sound smart but that I write because occasionally my thoughts are unique and maybe even a bit clever. Taking the time to share them with others allows me to get knocked down a few proverbial notches on the cleverness while also perhaps influencing the unique thoughts of another. Writing opens doors for relationship. And seriously, who am I kidding? Do I want the bulk of my life to only be accessible to highly trained experts scattered across the globe or might I aim to think with a broader audience of people who are like me in any myriad of different ways?
Additionally, when we try to make things clear using simple terms, we might really surprise ourselves. Something previously deemed impossible might become not just possible, but transgress into the realm of the probable.
To be sure, simple words have great and deep meaning. The more profound an idea, the more difficulty it can be to put things down in simple words. Yet, when we find something truly interesting, fascinating or maybe just plain shiny, we almost cannot help but trying to share our discovery with others. We have to do what we can to make that insight accessible to others if only to try to help us not become too full of ourselves.
The long trek of an academic writer trying to capture a view worth sharing with another. Or perhaps just a plug for Imogen Heap.
This post stems from a conversation with my advisor about academic writing. My academic writing tends to be denser than iridium and tends to require employing significant forces to get it moving. But incidentally, I started blogging to provide a venue to get at least some writing done everyday. It seems to be running as a semi-successful experiment.