Friday, January 11, 2008

topical creams

when i was doing my master's degree, which as i have previously mentioned, was the ethnographic study of a nude beach, a wise old (to me at the time) phd student told me that like any topic, this topic too would grow tired. old. and i'd be over it. at the time a was taken back, aghast. no, i thought to myself, the novelty of nudity will NEVER wear off. never. that wise old phd student was right. one day and 150-something pages later, nudity got old. tired. boring. hard to believe, i know.

now that i am drowning in my data (40 transcribed interviews + 24 follow-up interviews = a crapload of words to analyze), i fear that online dating too might lose its glossy sheen of excitement. this is the excitement i see on people's faces when i tell them my topic. after they politely ask what my topic is, cringingly awaiting my response that they fear will be boring enough to make them die on the spot, or at the very least, excuse themselves to use the washroom, i tell them "online dating" and the mood significantly changes (not quite so visibly as when i used to tell people i studied a nude beach, but still, a visibly relieved reaction nonetheless). they are excited. happy that i won't bore them. pleased to get an inside peak into the seemingly (the hopefully) seedy underworld of online dating.

perhaps topics begin to bore us because when we translate them into academicese, they lose some of their lustre. their bang. and perhaps that is what has me caught in a holding pattern. how to analyze without dissecting? how to translate without something lost? how to be relevant, topical when nothing about online dating is easily decoded, outlined, expressed in simplistics such as: online dating works, online dating is bad, online dating isn't real dating, etc. the position i have put myself in isn't new. when you choose a topical topic, easy answers are demanded. yet i resist them. and maintain my holding pattern.

i truly believe that much of research is intuitive. it comes from somewhere unknown. within. deep, dark and hidden perhaps. it takes a formidable bearing to follow your gut into the seemingly unintuitive realm. against the grain of easy answers. and toward the itch that needs to be scratched. even though it elides the provocative and slips toward the academic. the jargon-filled. the abstract. it must be done.

so here goes nothing.

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