What's in a name?
I don't know what it is or where it comes from (maybe human nature?) - but I love and am fascinated by how things are named and how they are structured. One of the first things I do when I grab a new book or journal is to check out the table of contents. Sometimes my focus goes straight to the subject matter (the "what" that is there... or what's not there). But more often my first glances at a table of contents are to try and get a feel for how the author(s)/editor(s) organized the text that follows.
I used to (still do but not as often/many) collect math textbooks. My first career choice after decided that I wasn't cut out for music composition/music education was to be a math teacher. When I first got the chance to actually teach a group of students I realized how many of the math books that I had as resources were horrible -- they had lousy definitions, not enough examples, and were overall just not organized very well. I think this is where I started collected as many math books as I could. I had thought (up until that point) that math was, well, MATH (set in stone, impermeable). It had never dawned on me that you could come at a subject as hard and as true as MATH from different points of view, different perspectives.
My fascination with naming/organizing spilled over into other nonfiction areas and continues today in my many literature reviews as a grad student. (Naming/organizing doesn't seem to be all that important to me in fiction.) Not just what the titles of the articles/chapters are... but who wrote them. How many did they write? Who did they collaborate with? Have they collaborated before? Taking an even bigger step back... who is arguing with who? Is there a method to how the chapters/articles were ordered? Would I have ordered them differently? Are there "holes" there - empty spaces within the text that need to be addressed?
In today's age of instant editing with computers, the internet, wikis/blogs, etc. I guess the permanency of a printed text is what draws me to ask these kinds of questions. When we put something in print and we attach our names to it - that's pretty powerful stuff right there. A group of people that have gotten together to collaborate on a topic/subject/domain to say, "To the best of our knowledge and reasoning capabilities, this is what's so as of now... and here's where we need to go from here." How exciting is that?!?
What brought about this reflection? In the past 2-3 days I've been moving all of my online life/identity together into this one, hopefully more streamlined place on the web: matthewkr.com. I had a "personal" website set up via iWeb, a blended personal/professional blog at Blogspot, and various other pages with my work strewn across wikis and other domains. Up until now. I'm busy piecing my life back together using the Wordpress platform - and it was this process (which I am choosing to embrace as a spiritual/creative act) that caused this stir inside me about naming things. All of a sudden I had to name and organize my life and set it (as least semi-) in stone. And that required some thought.
I wanted this space to be a place of my own, something that when others visit they would leave saying, "Oh, okay... I see who you are. That's pretty cool." But I had to figure out what all of the pieces were going to be. And then I had to name them. And then I had to figure out how everything fit together.
I visited the websites of some of my professors (Kevin Oliver), mentors (Lori Holcomb, Richard Waters, Bethany Smith), and people I'd like to meet/look up to (Punya Mishra, Matthew Koehler, Mia Michaels, Richard Mayer, Richard Clark, Everett Bogue, Paul McCartney,) to generate some ideas. What you're seeing is a result of those observations, a lot of thought and one-on-one time with my MacBook Pro. It does skew more to the professional than the personal and I'll own that that's so right now. But as I'm trying on the role of scholar/professor in a digitally saturated age - what you are seeing is at least one experiment... on step in the direction towards saying "This is me" to the world.