Monday, August 11, 2014

thoughts | Cooking and the Mis-en-scene of Research

Sometimes insights are induced in the most unexpected way —as the eureka term suggests recalling the famous exclamation from Archimedes stepping into his bathtub.
Image altered from "Archimede bain" by Unknown - Historia N° 767 - Novembre 2010 - page 38. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons 
My eureka du jour happened today while listening to the radio while chopping fruits and vegetables for the morning breakfast juice. The WNYC segment, worthwhile listening to, related professional cooking to self-help and organization and emphasized the importance of mise-en-place for chefs  —the French term denoting the organizational space of cooking. The radio segment producer interviewed several chefs and all felt strongly about the importance of the mise-en-place in their profession, although each had a different interpretation and implementation. I was particularly interested in one chef who mentioned a "zen" intention in the cleanness and minimalism of the mise-en-place in his kitchen.
   While I am struggling to continue my PhD  among academic politics and lack of resources, finding a daily mise-en-place has become essential for progressing with my research. Perhaps it varies at difference stages, but the organizational structure is becoming even more important than insights. Creative thoughts are exciting but if not orderly organized in an a clear data structure, but can get lost in the black holes of ideas and never make it to become an "original contribution to knowledge" that is the output of research. Following the cooking metaphor, the university becomes the kitchen and the research audience, or even its applications are the restaurant.
   Ultimately, perhaps like everything else in life, can finding the comfort of order in chaos and clarity in confusion, provide meaning on its own?