terriko: (Default)
terriko ([personal profile] terriko) wrote2011-02-28 02:00 am

The advantage of being me

From The Advantage Of Dual-Identities (A Case Study of Nabokov), I bring you this quote:

It’s also important to note that the advantage of having a “dual-identity” – being both a novelist and a scientist, for instance – isn’t limited to Nabokov. According to a study led by Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, people who describe themselves as both Asian and American, or see themselves as a female engineer (and not just an engineer), consistently display higher levels of creativity.

So as a female, half-asian all-canadian researcher, I'm clearly better at creativity than all those boring white dude researchers?

Angela Montenegro from Bones... I don't even know exactly where to begin on this. So I'm going talk about Bones for a minute. I've been watching it with my sister lately while we do other things (crochet, do mending, wander around looking for things in an mmo, eat dinner, etc.) and the other day she pointed out that she loves how the show deals with Angela, or really, how it doesn't. See, Angela Montenegro is the team's artist: she does sketches of the victims. But she doesn't stop there: she also coaxes data off broken camcorders and swallowed flash drives doing digital forensic work. She's an adept computer programmer who writes software that helps visualize and model what happened during a crime. What's cool about Bones is that it's totally taken for granted that she can be an artist and a coder. (And really, pretty much whatever else she wants to be.)

So I guess while I fundamentally agree that having multiple "identities" is a huge asset to my work and creative abilities, I sort of feel like... why are they making such a big deal about this, as if it's some hugely abnormal thing. Why can't they just accept that Angela can draw and code? Why do people insist on compartmentalizing people into single skill sets? I can drive a car and code and no one thinks that's weird, but plenty of people have commented with surprise that I can edit a magazine (yes, I used to do this) and write code. Hello, world?

The article just makes me a little uncomfortable. This worst part is the paragraph about how the US will be overrun by mixed-race folk like me with superior creative skills -- awkward racial superiority with a different spin -- but even the study methodology doesn't quite sit right with me at a first reading. But maybe the article is simply a journalistic reflection of research into of a real logical fallacy that people often employ: the assumption that one must specialize in only one skill to be the best person one can be. That's one of those things that might be true for programs, but I really haven't seen much evidence of it being true for people.

Despite my issues with the article, I think it's got a nice take-away message: it's a-ok, normal, and maybe even superior to have and use your multiple identities. And don't let incredulous folk tell you otherwise.


(Anonymous) 2011-03-01 04:27 am (UTC)(link)
"the assumption that one must specialize in only one skill to be the best person one can be."

Ah, but you have to specialize in only one skill to be the best *in that skill*, and as a society we tend to idolize exceptional people, even if the vast majority of, well, everything, is accomplished by people who don't focus on one particular tiny facet of their lives.

There's a yawning chasm between most people who are good at some things, and those few who have chosen to make it their life's focus. The obsessive personality traits that it takes to become achieve top level mastery of a field is not something that would be healthy in the general population.

Does that make it bad, or wrong? Of course not. The truly exceptional can achieve great things, benefitting everyone. Take, athletes as an example, showing people just how extraordinary the limits of the human body are can inspire average people to try to do just a little bit more with their own.

The trouble I have with it is when we tout these people, who are bound not to be well rounded individuals as 'role models' for everyone else.

"Look what you can accomplish, if you're willing to sacrifice your health, time with your family and friends, and just about any other facet of your life that conflicts in the slightest way with achieving excellence in one aspect of your life!"

Definitely not a recipe for happiness in most people's lives, where variety and moderation are probably much more accessible paths to satisfaction.

I guess it should be about letting people know that they can feel free to try to be exceptional, while at the same time reminding them that there's absolutely no need to.

Anyway, what does this have to do with race and multiple identities? Not a lot, I guess. Just the excellence angle struck a chord.


Re: Exceptionalism

(Anonymous) 2011-03-02 02:57 pm (UTC)(link)
Perhaps Leonardo da Vinci might be the exception that proves the rule?

One might also say that being the greatest in the world in various fields was easier at a time when most people didn't have the spare time to devote to increasing their expertise in any one field. Times have changed.

It's hard to imagine someone having the time to be a world renowned particle physicist *and* having the time to devote to being a professional tennis player or world champion Scrabble player. There's only so many hours in a week, and the at this point, to be the 'best' at just about anything skill based takes a full time commitment.
maco: white brunette woman with a white headcovering and a blue dress (Default)

Re: Exceptionalism

[personal profile] maco 2011-03-08 02:34 pm (UTC)(link)
"Prove" in that phrase is used in the same way as "Aberdeen Proving Ground." That is, it means "test," not "demonstrate the truth of."
maco: white brunette woman with a white headcovering and a blue dress (Default)

Re: Exceptionalism

[personal profile] maco 2011-03-08 07:30 pm (UTC)(link)
My reply was to the person above you, not to you :) I usually see people saying "exception that proves the rule" as though it means "well there's an exception, and that makes the rule true, because every rule has an exception" which is...weird.

(Anonymous) 2011-03-01 06:02 am (UTC)(link)
I really like Angela's character. She tends to show a little more realistic versatility than most of the other characters. She's the go-to gal for computer stuff, art stuff, and before there was Gordon Gordon/Sweets, she was the go-to for most people-reading stuff as well. She still is Brennan's "explain to me what I'm feeling" gal every now and then. I dislike the fact that her character has had less and less to do with cases as she gets more and more pregnant... I feel a lack of Angela in some of these latest episodes.

I'm a big believer in the psychological theory of multiple intelligences, ever since I discovered it, and I prefer/understand better what it tells me about me than a lot of other "intelligence" or "personality" tests.


several skills

(Anonymous) 2011-03-01 07:37 am (UTC)(link)
On the flipside, I think Scott Adams got it right. He says, to reach the top, there's basically two ways.

One is, to be world-leading in any one skill. If you're the worlds best guitar-player, or photographer, or pole-vaulter, you're golden. The problem with this is that there's a lot of people competing to be best in any skill, particularily any useful or popular skill.

The other way, is to be *good* (but not world-leader) in 2 or more *different* skills, ideally two that can somehow create useful combinations.

For himself, he says there's tons of people who are funnier than him. And tons of people who are better at drawing than him. But less people who are *both* funny *and* able to draw well.

I code well, but certainly not world-class, my wife is a financial analyst, and again is good, but not a world-leader in any sense. What is a person worth, I asked her, that can code as well as I can, and understands finance to the degree you do ? We debated it, it's hard to say, but certainly "a lot" fits.

I think both multiple personalities, and multiple skills, have a lot of benefits. And atleast for skills, it's easier to go from nothing to fairly-good in a new skill, than bring an existing very-good skill up to beyond awesome.

I don't think being female and being asian and canadian is really a case of multiple in this sense though - it seems to me, the word for that is just plain simply "normal".
unregisteredpseudonymspls: (Default)

Re: several skills

[personal profile] unregisteredpseudonymspls 2011-03-01 04:30 pm (UTC)(link)
Try being Indian *and* Pakistani at the same time*, people's eyes bug out at the thought that one can be both. I suppose I shouldn't blame them but every time I get asked about my origins I have to give a 2-minute spiel I've memorized to explain what is not actually an unusual situation.

*I am actually neither Indian nor Pakistani, insofar as I am not a citizen of either country and haven't spent more than a few weeks of my life in South Asia, total.