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If there's one thing that I've really noticed my first quarter in grad school, it's how incredibly similar the academic world is to the music world. Consider the following observations:

In the music scene, bands are composed of a handful of members who spend most of their time recording music, and every time they release an album they go on tour, visiting all the major cities playing live, thereby inspiring their fans and increasing their notoriety.

In the academia scene, research groups are composed of a handful of members who spend most of their time doing research, and when they publish a paper they go on tour, visiting all the major universities giving lectures, thereby inspiring their fans and increasing their notoriety.

In the music scene there are different genres of music, within which one artist or band is usually classified and within which they usually spend most of their music career. Fans typically follow music in a particular genre and often ignore anything relased in an unrelated genre. The genres often overlap, making it difficult to classify certain types of music. While earlier albums by a particular band may be universally considered to be in one genre, later albums may be classified in a different genre. Bands can break out and cross genres, even sometimes creating a new one with an entirely different sound.

In the academia scene there are different fields of research, within which one researcher or research group is usually classified and within which they usually spend most of their academic career. Fans typically follow research in a particular field and often ignore anything released in an unrelated field. The fields often overlap, making it difficult to classify certain types of research. While earlier papers released by a particular group may be universally considered to be in one field, later papers may be classified in a different field. Researchers can break out of and cross fields, even sometimes creating a new one based on an entirely new theoretical model.

In the music scene different bands sometimes break up or trade members with other bands. There are sometimes collaborations between artists from different bands, or even from different genres (a rapper collaborating with a heavy metal artist, for example). You might see several artists' names together on a Sound Garden album, and then see an overlapping but different set of names together on an Audioslave album.

In the academia scene different research groups sometimes break up or trade members with other groups or universities. There are sometimes collaborations between researchers from different groups, or even different fields (a cosmologist collaborating with a string theorist, for example). You might see several researchers' names together on one paper such as Einstein-Podolski-Rosen, and then see an overlapping set of names on another theory such as Bose-Einstein.

Pretty uncanny, isn't it? If I didn't know better I would think one world was explicitly modelled after the other. Maybe it's just a very natural way for things to develop in society.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
pbrane
Jan. 4th, 2004 08:31 pm (UTC)
Maybe it's just a very natural way for things to develop in society.

Uh huh, you can probably make all the same analogies with say, the computer industry, politicians, and professional sports, as well.
spoonless
Jan. 5th, 2004 11:46 am (UTC)
The professional sports analogy was another that had occured to me. I don't think it (or the other two, which I hadn't thought of) are nearly as faithful as the music analogy... but if someone were to go to the trouble of drawing up similar comparisons, I'd be happy to be proven wrong!
gustavolacerda
Jan. 11th, 2004 07:24 pm (UTC)
Also, some papers/albums become classics and the artists behind them become the heros of a certain clique.

My nickname for ESSLLI is "the logic festival". Last year, I know someone who went to a bluegrass conference, the IBMA.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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