I was driving to my soccer game yesterday morning and listening to “On Being” on my local PBS station (that’s Boston’s WGBH). This was a show I was not familiar with, but since I had nothing else to do but drive, I listened in to an interview with Lisa Randall, the Harvard theoretical physicist who recently (2015) wrote a book called “Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs” which examines the interconnectedness between astronomy, biology, and paleontology. I had also not heard of her before either.
It was my good fortune to have 30 minutes to spend with no distractions–I was alone in the car–and to have an opportunity to hear most of the conversation between the show’s host Krista Trippet and Professor Randall. Of all the interesting things I heard during the drive, I’ll relay one comment from Prof. Randall’s book that was quoted in the story: “We often fail to notice things that we are not expecting.”
It was a minor part of a much larger discussion on the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate disciplines, but I think it summarizes what I like to say, that it is important to get out of the bubble of your local community and get a fresh perspective on yourself and your work as often as you can.
There is a lot we can learn from other intellectual or academic disciplines. I’ve been very happy that my current work enables me to talk to people who spend their days considering how to teach and learn Early Modern Irish, or Child Labor and Rights, or 19th century portraiture, or Medieval coronation music, or , … well you get the picture. It certainly makes it easier and more interesting for me to consider how to create and deliver digital libraries and cultural heritage.