How Organizations, Communities and Individuals Manage Overflows
Edited by Barbara Czarniawska and Orvar Löfgren
Chapter 14: Selective knowledge: learning to forget and ignore
There was a young faculty member in our sociology department who was called to sit on all kinds of committees, because he read – thoroughly – all the material sent out, unlike his older colleagues, who just skimmed the stuff distributed, from memos to research applications. I told him: ‘You’ll never survive if you don’t develop the skills they have; all this work will kill you!’My chapter explores this world of crucial but elusive academic skills used for surviving various types of overflows, as described in the interview quoted here. Scholars create overflow in many ways: downloading files, photocopying papers, buying books that may never be read but ‘may come in handy’. Office desks and filing cabinets are bursting with material; hard disks are overloaded and demanding more memory. In examining the ways in which these types of overflow are handled, my main interest lies in the social and cultural organization of selective knowledge in academia. Thesauruses equate ‘select’ with synonyms such as: choose, single out, distinguish, limit, favour. We are reminded that it is a concept loaded with cultural norms. What is important, unimportant, irrelevant or noteworthy in a given setting? The focus of this chapter is on the way routines and skills are produced and maintained as academics learn to ignore, forget, overlook and neglect.
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