One of the most important parts of academia is the idea of sharing knowledge with society. As far as I am concerned, sitting on top of an ivory tower is only worthwhile if you can use its high position in order to trumpet knowledge far and wide. That outcome does not happen enough for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the cognoscenti talk amongst themselves and that discussion sounds like a mumble to those who are not part of the club. Other times, there are too many powerful interests involved in discrediting or distorting what those individuals have to say. Sometimes the trumpet is playing an unusual and difficult tune to access, and people don't want to take the time to listen to or appreciate it.
Knowledge needs to accessible and a new generation of thinkers are trying to make it so. In academia, we are moving towards a model of open access journals. Yet many people do not have the time, energy, and/or expertise required to digest those papers. As a result, those ideas must be presented simply and clearly.
Though undertaking that task can be a struggle given the paucity of funds, rewards, and recognition, several thinkers prefer to be situated in an ivory (well, probably camel bone since it isn’t banned) bungalow with open doors and direct access to our surroundings. That contact and accessibility is the best way to develop and disseminate knowledge. Only by influencing how most people understand a given issue, can we begin to hope to develop better outcomes for the problems we face.
As I progress through my doctoral work, I am going to try to maintain a bi-monthly blog commenting on various topics and my adventures in the field. I have chosen to call it Punishment and Society. The name comes from the fixation on punishing people who violate laws in the name of the betterment of society, a notion which runs counter to the empirical evidence.
I submit that society’s problems are often like driving on ice: in order to maintain control, the most effective reaction is often the counterintuitive one. We cannot rely on common sense to solve relatively uncommon problems. When we do, we often fail to engage with the vectors of problems and engage in meaningful discussions that lead to pragmatic and efficient solutions.
For those of you who don’t know, my research centres on spaces in which there are lots of unauthorized immigrants that have also been associated with drug trafficking organizations (DTO). I am interested in seeing how policy affects the degree to which law enforcement can be effective in such spaces. I hope to develop an understanding of which strategies minimize DTO capabilities and minimize harm to the community. As a result, I am particularly interested in how individuals in society go about understanding their surroundings. I hope that over time you will join me in a conversation to help me improve the way that I communicate and understand these issues.