sabbatical planning


So, this is the summer that I have to start planning for a sabbatical, if I want to take one during 2005-2006. RIT applications are due in October 2004, but Fulbright applications are due in August. So if I want to go overseas (say, to Tokyo...), I need to get in gear on this.

I'm torn on the overseas idea. I spent two years abroad as a kid, because my father did sabbatical research in London (when I was three) and Malta (when I was thirteen). In retrospect, I'm very grateful for those opportunities, and I'd like my kids to have that same chance to experience living in another culture.

On the other hand, most of the places that make sense for me to go in terms of their interest in social and mobile technologies dont have English as their primary language, and that puts more of a burden on my family. It's hard to be uprooted for a year because of someone else's's even harder if you're then dropped into a place where you don't understand the language.

Another possibility would be to explore options for a year as a visiting researcher at a US (or UK) corporate research lab. There are a lot of them--Microsoft, HP, FX/Palo Alto, Intel, and IBM are all doing work in collaboration and social computing, and I'm sure there are others. Less of a cultural adventure for all of us to do something like that, but it's perhaps more in keeping with the kinds of research that RIT is interested in.

And, of course, there's no guarantee that a place that I decided I wanted to go--overseas or not--would consider me a good fit, or would be able to make decisions on a time frame that matched RIT's.

So, faithful readers...what do you think? Overseas or not? Academia or industry? As Frazier would say, "I'm listening."


flip a coin:

or prayer and inner meditation to help with the choice.

I think Palo Alto is a great choice: make sure you get to meet Knuth over at Stanford. the culture there is different from Rochester. Terrorism is complicated in europe.

Knuth has a great bible class every thursday...but i do not know if you are religious...but if there was a person to connect with it would be him: somebody needs to work on his biography...he's kind of more important than most people realize.

he should win the Nobel: my opinion.

getting to interview him about blogs, computer trends and the future may help and be very fulfiling intellectually. He really digs organ playing: i do not know if you play the organ either, but keying around with a musical instrument with the kids is very "engaging". even if it doesn't sound too good...

wait, your husband plays the cello!

that would be great to get him involved with music and spirituality and how it all connects with computer science.

besides, the weather is nice in palo alto. beaches, drive to wineries. nice place to take pictures of the landscape and tap into the poetic nature of working a having a great sabbatical.


and the whole knuth thing about the art of computer programming is a very interesting networking thing that can be written up...

he has thousands of people helping him correct his editions: he only uses snail mail.

Would you consider Singapore? The native language is bahasa/mandarin, but English is probably the most widely used language here. Everything's in English. It's a cultural melting pot.

Are there any opportunities for professorship/research there?

If you're committed to the notion of working abroad for a year, or some part thereof, what about somewhere in Northern Europe, where there seems to be a nexus of web-related research and English-saturation? David SIlver spent some time at the University of Amsterdam not long ago... and I seem to recall you having contact with some folks in Norway...?

Stefanos, it's my stepfather who's a cellist, not my husband. My husband is a stay-at-home dad, so his job goes where we do. Social networks aren't as portable, however.

Brendyn, the decision needs to be based on where there's a good fit for my research and teaching interests--ideally someplace where I have existing connections or contacts and people who would be appropriate for me to do collaborative work with. So it's not so much picking a place and then finding the people as it is the reverse.

KF, I probably do need to talk with Jill about Norway as a possibility, though I suspect my family is hoping that wherever we end up is warmer than Rochester during the winter, rather than colder. :)


There's also some opportunities to bring research to corporate labs overseas... at a start, perhaps consider Nokia, the Interaction Institute (and the Play lab there: ), Ivrea's Interaction Design Institute ( ), IBM China...

Failing that, I think you'd get a kick out of a lot of the domestic research groups: you pretty much have the list there, but you might also want to look at Google, Disney, IDEO....



This is a dilemma indeed, but one where it is hard to go wrong: from what I have read on mamamusings in the last year or so, you are blessed with kids who will both be up for the adventure, and enjoy it too, and I am also confident your passion for social computing will enable you to convince the labs you have contacted or will contact, just about anywhere, of the value your research can bring them. I wouldn√��Ǩ�Ѣt worry too much about the language issue for your kids: from what I have observed in a number of families around me who have moved around (between France and California and back, for instance) the kids are usually the first to adjust during the transition. Have you talked to them about the prospect of spending a year away? They may initially be more concerned about leaving their friends behind: this may be another chance for them to explore social computing avenues in order to keep in touch and share their experience.

I tend to lean toward spending the sabbatical immersed in a different country and culture: just like you, I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to spend time away from my native environment (although everyone keeps wondering why on Earth I would want to live anywhere but in the south of France). These visits have broadened my horizons and perspectives in ways I couldn√��Ǩ�Ѣt even have envisioned had I stayed home. If you can offer them that chance while doing interesting research (because that remains in my view the key criterion: you probably don√��Ǩ�Ѣt want to waste your sabbatical on unchallenging work) your children will find themselves all the richer for it.

In Europe at least, none of you will be too disconcerted by the culture or even the language: you should all, quickly, be able to find your bearings, and during each of my trips there (I have been living in Northern California for eight years so I almost qualify as a tourist in Europe) I find English to be, and increasingly, very widely spoken. In addition, the kids will get their fill of English while at school, I imagine, and will probably pick up in no time local friends willing to act as translators.

Regarding Singapore, as one of your readers mentioned, English is the official language there, but more importantly for you, Information Technology is a big focus area: you should be able to approach universities with overlapping or adjacent interests to yours very easily. If you are going to expose your family to a different environment, then Singapore could prove a good compromise: as far as Asian countries go, you will find operating there very similar to our US environment, and the place gives you the luxury to take in and absorb cultural differences at your own pace. And once everyone is ready to explore further than the island-state√��Ǩ�Ѣs 40 square kilometers, the rest of Asia is right there.

As far as your research is concerned, don√��Ǩ�Ѣt you have your work all laid out in front of you? It seems that immersing the four of you in a different culture several thousands miles away, and investigating ways to maintain ties with your current social network, to integrate new connections in it, could prove fascinating. How are you going to share your discoveries, what artifacts, media, will be best suited to chronicle your trip and stay abroad?

Opportunity is everywhere, I am impatient to see which way you go.


danah boyd is out at berkely:

I think covering all ages and blogging would be great: perspectives from the youngest bloggers to the oldest.

Knuth is really nice and responds to letters. I think ethics and computers may interest him.

also the networking involved in writing his five volumn art of computer programming would be very interesting: furthermore, biographers in the future would index/quote such a text.

Palo Alto is right in the middle of everything when it comes to computers.

i think even pacifica is near by: you could look up Jef Raskin: i have his home address: i promised him a book on the blind: i never sent it to him. It would be an interesting networking thing if you hand delivered the text written by a professor from University of Toronto...

Have you put any thought into India? Companies are pouring a lot of money into R&D operations over there. When I was looking at different graduate school options in the last year, I had a few professors and friends from India that were pushing me to look at schools over there. I ended up choosing RIT in the end, but I had put some serious thought into it. As far as language barriers, according to the CIA Factbook "English enjoys associate status but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication." I think any overseas decision will be great for your kids. I wish I would of had the opportunity when I was growing up.

I travelled with my academic parents for their one-year visiting scholar/researcher trips from the time I was 4 months old to the end of high school. Only to English and German-speaking countries, but for us kids (being as we are from Hungary) that meant being dropped in a place where we had to learn a language completely unlike our native language.

I remember the learning languages part with much excitement still - you learn unbelievably fast when you're immersed in a new language, for German (I was 12) I remember the process pretty clearly too. It was fascinating to me, while scary too, but I wouldn't trade that experience for anything - and I felt the same way then. Same with English, though I was 6 when I learned: we lived in Canada for a year (U of Waterloo.) Being here in the U.S. as a baby apparently did nothing for my language skills...

Another thing I remember from these family research trips (we did something like 10 by the time I was 18) is how close it brought my family. It was indeed painful losing some good friends along the way, but interestingly enough some always remain - and there's no life without sadness. And that life was one big family adventure for me while growing up. We don't live in the same countries anymore but the closeness is still there - I would say, another thing traveling this much has taught us is how to stay close to people when you're not physically together with them.

What I'm trying to say is: I think your kids are probably a lot more resilient than you realize - I'm sure there will be some kicking and screaming but they'd probably get a lot out of living immersed ina different learning a new language too as well.

It'd be great to have you out at the U of Washington Information School for a year - maybe you could combine something like that with a visiting position at MS Research...

I say go overseas (but you knew I would)

Your hubby spends much of his time online anyway....and the kids don't have to be "totally immersed" if you don't want them to -- most major cities in the world have an American school/International school. Israel certainly does --

I'm with Jean and LiL -- don't worry about the kid+foreign language equation. The sum will be a positive number, I'm quite sure.

Stefanos' Knuthophilia is heart-warming. As far as I know, he (Don, not Stefanos) hasn't done the Bible colloq in a while. At the moment he seems to be mainly concerned with finding an archive for his garage, which holds more printouts than I've ever seen in one place.

If you do go with Shallow Alto and want an academic affiliation, the Stanford Humanities Lab (full disclosure -- I was the assoc. dir. until recently) would be a perfect match for your interests. (Plus they're working with Knuth on an exhibition.) That's if you end up in industry but want a toe in a local uni.

*delurking* May I recommend Ireland - there are many opportunities in academia in the country, and it's primary language is English. When I visited one November many years ago, the weather was mild, though it rained often. The husband and kids will enjoy and benefit from the difference in culture, yet still have some of the comforts of home.

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