I’ve been reading The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce (Advances in Semiotics), edited by Umberto Eco and Thomas Sebeok as part of an inquiry class I’m taking. A tidbit on the title from the preface:
“There is the obvious referral (renvoi) to Doyle’s novel-length chronicle, “The Sign of the Four,” or “The Sign of Four,” which first appeared in Lippincott’s magazine, later in book form, in 1819. Then there was our driving compulsion to send our readers back to the funhouse of rampant triplicities, such as are discussed in Sebeok’s introductory three-card monte.”
“Funhouse of rampant trilicities.” It practically screams nerd doesn’t it? (The footnotes are nearly as long as the chapters). However, it is instructional in the context of the study of inquiry and I appreciate the passion with which it is written . And, reading about Sherlock Holmes and others in the context of the study of inquiry has been an interesting exercise. This class, I think, is getting me closer to understanding what I really “do” for a living although I still struggle to explain it to others.
For example, I was sitting at an indoor soccer facility waiting for my daughter’s practice to end and I was reading the book when another mother said, “hey, what are you reading?” Rather than trying to explain the subject of the book (because, let’s face it, I couldn’t do it justice) I took the easy way out and just told her I was doing homework. The “good for you!” conversation followed. When she asked what I was studying at school, I said instructional design. So that’s like architecture? Hmmm…no. Go ahead. Laugh. But now take it one step further…I research that stuff by observing, reading, following trends, asking questions, and reading- books, blogs, and research papers. Which means what exactly? I inquire. Maybe I should just say that – I seek understanding through inquiry. Doesn’t that sound all mysterious and nerdy? Might as well paint an “L” on my forehead.
Another example. I was helping my third grader do his math homework. We were discussing a particular word problem and he said…
“you don’t know. You just know Brandon Hall Research and reading and stuff. Dad’s an engineer. I’ll wait until he get’s home.”
So, I try to explain again what I do. He is not interested. “I read and stuff.” I do “Brandon Hall Research stuff.” For the love of…inquiry.
What do you do? Could you explain it to an eight year old? As for me, I read and stuff.