April 26th, 2020

Ekaterina Schulmann on working in isolation

Loosely translated from the source in Russian: https://www.facebook.com/Ekaterina.Schulmann/posts/10222667015695015

"I am among those whose lifestyle has not changed very much. Granted, it is the privilege of my position that allows me to cope with it so easily, compared to those who have less help, less resources and less room in the house. In principle, you could live like this forever and work online [...] But the unpleasant fact is, the quality of your intellectual product decreases in isolation.

On the surface, this should not be the case. Everything is coming from your head anyway. With external distractions out of the way, inspiration should hit you like a brick. But in social sciences, social interaction is important. You cannot just extract ideas from your brain, like a spider extracts his thread, with the only communication with the outside world being written correspondence. Or rather, you can – but just not as well. There is a palpable second-rate quality to what you produce, even though it is the same process, same sources, same documents. When you interact with living people, when you walk into the buidlings that you study, some intangible component becomes available to you. You learn something that is important to know."

Top image: Store selling masks, Shanghai, c. 1910. Francis Stafford