What Academic Work Looks Like

As a recent post in the _Chronicle of Higher Education_ observes, the cultural forces arrayed against creative/knowledge work in the academy have grown as university administrations themselves have increasingly become staffed not by academics who have either chosen to go into administration or those taking their turn in administration but by a group of professional managers who, well, think more like managers in other arenas than they do the faculty whom they are supposed to support. (This is assuming that the fundamental mission of higher education remains the creation of new knowledge and the distribution of knowledge both old and new, but it could also be that the mission is really now more something like accreditation and certification of a number of abstracted variables that somehow represent this process.) The result is that the work of knowledge creation especially is hard to make visible, as programmers and writers and artists and knowledge workers the world over can attest. Here’s how Rob Jenkins puts it:

> Again, the problem is that none of this is visible to bureaucrats, politicians, chamber-of-commerce types, and even college administrators who haven’t actually been professors themselves (which, unfortunately, constitutes a large and rapidly growing group). As those of us who have served in management capacities know very well, administration is a kind of work that looks a lot more like work, with regular “business hours,” clearly-defined tasks, and easily-measured objectives. When you’ve been at it for a while, even if you were a professor in another life, it’s easy to forget that there are other types of work.[1][]

[1]: http://chronicle.com/blogs/onhiring/how-much-do-you-work/30823

While it’s meant to be funny, a series of scenes from _The Big Bang Theory_ actually do capture the nature of intellectual productivity quite well: [sometimes it really does involve a lot of staring at a whiteboard](http://youtu.be/c5SDv1l9DCo).