May 18, 2006
I came across a paper(pdf) about memes and culture by Hokky Situngkir of the Bandung Fe institute via Gary King’s unClog. As Gary mentions, the paper is pretty hard to read, style wise. I gave up after the first couple of paragraphs. I had followed the link because of my interest in memes, society, cultural anthropology and how they intersect. Just a hobby.
Out of curiousity, I looked up the Bandung Fe Institute website. At first glance, it seems like a normal research institute affiliated with a university. As you start digging deeper, for instance, the researchers, and the students, you start to realize the stark differences.
None of the researchers or the students have an academic degree from an institution of higher learning. Not that it’s a problem. I can point out a whole bunch of people that have no college degrees, yet are very successful at what they do which is usually a position that requires a minimum of a graduate level of education.
The researcher for this particular institute, it seems, went off on their own, formed an institute of research, published some papers, got some professors to act as advisors and are doing pretty well. Pretty well is subjective. I don’t actually know how well they are doing. One of Bandung’s papers was recently cited in an RFP for a Department of Defense project. That should be an indication. They even publish their own journal, Journal of Social Complexity, complete with it’s own ISSN number. For another, I don’t know if the researchers are working their full time and if so, where they get their funding.
Some of their papers that I’ve read, though, lack the clarity and rigor of traditional academic papers. Maybe it’s because of their lack of academic training, maybe something was lost in translation (to english), I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the papers I read. A simple google search on it will give you tons of papers produced by the institute. Or try Citeseer.
Whatever they’re doing, they seem to be doing all the right things. By right I mean the normal things that a normal academic research organisation or thinktank would do, without an academic background. I gotta applaud them for their efforts in this, no matter what the outcome. This has got to be one of the top hacks in my list – hacking academia.