As an academic, I get constant pressure to be relevant and practical. To have an impact! Personally, I don't think that's the point of academic research. I think universities exist not just to train people to get jobs, but to create a space for reflection and the pursuit of ideas.
There are plenty of places in society where you can do practical stuff. In corporations, nonprofit organizations, and the public sector, work is supposed to be practical. For the most part, it probably is.
Universities are different. We need them to be different so that we have a richer society, a more complex fabric for our shared lives. We need them to provide the space for doing things that don't have a cost/benefit analysis attached to them.
You may think this is strange coming from an accounting professor. Stay tuned! I hope to show not only that I am an unusual accounting professor, but that accounting is a lot more than people think. It plays a rich and textured role in constituting our society, shaping the way we address problems and even more fundamentally, what we identify as a problem worth addressing.
Over the next weeks and months, I want to roll out, piece by piece, a website that will help people think differently about the world around them. My approach is based on certain principles related to how the world works, certain methods of doing interesting research, and certain topics that I have had the privilege of examining with my wonderful colleagues and co-authors.
Much of my work is grounded in linguistic theory, which sees the world as one where meaning is produced through language. Hence, the name of the website, Reading the World.
I have no idea what people will do with these ideas. I have no agenda, and certainly no desire to tell people that they should think like me. I only want to offer this as one of the many possible ways of thinking differently about the world. As Richard Rorty suggested, what we are after is not consensus but proliferation.* Not the lowest common denominator, but the richest set of ideas to play with.
Cameron Graham, PhD
Schulich School of Business
* Rorty, R. (1991). Science as solidarity. Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers (Vol. 1, pp. 35-45). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.