Shutdown, carry on

Amongst the privileges of being a researcher on a one-year field mission in Japan, counts the freedom to manage one’s own schedule. When people ask me if I have to work the next day, if I am free on weekends, and if I can take long vacation, I struggle to explain that there is rarely any specific obligation and that I could, theoretically, be off days and days in a row, just like I could spend every minute working. 

Being your own boss certainly requires an amount of self-discipline and motivation, and the rather solitary everyday life may not always be easy to handle. Indeed, by focusing on a specific field of study, it becomes difficult to share thoughts and theories with others. However, it is notably my research that introduces me to various individuals with different cultural backgrounds. Given that the Olympic and Paralympic Games are an international happening, they attract also in the academic field a wide range of people. In the run up to Tōkyō 2020, the more and more event-related conferences, seminars and meetings are taking place, and it sometimes feels as if this very particular research community scales down the globe and makes it more palpable. 

The sceptical looks when answering questions about where my working place is or who my colleagues are, sometimes become destabilising and make me feel illegitimate. When adding that I neither regularly attend classes, nor do any teaching, my vis-à-vis often abandons understanding. However, I highly appreciate the variety of my occupation and the fact of not having what commonly is considered as an office. As a matter of fact, besides symposiums, study sessions and meetings, I can not only choose at which moment I wish to advance on what topic, but also where I want to spend my day. Therefore, libraries, cafés, but also my home have become my office; practically, my laptop is my office. 

Announced as extraordinarily strong, typhoon Hagibis’ approach in October 2019 confronted me with the fact that in case of house damage or widespread flooding, an external hard disk (like any other material storage option) would not prevent my work from disappearing and although saving files in some unknown cloud is still abstract and scary to me, I considered it being the best option.  Ironically, exactly one month after, by the happening of unfortunate circumstances, my so-called office and business partner had to endure an internal shock. Perplex, I did not really know what to think or how to react, but I did know that the reparation would take some time and come at a cost. Abashed, I also had to confess to myself that my last backup dated from Hagibis’ landfall and that I could risk the loss of one-month collected / -and produced material. 

Although it was possible to make a new backup, knowing about the defect computer threw me off the trail. As if I was in a vacuum or having a handicap, it suddenly seemed impossible to write or read, to use my camera, or advance in any way on my research. When analysing what was going on in my mind, I felt foolish: shouldn’t, after all, my brain be my main tool 

The weather being incredibly nice, I took it as an opportunity to cycle around Tōkyō; to seize the atmosphere, to reflect upon my perception, to sit down and think. 

As the reparation was supposed to take around one week and as the substitute device was not equipped with the same software I work with, one of my preoccupations was the publication of this week’s report including a satisfactory photograph. 

In the end, I didn’t need to persevere for long and my concerns turned out to be causeless. Only two days later, my laptop was handed back to me, fully repaired, free of charge, accompanied by a generous smile. The consequences were by far less troublesome than imagined and the shutdown was rather instructive. It made me reconsider the use of technology and questioned me about the importance I give it in my research. It confronted me to its dependence, and to the fragility of my work as well as my office.

Last but not least, it made me grateful for other people’s help and gave me input in terms of methodology. Wherever we want, my computer and me can henceforth carry on working. 

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