Why so glib?
30 January 2023
Two years ago, I wrote a post right as I started my study of interpersonal biases in language. I don’t remember what my state of mind was when I wrote it, but I do know what it is like right now. If anyone embarking on a Ph.D. is reading this, I’d love for them to know how tortured the journey was to get to where I am. The only idea I had back then was computationally replicate and evaluate the LIB. Now, after many missteps and detours, and a lot of nudging from David & Jessy, I have (I think) a topic that I can call mine; a research program that no-one else has worked on (yet) that I can initiate and contribute to. Generalized (Linguistic) Intergroup Bias is what I’ve termed it.
I feel relieved and optimistic at this juncture in my Ph.D. And yet, the fear is still there, receded in the background. I can envision scenarios where it engulfs me again, but not many. In any case, I will face it when it comes, and only I will remain after it passes.
Will my research program lead anywhere, change anyone’s mind, or even be one that anyone apart from me finds interesting? Probably not, but I’ve come to realize that all that matters is I do the work, do it well, and that I grow during the process. Like programming languages, I’ve come to learn that the research programs that gain traction in a community, especially a relatively young one like Computational Linguistics, have little to do with the program’s promised benefits — external factors like the progenitor’s community and its ease of use play a big role. I can only aim to do the best on what I control — ensuring that I pursue my research questions honestly and rigorously.
I was a little too optimistic with giving my own name to my focus of study, but it was good in the end to get pushback on Generalized Intergroup Bias or GIB. I study intergroup bias; how is in-group language different from out-group language? That’s the one sentence summary of my dissertation, and I’m quite happy with it. My own term and acronym would have just made it too confusing.