It’s been six years since I started working on my Masters’ thesis about amateur paranormal investigators. Or, as I preferred to call them, ARIGs – amateur research and investigation groups – to be inclusive of all types of groups, paranormally-inclined or skeptical. Of course, there were not too many that were skeptics. My findings identified how ARIGs portrayed themselves on the web, their favored techniques, mission and goals and, how they portrayed “science” to their clients and the public. I crafted a landscape view of all the ghost hunters, Bigfoot clubs, and UFO seekers across America. The thesis is available here. But if that’s too long, you can read an article in Skeptical Inquirer.
I’m currently working on a book manuscript that updates the ideas in the thesis. Much happened from 2012 to the present to add to the analysis of this subculture in America. I had many references to get through. To rework a manuscript is one of the hardest projects I’ve done. It’s tortuous. The potential references seem endless – I need to deliberately quit looking because there are always more. The editing, additions, and smoothing out process is also never-ending. I’d be getting nowhere if I continued to use MS Word software, copying and pasting, because of the bits and pieces that had to be moved around and fitted together in order for it to be coherent. (I use Ulysses, an iOS program.) One problem with writing is that it is very advantageous to focus for long stretches at a time; I haven’t been able to do that for various reasons. I’m not a professional writer, I have a full-time job, a family, and other obligations. Obviously, this project has taken longer than I thought and has been a drain, but it will be worth it no matter how many copies get sold. I do have a publisher who is interested. But should they pass on it, by hook or by crook I will get this damn thing published somehow.
Then, I have two additional ideas for books that I anticipate will be less difficult. One is an obvious continuation of the ARIG work, focusing on “Sounds Sciencey.” I did a column for over a year at the CFI website that seemed pretty popular on how non-scientists use the images, jargon, and themes of science to look credible to the public. I proposed to Prometheus Books (part of CFI) to publish the essays with some reworking and additional content. The examples I provided would be useful in college courses on pseudoscience and critical thinking. Strangely and disappointingly, they passed. If anyone has a publisher contact that might be interested, please hook me up! I have a guaranteed audience and this would be a unique take on a key concept for all levels of science education, especially non-scientists. I subscribe to the philosophy that if you prime students to recognize bad science and misleading information, they will be far better prepared to spot it in real life and not be taken in. This is what we need to do, skeptical education. For more about this concept, check out inoculation theory. THIS WILL WORK. But we have to make the effort.
The second idea is to work the 7000+ posts on Doubtful News into a finished product. I think I’m going to break it into categories and examine the media treatment of the broad array of topics. Since I quit updating it, I’ve felt very free from the drudgery of weird news feeds. My apologies to those who are mad at me for “quitting”. I didn’t quit, the project had just run its course. I needed to reclaim patience and serenity. But there is something more to be squeezed out of that, I’m certain.
I like to be busy. 🙂
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