Professional vs. Personal

Ann recently said to me that she was surprised to find that I had put pictures of my niece and nephew on my PSU web page. She had expected my web site to present the professional side of me and not the personal side. Her comment started me thinking about how to separate these two sides of myself. I’m not sure I can. If I think about my life as a continuum, with the professional side on one end and the personal side on the other, I can see that some things fall clearly on one end or the other. Most things, however, fall somewhere in the middle of the continuum.

For example, I have been a huge game player since childhood. I played all kinds of games with my family. One of my favorite game-playing memories is of playing Scrabble with my mother when I was about eight and she had no mercy on me and my eight-year-old vocabulary. I played organized sports all through high school, college and into adulthood. I play video games and board games and card games even now. For most of my life, I would have considered this to be on the personal end of the continuum. But then, about nine years ago, I started to incorporate games into my classes. When I taught Fundamentals of Computing, I would have students play Sherlock and then write an algorithm for how to make guesses in the game. When I taught Client/Server Programming, I had students work on an Internet-based game for their semester project. When I taught Artificial Intelligence, I used games of all sorts to motivate the discussion of various algorithms. When Evelyn and I wrote our Software Engineering book, the project that we developed within the text was a large-scale, multi-player, Internet-based game. Gradually, my interest in game playing has moved further and further to the middle of the continuum between my professional and personal life.

And then two years ago, I had the opportunity to move to the Communication and Media Studies department and teach classes in Digital Media. With this move, my interests in game-playing have become the center of my professional life. Now I spend some part of every day thinking about games, talking about games, writing about games, teaching about games, and playing games. Games are everywhere in my life. How could I separate the professional aspect of game-playing from the personal aspect? I don’t think I can. And that’s part of what I both love and hate about academia.

3 Comments

  1. Seeing your neice and nephew on your website was surprising to me, I think, because there is very little else of ‘you’ on your website. As we talk about with each other, you are often very protective of keeping your personal and professional lives separate. I find your blog, in some ways, no different. You write about your professional life as a teacher and researcher of games; you talk about conference talks, movies, and conversations that relate to technology, gaming, and experience. While there is one photo of you on your webpage, there is none on your blog (just this cool, hip, woman in bootlegged jeans which you do NOT own, I know. :-). But then there are these two pictures of Kyle and Ally (and they are named) on your webpage. It’s not the blending of personal and professional; it’s WHAT you choose to share about the personal that was interesting to me. This is something we’ll have to discuss more in person…

  2. This is interesting. I am not sure that I would say that I’m very protective of keeping my personal and professional lives separate. In fact, I’ve had significant problems in the past because they’ve blended so closely together and the professional has threatened the personal. Perhaps the real issue is that I have certain things that I choose to keep “private” which feels different to me than separating the professional from the personal. I’ll have to think about it more.

    And by the way, you’re right that I don’t own those groovy pants but this blog is about the “desert of my real life” so maybe I see myself as a cool, hip woman in groovy pants but I just can’t pull it off in “real” life. What do you think?

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