Dr. Gaurav Sinha
Spatio-Temporal Representation of a Disoriented Life
Lost in Oh!o
I am an Associate Professor of Geography at Ohio University, a public university of more than 18,000 students, most of whom are hard to avoid on the main campus idylically placed in a small college town Athens. For the geographically inclined, our founders missed the real Athens in Greece by just about 8,500 km (GPS accuracy was terrible in 1804?). If only they had used an old-fashioned map instead...
That geographic disaster apart, even in the Athens of Ohio, I am addicted to the questionable Greek tradition of knowledge creation and dissemination. I am a humble member of the cult of Geographic Information Systems and Science. My occultish responsibilities include dreaming up impossible research plans and indoctrinating gullible students about the transformative powers of geographic information.
Down to earth
My story is quite "Dickensian". It began several decades ago in an industrial town called Durgapur in West Bengal. Yup! You got it right. I grew up in that absolutely unfathomable part of the world called India.
Indian parents can be cold and mean. I was sent to school everyday, where I was tricked daily to participate in this charade called education. By high school, I was so conditioned that further institutionalization seemed the only logical way to continue my life. Opiated by peer-pressure, I broke into one of India's heavily guarded technical institutions, Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur). The mission failed miserably, and I got consigned for five years to the Department of Geology and Geophysics. Space and time mushed together into a warped antediluvian scare. The lithologists threw rocks at me, the petrographers petrified me, the paleontologists scared me into fossilization, the mineralogist sliced me up, the geochemists dissolved my resolve, the seismologists gave me the tremors, and the georadiologists bombarded me with rays...certainly not of hope.
After a millennium (shortest temporal unit known to geologists), I engineered a Shawshank redemption, courtesy a B.Sc. in Geological Sciences and some savvy communiqués I had smuggled to some professors in USA. To escape local jurisdiction, I resurfaced several tectonic plates away in frigid Buffalo, NY.
It now appears I should have not glossed over the fine print. Damn! I had walked right into another academic trap set in the form of a Ph.D. degree by the Department of Geography at The University at Buffalo. I was dipped in vats of geographic scholarship and brainwashed by professors of Geographic Information Science (GIScience) into suicidal missions. I dove into groundwater aquifers, burned in pyroclastic flows, suffered soil contamination, and endured cancer epidemiology, among other acts that endangered me cartographically, statistically, and computationally.
No wonder, I was a permanent fixture of the NSF-IGERT ward for especially troubled doctoral students, where I was supposed to recover from uncontrollable urges for multidisciplinary GIScience research. Alas! I became delusional and started denying the objective existence of landforms and landscape features. I concocted spells that could materialize any number and size of mountains from an amorphous field of mere elevations. Tired of my conspiracy theories about the mind-landscape complex, the committee discharged me ultimately. My rants were forever lost in a doctoral dissertation entitled "Delineation, Characterization, and Classification of Topographic Eminences".
In a last-ditch effort to preserve some semblance of sanity, I traveled to Boston, MA and checked myself into Industrial Economics, Inc., a small business specializing in curing the ideologically afflicted with doses of pragmatic environmental policy analysis. After two years of economic therapy at IEc, I convinced an empathetic group of geographers to offer me academic stimulus at Ohio University.
Here, I engage in daily exercises of GIScience research, develop pedagogic methods for disseminating geographic misinformation, and conduct routine classroom exorcisms to repress my troubled youth. I continue to battle new delusions about changing the scope of GIScience and Geography, but fortunately my conspiratorial efforts fail to materialize on most days.