David Kolb

Sisyphus at the footnote list

I have an account with academia.edu, an aggregation site for scientists and humanists. I don’t post essays there; I favor ResearchGate and PhilPapers. But academia.edu sends me weekly requests: they have found a list of references to my name and would I please indicate whether these references really are to me. I had been ignoring these emails for a long time because there is a big confusion between two of me.

For there is another DK; we share the same middle initial A and it stands for the same middle name (though differently spelled) and we were both born in the same year in nearby states. I’m a few months older but he finished graduate school sooner. I’m in philosophy and he in psychology, business and organizational development. He is the author of an incredibly useful classification tool and explanatory theory about experiential learning which is widely used and widely cited work on learning styles and emotional intelligence. 

Knowing how important the other DK’s work was, I thought there was no point in looking at a list of citations because most would be to his.  Until last week when I took up the task, figuring it might take an hour.  The list turned out to include over 13,000 items. I’ve been working on it for over a week.

 At last count I have gone through about 2200 references and found 240 to my writings. The other DK’s references are impressively worldwide and multicultural, attesting to the usefulness of his theories for education and management. 

Interestingly, his work often emphasizes the key role of meta-cognition in learning and practice, which fits with the crucial role I give to self-reflection in my own writings on modernity, architecture and hypertext. This parallel may not be too surprising since we’ve both been influenced by reading John Dewey.

 The references to my writing are about half to my book on modernity in Hegel and Heidegger, with thee rest split between my hypertext essays, and my architectural and place writings. But even some of my essays on more obscure topics have garnered one or two citations. It’s heartening, but then I recall the 10k references to his work.

This list provides an experience opposite to the satisfying flip through the card drawers of an old library paper catalog. This list is already obsessively narrowed, so instead of rejoicing at unexpected relevance one hopes for tiny variations.  

Going through so many references, one can’t help noticing that many of them look identical, as if hurried researchers copied convenient wording from previous citations. I even found one note which makes reference to both a paper by the other DK and a paper by me. (I wonder, though, if the author did look at my paper since the subject matter is less germane to his article than my title might suggest, and he has me located at the wrong University.