The three-headed monkey

This blog is written by me - stating the obvious, Daniel Muriel. I'm a sociologist. I have a PhD (good for me!). Now, I'm working on a postdoctoral research project on the video game culture at the University of Salford (Greater Manchester) funded by the Basque Government. OK, enough talking about me. If you want to delight yourself with my outstanding professional achievements, feel free to visit Researchgate, Academia.edu and LinkedIn. You can also follow me on twitter: @danimuriel

Do you remember the classic video game from the early nineties known as 'The Secret of Monkey Island'? If not, shame on you! Google it, and let yourself sink into the embarrassment of your sheer ignorance for not knowing about this masterpiece of our contemporary culture. Now that we're finally on the same cultural page, let me explain what all this is about. The main character of The Secret of Monkey Island is the ridiculous untalented wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood, who carries around the most (apparently) useless and unexpected objects in the world, including rubber chickens with a pulley in the middle and staff like that. Well, he's not completely untalented after all. He can hold his breath for 10 minutes. Not bad. What's more, he even has some legendary phrases such as "I'm Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate", "That's the second [whatever] I've ever seen" or, my favourite, "Look behind you, a three-headed monkey!".

If Indiana Jones has his "I'm selling these fine leather jackets" line as a way to divert his enemies (a line also used, by the way, by Guybrush), our old young mate Guybrush has the three-headed monkey line to distract foes and acquaintances alike. He uses it from time to time along the game with divergent results. The interesting thing is that the only situation in which the actual three-headed monkey appears, nobody cares to look back. Poor Guybrush, he has it right for once and there is no one around who believes him. The exceptional never-seen creature is there and he, who has been mocking all the people about it, is the only one who gets to see it. I didn't name this blog after that line because I will be mainly writing about video games here, nor because I love Monkey Island. Actually, yes, at least in part I name it this way because of that. But that's not the point. What I want to express with that reference is how sociology (or sciences and life in general) usually put us in Guybrush Threepwood's shoes and make us play the three-headed monkey line.

You spend hours and hours everyday looking for the clues, traces and pieces of evidence that validate your hypothesis (or refuse them) and help us enlighten our understanding of reality. No matter how big or small the share of new knowledge we create. It's there, it's ours and, if you're not a greedy scientist looking for fame, money and patents, it belongs to the people and any other creature, fantastic or not, which walks on, flies over or digs in our planet. Therefore, the three-headed monkey is that piece of reality we'd like to know better. And to know it better, we have to chase it, find it, observe it. What the hell, we even have to feed it! So, loaded with dozens of bananas, we keep dropping those on different surfaces in order to use them as bait to attract the three-headed monkey. The more bananas we use, the more we think we see the damned monkey, so we keep saying all the time: "Look behind you, a three headed monkey!". Obviously, the monkey is not there and you get frustrated and the gullible people who dare to look every time become more and more angry. And finally, the three-headed monkey, as a postmodern self-important diva pope of sociology, shows up. You shout once again your line and... nobody looks.

Thus, sociology is, for me, that activity in which once I spot the three-headed monkey, nobody looks back. They even can laugh at you. Loudly and stridently. No harm done. I don't think I would look myself. Why should I care? This blog, then, is mainly about looking for the three-headed monkey in the context of a research project on the video game culture. I invite you to join my monkey-ish crusade. I wouldn't like to do it alone... after all, someone must be there to look when I shout: LOOK BEHIND YOU, A THREE-HEADED MONKEY!


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