Friday, January 12, 2007

'"Academic blogging" versus "academics who blog"

Scott Eric Kaufman at Acephalous writes about the distinction between "academic blogging" and "academics who blog":
The distinction between "academics who blog" and "academic blogs" ought to be insisted upon. . . . Careerists like myself may unwittingly pressure "academics who blog" into thinking their blogs must be more than mere blogs to justify their existence.

Although I think he means well, there's kind of masterstroke here: all at once he (1) elevates "academic blogging" above "academics who blog" (although with a "not that there's anything wrong with that" statement, he says that he has underestimated blogs that "deal with the minutiae of academic life"--"mere blogs") and (2) places himself in the second category, the one with the power to make bloggers quit because they can't be in category 2.

What fascinates me about this idea--and I don't think he's wrong about the ways in which academic blogs are characterized--is the unholy speed with which the academic blogosphere seems to be scrambling to create an alternative hierarchy that could end up being just as rigid as the old one. The mechanisms of establishing caste may be different from the nametag-gazing dance at MLA and other networks of privilege, but the result will be the same.

I hope not.

[Updated to add]

Also, the power hierarchy Scott mentions (I hope he won't mind my using his first name; I did see him at the MLA panel, though I wasn't able to hear his paper) creates an automatic divide between anonymous and named bloggers. Since talking about theory, research, and so on would out most of us if anyone really cared to investigate, switching to an academic blog would mean coming out and being held accountable in the ways that Dr. Crazy discussed in her post of a few days ago.

It can be stimulating to read the discussions of theory at The Valve, Scott's blog, and other sites, but sometimes, especially if you've been toiling in the fields of reading academic criticism all day long, what you long for is a diversion. The best diversion might just be the lovely prose--fresh, funny, and with a dash of occasional snark--to be found on a lot of those "mere blogs."


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what he means by "careerist" there, to be honest. Does he mean pursuing a career, in which case, what does he think we're doing?

I think there's a kind of space that grad students get into (and I certainly did), where you're really into your specific thing, and that's what you pretty much talk about, with people just like you, all the time.

But a lot of bloggers are out of that space, balancing writing/research, teaching, advising, committee work, mentoring students, family, home-mortgages, kids, etc, and that's what we blog about. It's just as focused on our career issues, often, but our career issues are in a different place, perhaps? Or maybe our blogs focus on more of our lives because we're just in a different place?

In non-R1 universities, we talk to people outside our specific fields or sub-fields in ways most grad students just don't. It's a different world.

Or does he use "careerist" to mean putting his career before all, which may work for some people or for some times, but long term may make for a difficult life. I read his attitude, and it sometimes reminds me of the generation of all male professors who put their jobs first, expecting their wives to type their manuscripts and show up to faculty wife functions. I'll be danged if I want that sort of life for me or any of my colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Good post Undine and great comment Bardiac.

My 2 cents is, I blog as a professor and an intellectual, but I try specifically *not* to have an academic blog. If I had a research blog, I'd put it under my name, or a more general blog in my field, same thing.

undine said...

I wondered about "careerist," too, Bardiac. Usually that's a term that has negative connotations of the kind you mention in your last paragraph--or worse (i.e., stab your grandmother in the back to get ahead = careerist is the more usual sense of the word). He seems to be setting out several sets of binaries: "real"/academic bloggers vs. trivial "academics who blog"; "careerists"/real academics vs. --well, what would you call people with jobs, publications, and lives? I'd call them academics, too, but he seems to have a different definition in mind. Maybe, as you say, he's just in a grad school frame of mind.

Professor Zero, those are my thoughts exactly.