Monday, July 11, 2005

EXTRA! Anti-Blogging Polemic Stimulates Academic Blogging

Irritation is a stimulant.

A small sampling of responses:

Tim Burke
Professor B
Chuck Tryon
Little Professor
Matt Kirschenbaum
Daniel Drezner
Planned Obsolescence
One Man's Opinion

Me? Nothing too exciting to add. As many other people have pointed out (see especially Tim Burke and Dan Drezner), some of the dangers of blogging that Ivan Tribble refers to are real ones, especially for graduate students or junior people (like me) who don't have much of a formal publication record.

But the potential advantages are real too. Without the platform of this blog, I don't think I would have been part of an NPR interview, or getting calls from Boston Globe Reporters -- both happened in the past month. I even recently got a call from the BBC Asian Network, though I had to turn them down; they wanted to do the interview in Punjabi. (I wish my Punjabi were good enough for radio. Sadly, not the case.)

I agree with many of the people linked above who have argued, contra Tribble, that academics really need to stop being afraid of expressing or hearing unorthodox and unpolished opinions. Intellectual exchange works better if it's warm. Limiting our written expression to journal publications is equivalent to a kind of intellectual cryo-freeze. Tribble is telling us to keep our brains under wraps until we're ready to show them to the world in the best possible light.

But does anyone believe in cryogenics? When you finally thaw that brain, it's highly doubtful you'll get all the components working properly. That's why so much of academic life -- as the anecdotes in Tribble's article suggest -- is dominated by the crude sensibilities of the medulla, not the spirit of rigor and reasoning that might be more characteristic of the cerebral cortex.


siddhartha said...

amardeep -
people have online identities whether they blog or not. on some level, for the world at large, you are what google says you are. that's why you have to google yourself regularly, like checking for lumps. if i were an academic choosing among candidates, of course i would google them all, as a complement to all the other modes of evaluation.
blog or not, we all have online identities and we have no choice but to try and manage them. along with its many other functions, blogging is an excellent way to pro-actively manage one's online identity rather than letting others do it for you. It's all about agency - for better or for worse.

2:14 PM  
Amardeep said...

Yes, that's definitely true about everyone getting googled. Most of what one writes even on email listservs is archived somewhere or the other.

These days, when I google people, I must admit that I get a little worried if I don't come up with anything whatsoever.

If defining and maintaining an online identity becomes essential to academic life -- as I think it will in the next few years -- blogging can be an important part of that process.

However, it might be done just as well with a carefully defined and content-rich web page.

3:59 PM  
tilotamma said...

which NPR show? would like to listen.

6:22 PM  
Sunil Laxman said...

I agree with you Amardeep.

Additionally though, my blog deals with ideas/incidents/observations that are not necessarily related to my academic life.....but which affect me. Blogging is a good medium for that. Isn't it?

6:43 PM  
Genealogy Spice said...

I'm nodding my head vigorously in agreement with your point about having a warmer environment for intellectual exchanges. I struggle with the whole "too radical to be voiced at this juncture in your career" bit more often than I'd like. As an ABD/in-process Ph.D. attending conferences and workshops and the like, I'm reminded of things I shouldn't be saying or presenting in the interest of strategy. Luckily I have a chair and dissertation committee that is highly supportive. Nonetheless, there are times I feel that the taboos that strategizing enforces upon us get in the way of getting to thoughts that would benefit from public exchange. Just my $0.02.

9:09 AM  
Timothy Burke said...

I think this adds an important point that went undiscussed. It's a bit of what I had in mind when I noted that Tribble's essay really seems to be about more than blogs, that it's about a larger view of academic decorum that maps onto publication and the nature of scholarship. I think you're right: what the Tribbles of academia object to is the "warming" of academic discourse, an attempt to overcome the five to six year time delay in almost all scholarship, which is one of the major reasons, quite aside from jargon, that a lot of it seems so dead and irrelevant, that it's so far from the moment that provoked it in the first place. "Warming" our discussions doesn't mean they become less courtly or mannerly, but it does mean that the distinction between scholarship and the wider public sphere becomes something that can't just be made by default or by sociological and institutional distance--we actually have to figure out what it is that we provide that others do not. Which terrifies those who have no idea what it is that scholarship provides, particularly many in the humanities, where the crisis of faith in the liberal arts as an idea and praxis means a lot of scholars carry on as poststructuralist living dead, no longer believing in what they do but feeling it must be done.

10:06 AM  
WitchyProf said...

Well if we all kept our manuscripts hidden until they were "just right," we might not see the light of day. I enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere on the blog.

11:52 PM  
Amardeep said...

Tim: "Poststructuralist living dead" -- I like that!

And Genealogy Spice: if you have questions/issues about how to find acceptance for your work feel free to email me off-line. I have been through the ringer of a job search with an unconventional dissertation, and made it through.

Sunil, yes. And WitchyProf, yes.

9:03 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home