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Traffic's been spiking here lately, thanks to two largely unrelated phenomena:

  • Jenny received the first ever Kairos award for best academic weblog (congrats!), and then made me blush for about three days by saying that she thought I deserved the award. (She's just being modest, believe me.)
  • Last week, I blogged a power session at the Media Ecology conference, and the session rundown has been cited in a bunch of places, in part or whole.

The traffic spike that's resulted is probably not interesting to anyone other than me, but the tension between the two events has gotten me to thinking, I must admit. Each represents a very different community, neither of which I would consider myself particularly central to. The first community, though, computers and writing, is one that I've been familiar with for a much longer time--in terms of disciplinary geography, it's the neighborhood I grew up in. The second is still emerging and, thanks to Ton Zijlstra, I've been thinking of it as the city I'm interested in moving to. In fact, part of the motivation for me in going to MEA was to see that panel, but also to meet some of the speakers, to start building some of those connections. One way of thinking about that panel, in fact (since it was on cross-discplinary connections), would be to say that it both performed and discussed the advantages of getting outside of the gated communities we call disciplines.

The semi-official listserv for C&W was pretty active today, and one of the thoughts that was advanced was that blogging has had a detrimental effect on the "neighborhood." Too many people looking elsewhere, or focusing on themselves, I suppose. I understand the motives behind such a claim, and I can even understand how some might think that the case, but my gut reaction was disbelief. Among other things, Ton writes:

I myself look for ideas, co-thinkers, sounding boards and conversational partners in the blogosphere. I talk to Martin Roell for instance on an almost day to day basis, while I don't really know who my nextdoor neighbour is. And the conversations Martin and I have are way more important to me than I can imagine having with the guy next door. So I too, am having part of my communication needs fulfilled on-line in stead of by the city I live in, and where I would traditionally have looked for it.

I think it would be hard for each of us not to recognize ourselves to one degree or another in that--I certainly do. I think one of the differences that blogs introduce is that they really allow us to generate our communities, our trust networks, our sounding boards, in a way that is potentially threatening, not just to old old school disciplinary structures, but even to relatively recent forms of electronic communication. For a while Jenny and I talked about writing an article that asked if listservs hadn't outlived their usefulness for disciplinary communication, and I know Steve is working on a "list v. blog" article. For my own purposes, I've gotten to the point where listservs are almost unbearable--and I'm talking about damn near every listserv I'm subscribed to, not just one or two.

Will's thoughts about academic blogging also prompted me to think about this, mainly bc I'd love to be able to say this about listserv activity:

I consider this an academic activity. I learn from it. I read, think, respond, and in doing so, when the blogging is good, I clarify my thinking, allowing me to reflect upon it in more concrete ways, which in turn produces more learning. Lately, I find myself digging back into these posts more and more (which has led me to consider ways in which I might categorize or organize these thoughts even more effectively.) The amount of writing and thinking I've chronicled here just floors me sometimes. Not that any or most of it is especially ground breaking...just the sheer size of it. In just under two years in this space (not including previous spaces) there have been almost 2000 posts. That's amazing to me.

We can certainly say the same about the vast number of posts, I suppose, but precious little else. Listserv archives are difficult to navigate, contain a minimum of options for organization, and in fact, often seem to encourage an absence of reflection. I still use them for certain things, but only with the understanding that their one-size-fits-all approach to information is severely limited, and often downright annoying.

In fact, I'm starting to wonder if there aren't a bunch of parallels in recent "email v. RSS" discussions that might fruitfully be transposed to "list v. blog." Hmm. Need to think on this further, and pick it up again later.


No, you deserve it. I wasn't being modest.

And yeah, we really should've gotten that article out ahead of this Techrhet/C&W conversation.