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Will Blog for Cash

Things are getting a little crazy when I'm posting twice in a week, I know. The manuscript is still proceeding at a steady pace, and that gives me permission to stay even with my Bloglines subscriptions. And to notice the following convergence of posts:

Got all that? I don't want to try and reproduce, bc it's worth your time not only to read each of those posts, but especially the comments (49 last time I checked) at leuschke.org. There's a convergence here, perhaps of my own devising, of folk wondering about the relationship between their blog personae and the "real" world, and there are lots of answers represented among these various sites.

I've thought about this more than I normally would, bc Lori and I had a conversation about what she should do--and as she notes, there's a choice going on there between being "principled" (if they don't like who I am, then I wouldn't want to work there) and "pragmatic" (lots of us work places and among people, quite successfully, without being liked by all, but it doesn't make sense to wreck your chances before you've even started). My own advice was pragmatic--and my own approach to this space is similarly pragmatic. I try not to say here what I'd be unwilling or uncomfortable saying among my colleagues, students, etc., but mainly this is a place for me to read, write, and think in ways that have been largely tangential to what I do on a daily basis as an employee of the university.

What struck me upon reading the comments at Leuschke.org was how my position shifted. I tend to agree with Steve (and Graham) about anonymity, but one thing that the comments really brought to my attention was that this position has a lot to do with the fact that I'm relatively comfortable. I don't have tenure, no, but I'm finishing up my first book, get pretty good teaching evaluations, contribute to the department in a range of ways, and I believe that my colleagues are quite pleased at having hired me. I'm also a big, white man, who hasn't had to worry about unwanted attention, who is comfortable screening the material that appears here, and who doesn't really have to worry about the kind of surveillance that some of the comments discussed. In other words, there's a certain amount of privilege involved with the fact that I can write as myself here, without much fear of official reprisal or risk.

That being said, there were also some comments from folk who worried that the perception at home institutions would be "if s/he's blogging, s/he's not doing scholarship, and we can't have that," and to those people, I'd love to forward Stuart's post, and to transpose it into academic terms. To a certain degree, Stephen Bainbridge already has, reprinting an email he received from a friend of his who's a dean at Villanova (this was back in January). Among a variety of interesting points that his friend makes:

Blogging or, more precisely, interaction among bloggers and their readers, strikes me as something very useful to people doing more conventional scholarship. Most realize, I think that scholarship is not done in a vacuum, and that the ability to test one's ideas, and to get ideas from others, would help in writing articles and books. Blogging helps with all that tremendously and in novel ways. In fact, I'm advising my junior colleagues to start following the blogs in their fields, and to think about contributing where appropriate.

I'm sure that academia will lag behind industry in this (as in so much else), but it'd be nice to start seeing some of the people who have been worrying at the importance of according equal weight to electronic scholarship spend their time working blogs into that equation as well. And/or changing that equation to include the kind of work that's being done well outside of the restricted economy of peer review. There's also some thinking here to be done about the relative transparency of blogs (compared for instance to the 24-hour, one-way transparency of email as it's often used by students) and how they overlap with other academic organizations/networks.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Will Blog for Cash:

» Academics Anonymous from the chutry experiment
Collin recently linked to a convergence between/among several academic blogs attempting to come to terms with the public nature of blogging. The conversation grows out of an observation made by Graham Leuschke about the number of academics who blog ano... [Read More]

» Trust in Blogging from Unbound Spiral
"I need a quick fix" kind of bother. This is an addicting medium. Many are thinking and talking about blogging and its psychological impacts. Fresh Perspectives I'm also addicted to blogging. Blogging is about conversations while organisations are livi... [Read More]


Hi Collin. Thanks for the extra links -- I'm still gathering data, and I seem to have hit upon something people were thinking about.

The weirdest thing for me is just how small the world is. One of the commenters on my site was in my college class, and now I see that you're at Syracuse. I'll be moving down there (from Toronto) to start at SU next week! How very strange. So, you're in a better spot than most anyone else to answer my main question: is the new Chancellor going to hunt down all SU faculty bloggers and kick them to the curb?

Hey, Graham! Drop me a note when you get here, and we can go down to Armory Square for a beer or something.

I know you were kidding, but actually, I think Cantor does social psychology--I'd think that the blogosphere (and social software more generally) would be something that would really interest her. She's got a good history of funding projects that cross disciplines, and don't fit into traditional departments, so I'm pretty optimistic. Of course, I'm basing this on the interview with her in the SU brag mag, so I probably can't help but be optimistic...but I don't think there'll be much pressure on us to anonymize any time soon...;-)