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Almost...

I almost convinced myself to leave the office today and to let my thoughts on the whole nym debate fade off. But not quite. I was hailed today (last night) by link if not by name, and wanted to add a few points. There are parts of wolfangel's post that are obviously addressed to specific people/arguments, but a couple of the more general ones, I thought, were worth picking up. It may seem like I'm fisking a bit, but that's really only because I want to represent wolfangel's claims responsibly.

Do we want academic credentials to matter in blogs? I donít think so.

Me neither. I tried to be pretty explicit about the fact that I want my blogging to matter as part of my academic credibility (which is different from credentials).

You can value your readings in whatever way you like, of course, but itís odd to decide an article (in the non-internet context) is better or worse based on if the person who wrote it is tenured, tenure track, a student, etc. I believe most people would judge a given article based on its merits.

I'd take issue here. In an ideal world, if I delivered a paper to an audience of 5 that was "better" than the keynote presentation by a celebrity, that would be recognized. That's an exceedingly rare occurrence, though, in most fields, I would imagine. The fact is that our respect and credibility may not have much to do with whether an essay is "good," but it has everything to do with how our work circulates through our given fields. And the circulation of our work does have an effect on how that work is received, or even whether it is received. There may be no qualitative difference between an essay in Big-Time Journal A and another in Startup E-journal B, but there are lots of people in my field (and people on T&P committees) who assume otherwise. I don't think that this means making B indistinguishable from A, but rather that those of us who find value in B need to make compelling claims for that value.

I can, however, determine whether an article on blogging knows about blogs; itís even easier for me to determine this about a post about blogging. This has nothing to do with credentials; when someone talks about blogs as diaries, I know theyíre missing the point, even if theyíre tenured. I am likely to give more leeway to someone I read more often.

Academic credentials can be useful things. But complete non-academics can say perfectly intelligent things about blogging, and discounting them because they were written by non-academics is the worst kind of snobbery.

Being accused of snobbery, even indirectly, certainly perked up my ears. I did not (and would not) claim that credentials are necessary to say something intelligent about blogging. However, at the risk of clarifying this to death, my field is practice-oriented, and so one of the articles I'm working on makes the claim that those of us who teach a significant research-based component in our composition courses should use the various tools of blogging (RSS, aggregators, etc.) as we do so. Because my aim is persuasive rather than expository or descriptive, my credibility does have an effect on how my essay will be received. And that credibility is enhanced if I can speak from the position of a person who both uses these tools in this fashion and who has successfully incorporated them into such a course.

I fully understand that this kind of scenario might not be applicable to other disciplines, but it is to the one where I work. (Again, that makes it different, not better.) I don't take this to mean that I should only listen to or read people within my own field or even in academia, because I don't do that. I try to read as widely as I can. I don't assume that my academic credentials give me some sort of privileged access to the truth of any matter, nor do I assume that someone else's lack of credentials precludes them from knowledge and wisdom. My credentials function solely within the restricted economy from whence they come, an economy that I don't find to be necessarily better or worse than any other.

A final point. Blogging is a rhetorical practice, as is writing under a pseudonym. There is a case to be made, with evidence from this extended discussion, that some of Steven's comments were treated with less credibility and as less valid, in part (and I emphasize in part) because he doesn't blog under a pseudonym. I am not dismissing the valid responses to his original post or the discussion that followed, which I think has been really valuable. But I would claim that his comments have been held to a higher standard because he doesn't blog pseudonymously. And, I would add, rightfully so. If someone makes a claim about any rhetorical practice, and that person doesn't actually have experience with that practice, I'd be skeptical. And as hard as I may try, I would find it really challenging to separate out that skepticism (or respect in the opposite case) from my estimation of an essay's quality. That's not to say that this shouldn't be our ideal, but academia wouldn't be what it is for many of us if we were even remotely successful at that.

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Comments

I'll agree that we value some things in part by who wrote them -- in some sense, credentials are important. You should not believe anything I write about botany, say. Based on fact is important. But blogs aren't academic talks -- the only thing you have are your words (and whatever identity you claim to have).

Respect and credibility makes work circulate, but you don't just get this respect by virtue of having a PhD and a tenured position. And certainly in blogging, these things aren't important.

I agree that someone who talks about blog & blog tech without using it lacks credibility. No one in this discussion has been in this position. I further agree that academic credentials are important in academia, but blogs -- including blogs written by academics -- are not academia. In composition & rhetoric, sure, they may well be good to count as publishing. But in lots of other fields that have academic bloggers, this is different.

I don't think that SDK was held to a higher standard just because he's non-anon. His comments, by the end, were discounted because they were ignoring -- and discounting -- other experiences and other viewpoints. Dorothea (among others) does not blog under a pseudonym, but her comments were not held to any higher standard.

I don't think we're especially far apart here, wolfangel. I don't think academic credentials mean anything outside of academia, and I most definitely don't think (nor want) blogging to be academia. In that way, blogs aren't academic talks, which are delivered in a very specific venue to a self-selected audience. But when I offer up an idea to my regular readers, many of whom are my colleagues, and they respond to it, the exchange that takes place isn't that different from what happens in a good conversation at a conference, either. It's not publishing, but then neither are all the other things we list on our vitas besides our books and essays.

The important thing, and I think it's a point you've raised (as well as others), is that those of us who do define our activities in a certain way shouldn't be measuring others against that definition as if it were the "right" way to do things and those other people are "wrong." Goodness knows, there's plenty of room out here...

Thanks for the comments. This whole discussion has really helped me to think through a bunch of different issues...

cgb

Good post, Collin. Though I think I like the "look" of your old blog better. My 2 cents.

I would say, in my own (self)defensive mode, that it does make a difference that I am actually representing myself "who I am" in terms of a name in terms of this (somewhat silly) discussion of pseudonyms.

Basically, if I was "Batman," I could say whatever it is I want, and some of what I would say wouldn't be at all flattering about folks who say they are using pseudonyms in blogs/on the web to be honest, but who really use that cloaked identity to say things they wouldn't say in "real life." I don't want to claim I'm a victim for all kinds of obvious reasons, but I do think there's been a lot of ridiculous things said on my blog (and related blogs) lately about "identity," and I think a lot of these things are the result of people posting with no "real" identities they feel they need to defend in "real" life. "I'm 'Batman' on the web, which means I can say whatever I want and see what happens." Whatever.

Anyway, I don't know (or really care) if my comments were held to a higher standard or not. I do know though that there were posts made to my blog that wouldn't have been made if either a) I wasn't identified as a "real person", and b) if people weren't allowed to post with a fake name. I don't know exactly what that means, but I find it interesting....