« Academy 2.0? | Main | Appearing on a Shelf Near You »

Blogging Practices

I mean to respond to Dylan's trackback on my post from yesterday, but not just yet. For right now, I recommend a visit. What he talks about there is precisely the same kind of motivation behind our work on CCC Online, and in the next day or two, I'll post something that details that connection.

For the moment, I want to call attention to Alex's "Blogging in the Plural", which is a piece of an essay that ended up on the cutting-room floor. Too bad, because in it, Alex offers an initial attempt at defining blogs not in terms of the artifacts or the artificers, but in terms of practices. To wit, he offers four:

  1. Networked communication
  2. Ongoing, reciprocal communication
  3. A low threshold for participation
  4. Transparency

Alex notes towards the end of the entry that the cultures of hacking and of scholarship draw on these themes as well, and in fact, this is something that I've been talking about lately with a couple of different people. I think I'd add a fifth category as well, which is "regularity" or "consistency" over time. Although the threshold for an individual entry is relatively low (both in terms of time and technical expertise), the broader commitment is fairly large, and the reciprocity makes this commitment sustainable. In other words, part of my motivation is self-generated, but part of it too comes from the fact that I know I have an audience, however small or large it happens to be.

The larger resonance here for me, though, is the way that we have (to a degree) mystified what it is that we do as academics. While this could easily be another "why don't we blog more" sort of rant, I'm not really in that kind of mood. I'm not always sold on the idea that we need to be more transparent, at least to the non-academic world, but otherwise, the issues of networking, reciprocity, and threshold seem to me to be academic practices that remain largely unremarked. I'm thinking here primarily of publication, although there are parallels to be drawn with other of our practices as well.

I'm constantly struck by how little we seem to understand or even talk about what it takes to publish, what publishing our work accomplishes (and in some cases, how little it can accomplish), what the real costs and rewards for our work are, etc. As I was preparing that talk a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like the height of obviousness to me to describe humanities scholarship as Long Tail work, and yet, I see indications all around me that we don't want to think of our work in that way: our aversion to collaboration, our inability to aggregate, our obsession with celebrity, etc. Hell, I have to fight every day to keep those things at bay--I love to imagine being paid lots of money to keynote conferences, to have my work read and discussed far and wide, to be semi-famous. But that's a Head reward system that disguises the more modest (but potentially longer lasting) rewards at the Tail end of things.

I feel like I'm blathering a little bit, and I've got other things to work on, so I'll end there for right now. Visit Dylan, visit Alex, and talk amongst yourselves.

Technorati tag:


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Blogging Practices:

» collin brooke on blogging practices from mamamusings
I’m posting this as much for myself as for anyone reading the blog. Lately I keep coming across things that really force me to stop and think, and then they slip away and out of my attention radius. When they’re here in the blog, they’... [Read More]


It hadn't completely occurred to me until reading your post, here, that one of the main reasons I've found myself so attracted to blogging (aside from a venue to showcase my otherwise latent writing skills, whatever those may be) comes from my pedigree. My father was university professor for decades, and I witnessed the way academia networked itself, even before the days of the internet.

Of course, my first exposure to the internet itself was in computer labs at various universities as a child. I didn't realize what I was seeing at the time, of course, but I did notice my father, through email lists and discussion groups, extend that network throughout his field (speech, communications and debate).

After the "newness" of blogging wore off, the most exciting part of it was the (small) network that I was beginning to be a part of, although at the time I only interpreted it as my audience.

It's an exciting time for me, as I am beginning to grapple with the full implications of what this little part of the network, my blog, can mean.

See, now, that's interesting to me, the idea that you may have absorbed those practices without going into academia.

But then, again, I'm not sure that everyone doesn't do this to one degree or another, you know? We're so used to thinking of bestseller culture as the norm, and everything else as "niche," but part of what I think I'm getting at is that 99% of us are niche. We all have and need our small networks, but we look longingly at those people who (deservedly or not) transcend their neighborhoods, as if that was the only value to be had.

When I think of how badly I've paralyzed myself as a writer over the years worrying about being famous or "making a name," I cringe. And every time I do it, the one thing that helps me get out is to just focus on the moment and the immediate task, and on the intrinsic rewards that come with them...