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We'll see how this flies

I've spent the past few days finishing up the overview document for my tenure case, known affectionately across the campus as "Form A." The form closes by asking for "additional information" that might be helpful in evaluating one's work. Here's what I put:

In a conversation with one of the members of the search committee that recommended my appointment at Syracuse, after I arrived in the Writing Program, I learned that this particular committee member had three criteria for each of the candidates. This person explained that each candidate was expected to make technology their primary area of scholarly inquiry, to be able to apply it in and to their pedagogy, and, just as importantly, to be a practicing user of technologies. While I believe that this form documents my achievements in the first two areas, I want to discuss that third area briefly.

In the field of rhetoric and composition, a field devoted to the study and teaching of writing, there is a sense in which we are practitioners of that which we study. But for those of us who choose to specialize further in the study of information and communication technologies as they impact writing, practice is not only essential, but it brings added pressures as well. In addition to staying abreast of developments in our field, we are obligated to remain familiar with developments outside of academia, to be practicing technologists as well as scholars, pedagogues, and colleagues. However, the criteria by which tenure and promotion are determined do not easily admit this fourth category, partly because it is a difficult one to measure. The proficient use of technologies does not fit into any of the three categories, but it is not entirely separable from them, either. I have spent hours learning software in order to write multimedia essays, familiarized myself with various research and productivity tools in order to help students become more proficient at online research, and drawn on my understanding of spread sheets, databases, and web design in order to improve the performance of the graduate office. But I also engage in activities that cannot easily be reduced to scholarship, teaching, and service.

It is in this context that I wish to call attention to my activity as an academic blogger. I started a weblog (Collin vs. Blog) in August of 2003, and in the three years I have spent writing and maintaining it, it has become an integral part of my academic practice. I use it as a place to work through ideas that will eventually be turned into published scholarship, to reflect upon teaching practices, and to connect with colleagues both local and distant. In roughly 20 months of tracking site traffic, my site has received close to 75,000 unique visits and over 100,000 pageviews, averaging 144 visits and 199 views daily since January of 2005. In the summer of 2005, I received my discipline’s award for Best Academic Weblog. In short, maintaining a weblog has raised my profile, both within my discipline and beyond it, far more than any course I might teach or article I might publish. And in doing so, it raises the profile of Syracuse and of the Writing Program in a fashion that I believe to be positive.

In recent years, there have been high-profile tenure cases where applicants have offered their technological work in lieu of activity more easily categorized in traditional terms; that is not my intent here. I feel that my scholarship, teaching, and service stand on their own. But in a year where Syracuse is actively pursuing and promoting the idea of “scholarship in action,? it strikes me as particularly important to include this form of public writing as part of my activity as a member of the Syracuse University faculty. At a time where much of the discussion surrounding academic weblogs focuses on the risks of representing one’s self publicly as anything more than the sum total of items on a vita, I feel that it’s important to acknowledge the positive, productive impact that blogging has had upon my academic career. My weblog is not a strictly academic space, any more than my life is consumed with purely academic concerns. But it adds a dimension to my contributions here at Syracuse, both as a writer and as someone who studies technology, that would be difficult to duplicate within the categories articulated in this form.

* * * * *

I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Comments

I should add that there are definitely some sentences there that deserve revision, so consider this a draft. Also, I may be advised to just cut the section altogether. We'll see.

You go, Collin. It's a strong statement of the value of blogging for academics (and not just in rhet/comp, though there perhaps more than elsewhere), and most importantly, one that can't be dismissed as the wishful thinking of someone who didn't get their "regular scholarship" done, and so is hoping to slide this in as an alternative.

If you are looking for comment: The only thing I'd consider adding (and only if it could be contained in one sentence) would be something about the relationship between your blogging and your "regular scholarship." You come close to this with the statement about your public profile, but you might indicate how maintaining a blog has enabled your writing in other senses -- working through ideas in public, daily practice, etc. Such a statement might take you beyond a defense of blogging into a promotion of its positives, not just for public presence but also for future individual work.

Very nicely said. I think it's smart that you put this in the add-on section, and that you downplay it as an accomplish (ultimately, I think, that creates emphasis through de-emphasis).

If I were reviewing your case (not), I would write "Collin's blog is great; Collin is great; Collin earned tenure."

Around this area:

"In short, maintaining a weblog has raised my profile, both within my discipline and beyond it, far more than any course I might teach or article I might publish. And in doing so, it raises the profile of Syracuse and of the Writing Program in a fashion that I believe to be positive."

Do you have any information that shows a concrete connection between your blogging and successful recruitment of top students into Syracuse's CCR grad program? Or anything similar to that? That information would probably be really persuasive.

"Manifesto" is probably the wrong word to use here, but I can't think of a more direct explanation of how blogging fits into one's professional life as a rhettechcomp academic.
The only thing that I would fix right now is the first sentence: "after I arrived in the Writing Program," seems out of place. I wonder if you could begin the sentence with something like: "After I arrived in the Writing Program at Syracuse, I had a conversation with. . . "

In fine nested style, some replies:

Yeah, Joanna, that first sentence stinks. I'm working on it... ;-)

Clancy, I wish I had more than just anecdotes. One thing that might help is that our grad students write letters--and I know at least a couple who read my blog before they came here. Maybe they'll mention it (hint, hint)...

Thanks, Meta-S!

And thanks, Kathleen, you're right--I think that I'm going to move this section out of the catch-all and into somewhere more prominent (depending on the recommendations of the people looking at it for me)--when I do, I think I'll add a couple of sentences about that relationship.

Oh, and Collin, I don't think you'll be asked to cut it. If anything, it probably deserves more prominent mention. Quit with the false modesty nonsense, before I have to kick your ass.

cgb

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