April 15, 2004


Via Kairosnews comes an article from Tech Central Station The Blogosphere: All Grown Up Now. It's a remarkably un-selfconscious discussion of the capital-B Blogosphere. Leaving aside the mock-snotty title ("My, don't you look all grown up!"), which may not have come from the author, there are a number of things worth objecting to.

Chief among them are the notions that (a) there is such a thing as "the Blogosphere," (b) the Blogosphere is an institution, (c) this thing aspires to the status of Big Media and as such, should be treated as a child of said media, and/or (d) the test of the maturity of media is its participants' ability to critique themselves. I could go on, I suppose, but I'd rather let the article speak for itself:

Ask most bloggers why they decided to put thought to pixels in the first place, and they will tell you that they were -- and are -- quite disillusioned with the inability of certain Big Media outlets to correct and criticize other outlets for at times putting out patently false information, making fallacious arguments, or allowing ideological or institutional bias to color their reporting. Because Big Media has so often fallen asleep on the job when it comes to self-criticism, an outside institution like the Blogosphere is better suited to serve as a sort of ombudsman for Big Media. The overwhelming majority of blogs are not connected to any Big Media institutions, so it is easier for blogs to take on Big Media when it makes an error.

Where do we even start with this? "Most bloggers"? The fact that, in a description of blogs, the phrase "Big Media" appears more often than the thing being described? I'm not sure why "it is easier for blogs" (and why not "bloggers"?) because they're not connected to BM, etc. etc. Perhaps the worst problem going on here, though, is simply the assumption that blogs (or bloggers or the Blogosphere) represents some kind of univocal phenomenon with clear motivations, relationships, values, etc. To be fair, the article speaks of decentralization, but even then, it's in terms of the "inherent decentralization of the institution," which may be a rare 3-term oxymoron.

Treating "the Blogosphere" as a "grown-up" because it's "self-correcting" seems to me to miss out on a lot. It's not that there's any lack of self-correction, self-obsession, or narcissism on the part of Big Media; indeed, that's one of the biggest reasons that I for one am turned off by a lot of it. The predictable cycle of news, coverage, overcoverage, then self-critique of overcoverage is tiresome, tiresome, tiresome. Big Media directs our attention, and often in ways that we ourselves resist (and this despite their frequent, self-interested, and ultimately false claims that they're simply giving us what we want). If there is a Blogospherical institution, it's not because we all hope to become part of the Next Big Media--it's because blogs offer some of us a chance to tap into conversations, networks, issues at a level where we get to choose our own cycles, to direct our own attention.

April 18, 2004

The future, Conan?

Nico Macdonald writes today in the Register of BloggerCon II and "The future of Weblogging," an article that's worth a glance. A couple of quick notes.

I think Macdonald does a nice job of contextualizing weblogging in a longer history of technological development than is typically associated with it. And unlike some who take a critical approach to the phenomenon, he seems to understand its development:

It is one of those developments – like easy Internet access – that one knows is possible but couldn’t quite imagine happening. And then it slowly dawns on you that although you were only aware of small steps being taken, a milestone has been reached, and something significant has been achieved.

The problem with significance, of course, is that, once it happens, the pundits step in and start pronouncing--I don't exempt myself from that, btw. In Macdonald's case, it's to argue that

Irrespective of its provenance, it is certainly a wonderful thing that many more people are able and have chosen to be self-publishers. However, we need to encourage more people to be journalists. Journalism involves actually interviewing people, doing thorough background research on a subject, presenting a rounded and dispassionate overview, and reasoning through substantive arguments.

I've got some ambivalence here, because I think that the definition of journalism he's working with, and the ideals that it reflects, have been abandoned for the most part, at least in this country. I know that there are good, careful writers blogging, who actively and vocally aspire to the "new journalism" that is often the rationalization for the importance of weblogs. More power to 'em. And more power to Macdonald's vision for how weblogs might change the way that the journalistic establishment works--check the last section of the article for more on this.

To be fair to him, Macdonald sees blogging changing journalism at least as much as the other way around. But I'm still struck by the degree to which his argument seems to rest on top-down assumptions. Here are all these crazy people, spilling their innermost secrets, exposing themselves on-line, and enough of them do it that everyone's now taking notice. It's hard not to feel like he's suggesting that it's time for the experts to take over and make something useful out of weblogging.

There is much to celebrate in the development of Weblogging – but the discussion of it is often uncritical and un-ambitious. If Weblogging is the answer, as so many claim it is, what was the question? [...] I am not arguing that all technological developments must answer a known question. Rather that we shouldn’t invent questions where they were never posed. We should avoid the habit of the man with a hammer who “always sees nails”.

"The man with a hammer" is rapidly becoming an unbearable cliché to me, but I agree with what he says here. So why has it become so important to suggest that weblogs are the answer to the question of informing the populace, civic engagement, or indecent self-exposure? The problem that any claim about the "future of blogging" is going to have is that it will inevitably isolate a small portion of the phenomenon, treat it as the whole, and discount a huge number of people who have little interest in practicing journalism (or publishing their most private thoughts, or whatever), be it new or old. That's the nail that articles like this can't seem to stop hammering, the one whereby a distributed, diffuse phenomenon is reduced in scope, packaged up, and translated through a medium that (as Macdonald admits) operates according to an "out-dated model of knowledge development and discussion."

April 19, 2004

As is almost always the case

there's far more eloquence out there on the subject of blogging as/and/or/not journalism than I'm able to muster. Dave Winer writes,

I don't see why we have to say what blogs aren't and why you need to say it so many times.

and the comments that accompany that post (from the BloggerConII site) are worth working through. I also came across Jay Rosen's introduction to the session he did at BC2, where he writes

When there are many debunking the claim ["blogging is journalism or it's nothing"], and it's hard to find any bunkers out there, something is up with that claim and you have to drill in. In fact, "blogging only counts if it's journalism" is not being stated by anyone. But a great many bloggers think it's implied in subtler ways, (perhaps the journalism track at BloggerCon is one) and they react to this. Why?

Rosen's answer(s) are worth reading in their entirety. His conclusion ends up being something like "Blogging is not journalism. But if each imagined itself as the other, some good might come of it." I think that this may ultimately prove to be true of a number of other genres and media as well.

The answer to the immediate question, though, is that mainstream journalism is where the attention's come from, and more often than not, weblogs are considered in light of journalists' own trained incapacities. And so the "bunkers" are almost always implied rather than explicit. When more academics pick up on blogging, I suspect that we'll be having similar discussions about its relationship to more traditional forms of scholarship. There'll be the same sorts of comments that imply that blogging is a deficient form of writing when compared to the reasoned, careful writing demanded by our various fields' journals, and then there'll be a slew of debunkers who compare trackbacks to footnotes, parenthetical cites to links, etc etc, and argue that blogging is the "new scholarship."

I hope that conversation is much shorter. I suspect it will be, given that there are far fewer of us with a stake in doing both blogging and scholarship. One can only hope.

April 24, 2004


Liz Lawley's got a nice post from a couple of days ago, in response to full-time academics asking her "how/why I started blogging."

Nice, because it details a number of the reasons why academics (particularly in rhetoric/writing studies) should be both paying more attention to weblogs and trying them out. Among them is the feedback looping that weblogs allow--we tend to portray our scholarly activity (publications) as participation in a conversation, but that's only true if it's the slooooooooowest conversation ever imagined. Even if I only occasionally participate in the conversations that animate the blogosphere, paying attention to them has gradually eaten away at the time that I spend on listservs, and reading journals, for that matter. There's a lot of energy to weblogs, and Liz captures that sense well, I think.

The invisible college that she talks about, too, strikes me as one of the ways that weblogs might transform the academy for the better. Reminds me some of what Alex Halavais had to say a few weeks back re accidental and intentional communities. I've been struck more and more in the past year by how accidental I feel in the context of my own discipline sometimes--does that mean that I've been seeking out weblogs to block out that accidental feeling, or has seeking them out led to that feeling when I turn my focus back to my more immediate colleagues?

Hmm. I think the answer's yes.

May 3, 2004

Best Academic Weblog?

It's been a couple of days, and I've got a big mental list of things I've been meaning to yammer about, but that stuff will have to wait. Today, across several of the lists I'm subscribed to, the following appeared:

As a step toward recognizing the valuable contributions that weblogs are making to our field, Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy will be offering an award for Best Academic Weblog. The award will be given to the weblog which best meets the following criteria. The weblog must:
  • Be at least six months old from the date of submission for consideration.
  • Be updated regularly (an average of at least once per week).
  • Actively engage other academic weblogs; in other words, the blogger must be a public intellectual.
  • Deal with the kind of issues addressed in Kairos and other journals in rhetoric and composition studies.

Jenny is getting a host of comments regarding her suggestion that we develop counter-awards, which sounds to me like a much more entertaining prospect--be sure to track her comments from today...

I'm sure that some of this ground is being covered on at least one of my lists, but digest mode requires me to reserve any contribution for tomorrow. My initial reaction, though, is a mix. On the one hand, I'm glad to see that, at least in terms of computers and writing, there's acknowledgment that weblogs fill a different space in the media ecology--in other words, there's a difference between Kairos's "webtext" award and this new one, and appropriately so. And I think that it's valuable to start recognizing some of the quality blogs in our field. On the other, I'd dread having to (a) actually read all the nominees (a minimum of weekly posts and 6 months worth of activity = an awful lot of textual ground to cover just to get a sense of a single blog), and (b) coming up with defensible criteria for what makes a weblog worthy of recognition in this fashion. This is not a new issue, by any means--any attempt to evaluate weblogs has run up against it. On the third hand, though, I suppose that the conversations that will inevitably result will be valuable. If indeed we are going to start acknowledging the academic and/or scholarly value of weblogs, then these conversations need to take place (pace Jeff).

That's it for the moment--I'm sure I'll have more when the digests come rolling in...

May 4, 2004

The Brain-Dead of Night

I've spent the last 3 hours trying to figure out how to take an RSS feed from my second site, and place it on this site as a secondary "Recent Entries" kind of deal. Unfortunately, much of that time was spent tweaking and jiving with MT plugins. While I'm fairly certain that they represent the most stable solution to my problem, they were also the most opaque to me.

Just as I was about to give up, I stumbled upon Elise Bauer's site, which offers no less than four methods for so doing. I went with the third option, which involves some stylistic rigidity and third-party hosting. So far, ten minutes later, I have no complaints. We'll see, though. For the record, I was able to do a little extra tweaking to get the font I wanted and to hide their tag in favor of one embedded in my description.

Now, hopefully, this will prompt me to cycle my entries on that site with a little more frequency...

May 7, 2004

Redefining blogging

Gordon Gould has an interesting post over at the Social Software Weblog called "Micro-famous: Defining and redefining success in the blogosphere, and it's particularly interesting in light of recent discussions about the Kairos award for Best Academic Weblog. According to Gould,

As millions more bloggers come online, the challenge of garnering significant amounts of people’s attention (which converts to social capital and, therefore, personal fame) is going to grow exponentially more difficult.  Fame, as measured by services like Google, Popdex, Technorati, etc, is going to grow very far out of reach for nearly all bloggers. This will be very frustrating for many people unless expectations get reset.

Although I'd argue that A-lists are an inevitable feature of networks that grow beyond a certain point, Gould raises the interesting issue of how such lists condition our expectations for weblogs. I think of it as the Gates-Walton factor: I can remember sitting in a cafeteria in grad school, and overhearing some undergraduates talk about how "useless" their degrees were, because "Bill Gates and Sam Walton never graduated from college." Or call it the American Idol phenomenon--people measure themselves unrealistically against those they see at the top of the heap ("I'm a better writer than Kottke!!"), and then turn bitter or drop out altogether when those expectations aren't met. Put more concretely, according to Gould, "For the average blogger, fame-as-success model needs to become pride in publishing on what is effectively the new refrigerator door. It needs to move away from being stack-ranked against bOING bOING and become much, much more socially localized."

This is where it connects for me with the Kairos award--it's not about asserting that there are C&W (or even rhet-comp) bloggers whose work is as influential as Invisible Adjunct or Crooked Timber. It's about cultivating "the concept of micro-fame among one’s peers, friends, and families." According to Gould, "this is both a technical infrastructure change and a social redefinition." That doesn't mean that we all need to just blog for each other in our little corner of the world--just as there are those among us who publish work outside of our disciplinary network of journals or present at non-R/C conferences, there will be plenty of us who target a broader (or different) audience. But recognizing those who do good work strikes me as the kind of micro-fame that Gould's advocating...

May 9, 2004

slow weekend

It's the end of the semester 'round these parts, and that means a couple of things: a tall stack of final essays for me to get through, an influx of parents for graduation weekend, and the official start of "panic time" for the dissertators. I've been pretty scarce this weekend, doing a little leisure reading (starting Lessig and Norman, among other books) and taking it easy. This week I hope to start a somewhat different regimen, one that involves a renewed focus on my own writing (my non-blogged writing, anyway) and exercise. We'll see how that works out for me.

In other news, I've changed up my sidebar again, this time in response to what can only be described as Typepad envy. I've sat by and watched while Lori, Aly, and others were able to include album and book covers along their sidebars, and silently tried to take comfort in my various tweaks. No longer. Thanks to the generous folks over at All Consuming, I can now keep a running list, expose the top few items on it, and I get covers. The joy I feel about this is truly disproportionate to the actual good, I'm sure. Told you it was a slow weekend.

May 12, 2004

Clickety-click! go the mutant fingers of the future!

There's only so many times that local news affiliates can recycle that same damn cyberporn story. And so, in the interest of catching us up, Fox "News" Chicago presents "The Latest Cyber Craze," aka blogging.

Wendy McClure, among others, was interviewed for a Fox segment on blogging, and she provides running summary, commentary, and wit, complete with screen shots. It's a hoot. My fave moment is the apparent importance of distinguishing blogs from chat rooms (chat rooms?!):

NEWSCASTER VOICE-OVER CONT'D: "...without losing what's been written, like in a chat room." And here Matt Weiler has to patiently explain the difference between a weblog and a chat room.
No kidding, they asked both of us about that.
It's like getting a squirrel confused with a mailbox because they're both on the sidewalk.

May 13, 2004

The Glass is now half MT

There's no sense in piling on to all the criticism that Six Apart is coming under for their announcements today about MT3--to Mena Trott's credit, she's left an awful lot of disappointed, critical trackbacks intact, at least as far as I can tell.

What I want to do instead is to talk a little about the way that I use MT, and the way that I had hoped to use it. First, I should be clear that I have no objection to 6A trying to make MT a source of revenue. Second, there are indications on the MT site that their licensing structure will make some allowances for educational users, which may go some distance to answering my concerns. That being said, here's what I'd once hoped for MT:


Currently, I'm maintaining two sites, but I've experimented with using MT as my primary interface for course syllabi. Under the current license structure, if I want to continue using MT this way, I'll either have to pay or dump sites once a course is over. Nor can I allow students temporary accounts to post to a site. And honestly, I don't make the kind of money that would allow me to pay for the kind of license I'd need to do these things. (3 users/5 blogs I can afford, but this year, I had upwards of 35 students in each semester.) The pricing structure appears to me to do very little to understand different classes of authors--as far as I can tell, there'd be no price difference between my attempt to enable a semester's worth of access to 20 students for a single course blog (or even hosting 20 blogs for a semester for students) and a company that hosts permanent blogs for 20 users.

But that's relatively minor. I can switch to 3, I suppose, although it will severely limit my range of possible activities, enough so that I'll probably take up Wordpress or Textpattern for potential course blogs.


Ever since the U of Minnesota announced their UThink program, I've been thinking about how we (in my department) might do some of what that program does, albeit on a smaller scale. I've spoken with our tech people about installing MT on our server, putting together some site-specific documentation, and making it available to all faculty and grad students for personal and/or course use. Needless to say, our technology budget would not be sufficient to the task with MT3--there's no way to predict how many users there'd be, or how quickly people would take advantage of it, or even if they would. And given the initial sweep of their price scale, we'd be talking about thousands of dollars, which is prohibitive for us. We're a Mac unit on a PC campus, and even though we get great financial support from the university (fairly frequent upgrades, licenses, etc.), we don't have access to the root IT budget.

I'd also hoped to use MT in the fall to start up a department newsletter (or to restart it, I guess), again a many-to-one blog, but one that was ongoing rather than semesterly. We've talked about transferring our dept's homepage over into MT, or enabling an RSS feed on the homepage that would serve up newsletter items. But again, the cost would be prohibitive, unless we simply stick with MT2.6, and I don't guess that there'll be a whole lot of support or development for it down the road.

I'm going to go ahead and send 6A some feedback, and I hope that they take this to heart (if nothing else): the traditional model for educational licensing has been to drop 10-20% off of the price, but that's simply not going to do it here. With educational users, you're talking about very different patterns of usage, and a price scale that doesn't acknowledge those differences is going to simply drive off that market. It's conceivable, with even just a handful of power users, that the number of users and blogs in a writing program could reach into the thousands over a period of, say, 5 years. But the vast majority of those would be temporary and educational (i.e., non-commercial). Even the stable core (given grad students graduating and professors migrating) wouldn't necessarily be permanent. But you're talking about potentially wide fluctuations in the number of current users, and several potential levels of usage. Should a student required to post to a course blog once a week for 15 weeks cost as much as someone who's maintaining a daily site for years? Of course not. It's a lesson that Textpattern has already learned--I'll be waiting to see if 6A can say the same.

I must confess that I feel a little sad about this. MT has had a great deal to do with how I've learned about weblogs, and a disproportionate influence on how I think about them. The prospect of learning a new system and installation doesn't interest me a whole lot, but unless some major revisions occur, it doesn't look like MT3 is going to be my platform of choice. I haven't decided yet what I'm going to do, but I'll be really thinking about it this summer.

May 17, 2004

Double duty

Over the next month or so, I'm going to be contributing over at Datacloud. Johndan is taking a break from the net for a month. Kind of like Morgan Spurlock, but without the extra cholesterol, depression, and persistent life threatenaity. One would hope, anyway.

Anyhow, it got me to thinking about what I'm going to do differently (or rather, if I'm going to do anything differently). I visit Johndan's site regularly in part because there are some sites (bOING bOING, Design Observer) whose stories I access through the 'cloud. So does that mean that I should try and set my feeds a little wider, and do more reporting while I'm there? There are several of us guesting, so it's not like there won't be some of that already, I'm sure. I've already started referencing others' posts within the site, which is something I don't do here all that often, unless a topic stays with me for more than a day or two. I could ask him to set up a second account for me, under an alias, and start bitter arguments with myself...

The answer, I think, is this: I won't think about it nearly as much as I have just now. At least, not once I've figured out whether I should post twice as often (once here, once there), or divide my weblog mojo in two for the month.

Yes, that's a joke.

June 17, 2004


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.

June 18, 2004


I'm going to slide off on a tangent here. For me, the questions raised about blogs & communities and/or email v. RSS have gotten me to thinking about push & pull. And that, in turn, has connected for me with the discussion about citation that Alex, Seb, and David Brake have been holding.

When I think about push & pull, one of the first places that my brain travels to is this little section from Steven Johnson's first book, Interface Culture. Among a number of (I think) unappreciated ideas in that book, there's a spot where Steven tries to redescribe links as stylistic devices, using the example of Suck:

Suck's great rhetorical sleight of hand was this: whereas every other Web site conceived hypertext as a way of augmenting the reader experience, Suck saw it as an opportunity to withhold information, to keep the reader at bay (132).

Johnson labels the normal way of web linking (the click for additional info) as centrifugal, pushing readers to other sites, or other pages within the site. The links on Suck, on the other hand, encouraged readers to go to other pages but to return--other pages were used as a means of adding various dimensions to the page you happened to be reading. Compare this idea (of directional, or centripetal/centrifugal linking) with a lot of the other early hypertext theories and you'll find that for most writers, links are immaterial conduits. (There are some smart exceptions to this, of course.)

Okay. What does this have to do with importing academic citation index models into the blogosphere? Academic citation does a little bit of both push and pull. On the one hand, I select certain scholars and integrate their work into my own as a means of building my credibility, locating my work within a particular tradition, name-dropping, whatever. I pull their work into my own. But I also push my readers to these scholars--if I find them valuable enough to cite, then a reader who finds my work compelling may trace out my bibliographic network and read these other writers. Duh. Obvious enough.

Print bibliographies, however, blur these two different directions and various functions. In fact, they blur a lot of stuff. I've always thought it would be interesting to try and weight bibliographic entries according to how central they are to a given book, maybe just by messing with the alpha channel so that parenthetical mentions or footnotes are light grey while crucial texts get bold faced. But that's neither here nor there. For all of the imperfection of your run-of-the-mill bibliography, these different motives for citation all legitimately feed into the purpose of a citation index (unless they encounter widescale gaming, I suppose).

One of the wrenches that gets thrown into the mix with weblogs, though, is the fact that there is no generic "link." The links that I'm building into this entry are different from the links to the right in my blogroll, and those are different from the links when I visit Bloglines. Right now, I'm pushpulling with citation links, but I think of the blogroll as centrifugal and of Bloglines as centripetal. And that's to say nothing of comments or trackbacks. An "accurate" citation index would be able to weigh each of these appropriately, I suppose, but for me, one of the real advantages of that variety (contrasted with the flatness of the bibliography), is precisely that it doesn't lend itself to one-size-fits-all accounting. One example. More and more, I'm using BL as a filter for my roll, as a way of trying out sites and writers. If I stick with them, I move them to my roll, bc I understand that it's only there that they "show up." But I manage the roll by hand, so those changes tend to be rarer and slower.

And for me, those various weights attached to my links are important. They're not all equal for me. Mycology is more dynamic for the fact that I can decide how much pushing, pulling, and pushpulling to do. There is value in flattening out those categories, and treating them all simply as links--the interesting work that Alex is doing re Scholarati is evidence of that. And when Seb borrows Guédon's core-fringe metaphor to advocate for the margins, I can't argue. But I think David hits on it when he says, "Unfortunately, counting such links does not (usually) tell you anything about why the link was made (was it criticism? how significant is the linkee to the linker or vice versa?)"

The why of linking matters a heck of a lot less in academic citation, Erdos numbers nonwithstanding. But out here, as a variety of link types develop, the idea of an index is of limited usefulness, I suspect, and at worst, it would lead to even more gaming, and impose upon a dynamic, general economy of links the kind of scarcity that Guédon describes in relation to the ISI citation index.

June 21, 2004


Caught this over at Lilia's, but would have eventually arrived at it myself. Mark Bernstein's got a thoughtful post on how the presence of comments and trackbacks exacerbated and/or enflamed both the recent Six Apart price scheme and the implosion. He writes:

In both cases, a ringing chorus of abuse questioned the motives, the abilities, and even the sanity of the very people who had done the most to create weblogs. In both cases, cooler heads eventually prevailed -- but not, I expect, before lasting damage was done to the relationship between the blogosphere and the very people on whom it most depend.

And, in both cases, it seems to me, the real culprit were comments and trackbacks -- technologies which allowed and encouraged flaming.

On the one hand, I think he's right about this. It's one of the reasons I have a 24-hour rule in the courses I teach. When I turn papers back, I ask students to wait 24 hours before they come to speak with me about the grade that disappoints them. I ask them to collect their thoughts, and to try to make a compelling case for why they see a difference between their perception of an essay's value and my own. Doesn't always work, but it's the same principle at work here. Our initial response to something, particularly when that response is negative, is much more likely to be a "violent reaction." Mark speaks in favor of the time delay involved with fully blogged conversations (as opposed to those taking place in comments):

Weblog comments incite duels. Duels are bad for society. We should all forego comments and return to carefully blogging responses -- including responses we disagree with, but excluding responses we cannot tolerate.

I think there's a flip side to this as well, though, one that Mark doesn't fully account for. When I first saw the 6A price scheme, and considered how it would affect my ability to use MT for courses, I was certainly a little steamed. I found this info pretty early in the cycle, but there were already 30-40 trackbacks at Mena's site, almost all of them outraged and nasty. For me, that had the opposite effect, though. My own post, when I reread it, sounds a little disappointed, but I like to think that my tone is more moderate than it would otherwise have been. In fact, my post proved to be the rough draft for the email that I sent to 6A, which led to a month's worth of correspondence, which in turn played some small role in the much-revised, much-more-friendly educational pricing that they now offer.

And so I guess the flip side is this: just as there are those who like duels, who want to be confrontational, there are those of us who don't, who may pull back from our own extreme reactions when faced with other people who are even more extreme. Occasionally I get a kick out of reading the 100-comment threads on MetaFilter, for instance, but most of the time, I read them knowing that that's not the kind of discussion that really gets my critical juices flowing. Seeing others' reactions often prompts me to question my own, to ask myself if I really want to take a particular tone or if I want to give myself a 24-hour pause before responding.

It's easy for me to minimize the "lasting damage" that Mark cites, I know, because it didn't happen to me, but I'd like to hope that the damage isn't as lasting as Mark suggests. I'd like to think that most of us who were disappointed in 6A have taken the time to go back and look at their revised price scales, which seem pretty fair to me, and I'd like to think that part of the reason that there wasn't as much kerfuffle over the thing was that people listened to Dave Winer's audio explanation of it ahead of time. And I suppose I'd like to think that there's some value in the immediacy of comments, even as I recognize that it fans the flames more often than it should...

Update: and as demonstration of the fact that it's not just comments that produces bad behavior, I submit the following, from the belated CBS coverage of the shutdown:

Still, bloggers who relied on were furious, saying they should have been warned about the cutoff. Their anger spread to other bloggers, too, including Elisabeth Riba of Melrose, Mass., who called Winer "an egomaniacal blowhard with his head in the clouds. So much for his vision of blogtopia."

I don't know much about Winer, but I do know he's not universally loved. Even so, all I can say is wow. And that from someone, the story implies, who wasn't herself affected by the shutdown.

June 25, 2004

blog research

Liz has a really nice post over at M2M that is partly a call for more academic research into blogs and partly a state-of-the-art kind of review of the kinds of things that are being done currently or should be done soon.

I've got any number of responses, since this will be one of the core foci of the graduate course I'll be teaching next spring, but I'll try and contain myself a little bit. Heh. One of the crucial points that Liz makes is that there is a limit to the usefulness of conducting research on blogs without spending some time actually keeping one. (yes, those graduate students will...) This was one of the points of her MEA presentation/overview--the problems with studying blogger-as-other. She offers a tentative wishlist of five different research approaches or avenues of inquiry:

  1. study of the form itself
  2. "study of interactions between blogs and blog authors, and the clusters (or communities) that are forming in this context."
  3. ethnographic study of those kinds of clusters
  4. study of style/content
  5. "study of the use of weblogs as tools in specific organizational contexts"

This a solid list, but I'd add a couple of things. Liz says that we need definitional and descriptive work, but I guess I'd add inventional to those terms. As important as it is to find some common ground definitionally, I'd argue that it's equally important to leave that ground open for redefinition and redescription. Smarter folk than I have done the post-mortem on hypertext, but it's always struck me that one of the things that plagued it, over and over, was an obsession with defining it in a particular way. Those definitions built in impossible expectations that were simply never met. Liz talks about finding some "meaningful labels" that we might apply, such as voice, audience, and interactivity, and I think it's useful to describe these kinds of labels as practices rather than as forms.

I think, for example, of Lilia's recent discussion of the Herring et al. piece on genre, where she critiques them for reaching conclusions about blogs (they're not as interactive as touted) when those conclusions are based on an incomplete understanding of the various practices that make blogging interactive. And it's not a matter of simply widening the def'n of interactivity to include trackbacks, or feed subscriptions; as Lilia notes, it's a matter of changing definitions of interactivity. And I'd add, not jumping in to define interactivity too soon--giving it space to develop in various ways.

This clicks with something else that Liz mentioned at MEA, the tendency of blogs to change over time, and we might add bloggers here as well. As new tools emerge, we change our practices, develop new habits, and that will have some effect on what we're doing. As Liz rightly points out, our perceptions of audience change the way we approach writing to them. As do our personal circumstances, the way we budget our time, the level of privacy or transparency we choose, and any number of other factors.

I'm not disagreeing here, believe me. If there's an item that I'd add to the list, it's one that weaves throughout several of her points. I think that the kind of writing that many bloggers do differs quite a bit from the writing traditionally expected of academics. Not a huge claim, that. But it carries with it all sorts of implications: voice, audience, form, style, subject, risk, etc. Shouldn't be too surprising that a rhetoric professor would be interested in this element, no?

A final quick point, and that's that I really think it's important that these kinds of conversations take place amongst or across disciplines. For me, that was one of the real bonus elements of the MEA panel, and it's why I find myself coming back over and over to M2M. Okay. Now I'm just kissing ass. Time to go.

July 1, 2004


Time to tip the calendar, even though I don't have a great deal to talk about today. I'm deep into a chapter on invention, and I'll be looking for a couple of readers over the next few days. I'm hoping to fini it up quickly so I can turn full attention to a couple of other chapters that have been more intermittent.

One thing that I've noticed lately is that I need more than 24 hours in a day. I don't mean that I'm too busy--I mean it quite literally. I've found that I generally prefer about 8-9 hours of sleep, but also that my ideal up-time tends to be around 18 hours or so. This means, in the absence of scheduled events, that my bedtime drifts by about an hour or so every couple of days. Currently, I'm going to bed around 11 am, and waking up at about 7-8 pm. Next week, I expect I'll have drifted to early afternoon bedtimes. By midJuly, my schedule may very well be synced with the rest of the "normal" world.

My conclusion is simple. I need the earth to rotate about 8% more slowly, so as to create 26-hour days. That'd be perfect for me. I don't really feel like I need to do more in a day, but it would make it easier for me to match my internal rhythms to the external ones.

If someone could get on that for me, that'd be super.

July 23, 2004

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 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 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.

August 10, 2004

Staying out of the kitchen

A couple of quick thoughts, before I turn in, on the flurry of posts that have been happening over at Steven's blog (and elsewhere), that connect back to the discussion that was going on a few days back, re anonymous/pseudonymous blogging.

I don't claim to have the last word, certainly, but it seems to me that at least a couple of the comments raise what for me is an important distinction, one that I first started thinking about in response to AlexH's talk at MEA: the distinction between academic blogging and blogging by academics.

I should be clear that I don't find one necessarily better than the other, nor do I see them as mutually exclusive. I think I do a little of both, although I think of myself primarily as someone who does academic blogging. In part, that's because technology is my primary area, and that means I should be doing, not just studying. But I've also got a stake in building a rep and attaching it to my name, the same name that'll be the byline for an article or two (on blogging and/or networks) in the next couple of years. I also believe strongly that, eventually, blogging will come to be seen as a legitimate form of academic activity; but just like electronic publication, part of the momentum for this must come from recognizable scholars offering either explicit or implicit endorsement. Unlike profgrrrrl, I probably will offer selected portions of my blog for my tenure case in a few years, both as an example of technoscholarly innovation and as a way of pushing at the kinds of evidence allowed. I won't use it instead of more traditional evidence, but I currently plan to use it. (maybe not the ass-grabbing story, though.)

However, and this is a big however, not only is academic blogging a tiny, tiny subset of blogs in general (as AlexH has also noted), it's a subset of the number of academics who blog. And I think it's important to recognize that occupying that subset means that our (academic bloggers') goals are pretty narrowly defined. By no means does this mean that we've got all the answers, esp to the big life questions, but it does offer us the freedom of setting those issues aside. And it does so at the cost of the freedom of confronting those issues in one place where we can build a community to help us with them. My point is stupidly simple, I suppose. Different isn't worse, once you accept that the relationship between the terms "blogging" and "academic" can be configured in a range of ways.

Okay. One more. Steven asks: "When did the tables turn on this idea of 'not my real name' equals credibility and authenticity?" I've actually got a half-baked essay on this. Credibility isn't just one thing. We're used to seeing it work top-down: I know this writer is good, therefore I will read her article. But it works the other way, too: This article is good, therefore I will remember her name the next time I see it. It's not so much that pseudonyms themselves grant instant credibility, so much as it is that, when a body invests time and energy and care into developing a pseudonym, it functions with no less credibility and authenticity than does a "real" name. (Which is the point that Rana makes.)

To be fair, though, I should note that pseudonyms are basically anonymous, if an audience isn't party to that investment. The distinction there is not as hard and fast as I think some are assuming. The first time I read a blog, whether the person blogs under their "real" name or not, for me it's anonymous. I think that the problem comes when someone has invested in their anonym to turn it into a pseudonym, only to have it treated like an anonym (decontextualized, generalized, etc.), if that makes any sense. But I don't really think that the process of developing a pseudonym is markedly different from developing a nym. In both cases, credibility is something that ends up emerging over time.

And no, I don't really think I'm saying anything here that isn't raised in one form or another in the comments to the posts listed above. I'm just thinking through them for myself....

August 11, 2004

Will Blog for Cred


All right. I'm exhausted, but that hasn't stopped me from spending the last hour or two following out all of the threads. One in particular I want to reply to, since it's an indirect response to one of the issues I raised last night/morning. Rana has a really smart post that flips one of the assumptions behind much of this discussion, thinking instead about how those of us who post under our names might defend that practice. I defended what I called "academic blogging" under my own name for a couple of different reasons last night. Rana's reply I'll quote in full here:

Getting Credit for One's Blogging Here's another one, one that Stephen raises. I can see the general idea, but for me, this doesn't work all that well. (Again, your mileage may vary.) Let us say I choose to blog about my research, and hope to gain some scholarly cred by doing so. Well, first off, anything I post here is unlikely to be of the quality of my more formal works. It's a heck of a lot of work doing good historical work, and it takes time and space. So anything here would either be (a) incomplete, in which case I can't see it being any more beneficial to my career than sharing a rough draft with a colleague or two, or (b) good enough to publish, in which case why post it here? If it's good enough to survive a peer review process, I'd rather have it published. (Not to mention it would be 30+ pages long, plus endnotes -- not exactly blog-friendly.) In my (admittedly limited) experience, it seems to me that a journal publication would count for far more in any sort of professional assessment than something self-published on some personal site. This may change in the future, but at present, blogging about one's research and claiming it as publishing is about as effective as xeroxing a bunch of copies and passing them out at conferences and claiming that that constituted publishing.

I've got plenty to say, but first let me that I don't really disagree. I'm more interested in clarifying my remarks, and I don't think my position necessarily clashes with Rana's. Here's why:

(1)Big difference in disciplines. Like Steve, my field is rhetoric and my speciality is technology. Rana notes that the kind of painstaking work history requires doesn't really lend itself to blogging, and I understand that. But in my field, part of the work I must do (part of the work I was explicitly hired to do, in fact) is to stay abreast of communications technologies. For me, to write about blogging or to incorporate it into my courses without actually practicing it myself would be (I think) close to the equivalent of claiming to write an authoritative or definite historical work without consulting the available primary texts. Blogging does garner me credibility, perhaps not as an academic in general, but almost certainly as a member of my particular sub-field. (For a more eloquent take on the issue of the ethics of blog research, check Liz's post from a month or so ago at M2M.)

(2) I want to suggest that peer review works in more than one way. If I'm working out an idea that isn't ready for "prime time," my blog is a node in an informal peer network that may help me get it to that point. The difference here is between "anonymous" and "official" peer review, one that serves to certify a piece of writing at the end of the process, and the more informal review that can take place here. I've done this informal review with writers' groups, over email, and to a more limited extent, in the blogosphere, and each brings a set of advantages. Again, this may not be the case for historians (and others), where what counts as knowledge and evidence differs from what counts in my field.

(3) If I post the transcript of a talk, or an informal paper, here, and it gets picked up and distributed favorably (yes, wishful thinking abounds here), I can provide hard data about its value, both qualitative (comments, reviews) and quantitative (number of hits, trackbacks, etc.). On the cv that I submit for my tenure case, on the other hand, there is no difference between a conference paper delivered in front of an audience of 5 people or one that galvanizes a standing-room-only audience--for those reading the vita itself, the effects of those papers are completely invisible. I've had both kinds of experiences (the latter a result of much more famous co-presenters, to be sure), but neither shows up. If one of the assumptions behind quality scholarly work is that it makes an impact on the field, then I'd argue that this impact is at least as demonstrable in a blog as it is from being delivered at a conference. In other words, if the ideas are good ones, and I can track their effect to an extent, I think a case can be made that legitimate academic work is going on. (Again with the folk who say it better than I, and with more credibility. Mark Sargent, in this case.)

(4)Finally, one of the labor issues in my particular field is that those of us who identify as technology people are often called upon (or elect) to do work that ranges outside of the traditional boundaries policed by T&P committees. Like I said yesterday, I don't plan on substituting my blogging for those more traditional forms. Compared to published work, blogging isn't even close. But the argument I'd suggest (and again, it's one that may be more relevant to my field than to others') is that blogging doesn't aspire towards those standards. It's a different practice from publication, and no, it's not accepted as legitimate academic work. Yet. But the most telling example here is Invisible Adjunct. When we consider all of the praise and credibility she earned, from people who "knew" her solely through the practice of blogging, I don't think we can question that there are plenty of us out here who see scholarly value in an activity that doesn't show up yet in our tenure cases.

Yeah, that's all I got right now. It wouldn't surprise me to find that I end up clarifying even more tomorrow. As Rana notes at the very beginning, mileage may vary, and I hope that what I've offered is some clarification about why that's the case. My comments above are no less context-dependent than hers, and I think some of the disagreements over the past few have resulted from incomplete acknowledgement of what can be huge differences in context. I don't really know what constraints Rana operates under, and so what I'm writing here isn't meant as a direct refutation so much as it is an attempt to identify and clarify how "academic blogging" might operate for me given my constraints.

Finally: thanks, Rana, for a really thought-provoking post, one that challenged me to improve (one hopes) on my ideas from yesterday...

Grading up

Obviously, cgbvb is receiving an upgrade. Unfortunately, this means that many of my permalinks have been thrown off--I assume that my trackbacks are as well, although I haven't checked. Also, I think a couple of comments got nipped by the timing of my export and reimport.

Sorry about that. It's also going to take me a while to restore some of the 3rd party functionalities. I'll be trying to do most of it tonight, I suspect. I'll probably be futzing a bit with the comment system as well, so if you leave one, and it doesn't show immediately, that's why.


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 don’t 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 it’s 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; it’s 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 they’re missing the point, even if they’re 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.

August 13, 2004

Who's the birthday blog?

cake.jpgLeave it to me to pick the 13th of a month as the birthday for my blog, so that its first birthday lands on Friday the was exactly one year ago today that I started cgbvb.

As I vaguely recall, I'd spent the previous week or two futzing and tweaking both my intended design (which changed in less than a month) and our server to get the MT installation to work. One year, and almost 300 entries later, and I spent much of Wednesday getting the MT upgrade to work on our server, and am faced with a whole suite of tweaks to my design. Hmmm. On the plus side, the upgrade's working fine, and the feature upgrade at the end of the month will give me a new set of toys to play with. And I'm steadily working towards categorizing all of my past entries, so that I can start running the site with a little more structure.

When I started blogging last year, it was mainly because of Jennies. I fully expect that I'll never be let off the hook for expressing skepticism to Jenny B when she first told me about blogs ("You spend how much time each day reading those things??"), but some part of me apparently did listen. And if it hadn't been for Jenny E, back in her "from the blog" incarnation, I probably wouldn't have started one myself. Despite all of the talk lately about academic blogging, that's really only a small part of how doing this has shifted the ways I spend my attention. It really helped me rekindle my interest in writing, at a time when I was riding a pretty long wave of disinterest and (sometimes) depression. Best of all, it's helped me to connect (and in some cases, reconnect) with a whole host of smart people, and to rethink any number of ideas that I'd taken for granted for far too long.

Not bad. Not bad at all. Happy Birthday.

August 24, 2004


Apropos of very little, I came across the following over at Suw Charman's Strange Attractor: an extended meditation on the weblog as Tamagotchi. I must admit that, when I visited the Tamagotchi page linked above and saw the tag line ("You don't have one yet?"), I laughed out loud. Suw writes:

If you don’t feed them, they die. If you don’t clear up their crap - comment spam, for example - they die. They’re more fun when there are other bloggers to play with, just like the new IR connected Tamagotchi are allegedly more fun because your little virtual pet can now interact with other little virtual pets.

I couldn't help googling and found this post from Stewart Butterfield on NeoPets as well.

I must also admit that there's a certain part of me that wants to take this metaphor and spin it into something with which to respond to the call for papers on academic blogging that I just saw. I know I could just as easily polish up an entry from the whole Secret of Nym conversation, but I have the feeling that most of what they'll receive will be sooo serious.

September 2, 2004

The Great 2004 Server Meltdown

I'm not exactly sure what happened, but the long and short of it is that, for a couple of days, I haven't had access to our MT installation. No posting, no comments, no pings, nothing. And no small amount of panic on my part, which proved to be unfounded. Should be back to normal, and fully upgraded, shortly.

September 10, 2004

Server Meltdown, revisited

For some reason, the restoration process keeps reverting my blog files to their August state, pre-upgrade to MT3. This is not pleasing me one bit, but I think I've ruled out a number of possibilities. And so, if you visit this page and find that it's got my old page design, that's what's going on. Every time that the pages get "restored," I basically have to go in and rebuild the site through MT.

And I'm 99% sure that this is a meltdown/restore issue, rather than having anything to do with the fact that I've upgraded. The two events coincide, but the problems associated with each have been separate.

At least, I think they have.

September 11, 2004

Meltdown, the final chapter

I finally figured out the problem, and in fact, it was a little of both. When the server melted down, and our folders were restored, the backup was from a time before I upgraded to MT3.1. As a result, the MT2.6 installation that I had wiped from my account was back. I've kept a few of the older achived entries, so as not to 404 other peoples' links to them, and so, when the comment spammers hit, their comments were triggering 2.6 rebuilds of the entries and the indexes. And all of my 3.1 files that shared filenames were being overwritten as a result. I wasn't losing data, but my index pages and style sheets were being "restored" to their 2.6 versions.

The solution? Re-delete MT2.6, and go through the old archive pages, removing the comment forms. Now the spammers have to get through my active Blacklist installation, and even if they do, the rebuilds will come from 3.1.

(It makes sense to me, even if it's painfully obvious to some, and cryptic to others. I'm happy.)

September 14, 2004


Plenty of stuff out there that I've been thinking I might comment on, but for whatever reason, I just haven't worked up the energy to put a post together. I've been thinking over the past couple of days how strange it is to be on leave. This is the first regular season semester since 1994 that I haven't been teaching, haven't been attending committee meetings, etc. And the result is that my academic biorhythms are all messed up.

I know, I know, we should all be so lucky. But it's not as though I'm not still working. I'm a handful of pages away from finally having a full draft of the manuscript, and the last couple of weeks have been a real grind in that regard. I've really had to force myself to write every day. Part of it is that I'm still getting used to that kind of writing pace--my personal process is more like think for a couple of weeks, then write for a couple of intensive days, then think some more. Writing every day has been much more of a challenge, and not one I'm anxious to repeat for some time.

The ironic thing is that, although I've fallen off a bit lately, that's exactly what I do here. But when I look back through a couple of months' worth of posts, I see my preferred rhythms peeking through my everyday writing. I can only be so serious so often--I admire those who can be serious more often, but that's not me. I don't have the language to distinguish between the different kinds of writing that I do here--all I can say is that, every so often, I feel like I'm Writing, and in between those times, it's more of a lowercase w writing that I do.

All right. Time to stop staring at my navel and instead to start staring at my manuscript...

October 15, 2004

The joy of comments

I don't know that this qualifies as big news or anything, but Jenny turned comments back on over at Stupid Undergrounds. And she had a couple of interesting things to say in this regard:

It's funny how quickly your body--seriously, I'm talking at the level of physiology here--gets used to the network(ed) feedback and movement of blogs....Blogs are so amazing because they are sprouts of network energy....many thrive because they continue to move and circulate with comments, threads, readers.

She and I talked about this a little during my visit, about how, when someone wants to "start a blog," what they mean is that they want to achieve that "thriving" state immediately, without realizing that, in most cases, it takes a lot of time and investment (and comments, threads, and readers). In this, it's not unlike people who decide that they "need publications." In other words, a publication is the result of a similarly intensive investment of time, energy, understanding, etc., an investment that can't actually guarantee success. The investment itself has to be its own reward, and often, if it is, the other stuff will come.

The issue of comments. Jenny's post made me think about the role of comments on blogs, and if I had the time or inclination, here's a little project I might undertake. It would be interesting to look at a set of blogs, and to track the number of comments on different posts, and then look to see if they function in a feed-forward manner. That is, are certain topics likely to receive more comments, and if so, do the bloggers return to those topics with more frequency? The common sense answer is "of course," but I suspect that it also is affected by each blogger's personal ratio of "self/other" writing, a ratio that itself can be affected by comments. As convoluted as this may sound, it might be a way of articulating that self/other ratio, or describing the evolution of a particular blog, based on more than just the anecdotal or intuitive perceptions of its author.

Hmm. That'd be a big project, and I'm pretty sure that it would only work for blogs of a certain size, but it might also apply to the teaching of writing in the sense that it could supply some general guidelines for how teachers might respond to student blogs in ways that would be most productive--more formative than normative, perhaps. The more I'm writing about this, the more interesting it sounds to me. Not that I've really got the time to do something like it right now, but still.

October 17, 2004

Stand back?

Not a big change by any means, but it seems like I learn a little more about MT every time I sneak a peak under the hood. I was saying in the comments to the last entry how much I appreciate the "recent comments" feature on Typepad and elsewhere because it gives me as a reader some idea of where comments are taking place, and without me having to scroll through entries.

At the same time, I do like the single sidebar, even though I'll probably move to two as the right side of cgbvb fills up a little more. So my compromise between "recent comments" and a smaller sidebar? I've added the "CommentCount" tag to my Recent Entries category over yonder. It gives regular visitors some sense of where the action is comment-wise, and it does so without taking up much sidebar real estate.

The one thing that I did regret somewhat about making the move to MT3 was that all of my little code and design tweaks had to be redone, and I've been slow to do so. But this is a new one, and I think it's one of those small changes that will only affect a few readers, but add up over time into a little extra convenience...

November 16, 2004

appearing much wiser

You take a couple of days off from the blog, y'know, cuz you just don't feel like writing, and pretty soon, the threshold starts to climb, the threshold between blogging and not-blogging, and you start to read other things in your aggregator, thinking that, hey, you could blog about that, but then the self-doubt comes, and you think, yeah, but is that really important enough to blog about, I mean, if it were, you could have blogged about it yesterday or the day before, but didn't, and anyway, you're not sure that you really know enough to add anything beyond another damn link, and really, where's the value in that, I mean, there's got to be a point to your writing beyond just dropping links, right, and then threshold really starts to loom, and pretty soon, it almost gets ridiculous, it gets to the point where you're just looking for any old thing to break the streak, a streak that you really didn't intend to start in the first place, you were just taking a day or two off, nothing mysterious about it, or at least you don't think so, but what if you were sending yourself subconscious messages about how much time the blog's taking up, and what if you just bowed to the forces of blogspace, and let your aggregator climb over 100 entries once in a while without panicking about it, I mean, really, what's the big deal about that, cuz it's not like you haven't clipped like 20 entries already, intending to do something with each and every one of them, but letting them fade into the background instead, and now, blogging them or sending them feels like sending out christmas cards in February, which as we know, is not exactly the height of manners, but then again, it's not as though blogging should have to be about manners, I mean, it's your space, with which you should do as you please, even if it means breaking the looming threshold of blog silence with windy, run-on sentences, and an "obscure Chinese proverb" from McSweeney's:

He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever and yet appears much wiser than he who asked five minutes ago.

that is all.

November 22, 2004

academic weblog awards

Alex notes the absence of a "scholarly" category in/for the 2004 Weblog Awards, and sets about gathering nominations anyway. I'm a little embarrassed, given that I was writing about this kind of micro-fame a few months back, that it took me an additional, updated request from Alex to prompt me to mention it here.

So get over there and get nominating. Alex put together the single most comprehensive list of scholars who blog, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding sites to nominate...

[Update: Thanks to James Farmer, this idea just became a lot more official. Check out the Edublog Award page...]

December 4, 2004

State of the Blogora Address

I don't know that I ever made the conscious decision to restrict my blogroll to the "one name, one blog" kind of list that it's turned out to be lately. Whatever the reason, it's kept me from throwing down a link to the Blogora, a cooperative effort from the Rhetoric Society of America, the CWRL at Texas, and Jim Aune, Diane Davis, and Rosa Eberly, an effort that's been taking place for the last month or so.

Anyhow, in honor of Webster's inclusion of "blog" in their next iteration (and in grand meta fashion, a decision which has been blogshausted over the last week), Rosa offers some "state of the Blogora" questions and reflections:

What's "a public blogspace for and about rhetoric and rhetoricians" supposed to be? What's it supposed to DO? How is and could The Blogora be different from other blogs? And how might The Blogora (need to) be the same?

For one, and despite its limitations, The Blogora is more collaborative and public than most blogs. At least that was our intent, despite the structural limitations of the best blogging software we could find.

I have my own feelings about the appropriateness of top-down sorts of designs in blogspace, but I'll let them fade while I respond to the second para here. My gut response to these claims is, of course, yes and no. (and yes, nes and yo.) The idea that any blog is more public than another strikes me as a category mistake, but Rosa goes on to suggest that

Many are autobiographical. Until recently, most blogs involved "expressive" and "personal" rather than "argumentative" or "deliberative" and "public" topoi and tropoi.

and while I think that this is dubious at best, I understand the point she's making. If I'm allowed to talk about the early days of blogging (despite not having been there myself), I'd argue that regularly updated lists of links are themselves implicit arguments (this has value), deliberative (you should visit), and public (this is worth sharing beyond myself). Check out Jill on links and power if you don't believe me, or reflect for a few minutes on just why comment/ping spammers are so damn persistent. This type of argument has more to do with network literacy, though, and ultimately combines the expressive and argumentative in ways that we're still coming to grips with.

Network literacy raises questions about collaboration as well, our model for which tends to be multiple authors and single texts. So is a weblog collaborative if there's more than one person posting there? Again, yes and no. Yes in the obvious ways, but "collaboration" in blogspace is more than that. For instance, I cannot send a trackback ping to Rosa's entry, much as I'd like to. I don't claim to have collaborated with her on the entry, but trackbacks enable a collaboration that's distributive; they encourage a conversational engagement that I take to be one of the most productive forms of collaboration, similar in kind perhaps to citation, but of a far more immediate degree. Or, to take another example, my blogroll is not perhaps a direct act of collaboration, but it provides a symptom of the influences on my own blogging, and in a way that's more immediate to me than saying I'm influenced by the work of Barthes or Burke. Implicitly or explicitly, these are the people with whom I collaborate in the production of knowledge (whether they like it or not--heh.). I was going to say that collaboration online is more than production or invention, that it's also distribution and circulation, but I'd tweak that slightly, saying instead that circulation becomes a form of production in blogspace.

I don't have any answers for the questions that Rosa asked, although I suppose that there are some implicit answers buried here, and probably not too far from the surface. One such is that there are some subtle ways that I'd re-ask those questions--at the least, I'd interrogate the questions a little bit more. To be fair, that's one of the things that I think Rosa is calling for--I don't mean to sound as critical here as I probably do. That is all.

December 9, 2004

He blog, she blog?

I don't really have the energy to link and trackback this discussion to the degree it deserves, but there's been a discussion lately about whether or to what degree we might speak of gender differences in blogging. The best site for this is probably profgrrrrl's, who engages in a bit of impromptu surveying as a way of getting at this question, but I came into the discussion via Chuck and a pair of posts from George, the former of which has more links for your perusal. Much of this is in response to the following hypothesis from profgrrrrl:

My hunch (and I could be very very wrong about this) is that women just tend to feel freer expressing themselves about personal stuff (albeit pseudonymously) than men do. And feel the need to do so more. Which is not at all to say that men might not benefit from the activity, but that it might not come as easily to them?

My reaction to this idea parallels George's, I think, but isn't quite as visceral as his. Part of that, I suspect, comes from the fact that, for as long as I've been teaching things like argumentative theory, I've been aware of the fact that much of my personal style is "female," at least in the ways that folk like Deborah Tannen categorize it (or the old Gender Genie, for that matter). And yet, I doubt that anyone would mistake cgbvb for a more personal or intimate weblog like the ones that many of profgrrrrl's respondents cite as their preference.

I'd argue that, in addition to an incredibly small, self-conscious sample size, one of the troubles with drawing broad conclusions about gender and academic blogs is that it rips them out of their various individual contexts. This is a mecology thing for me--I didn't simply decide to keep a weblog out of the blue. That decision, for me, occurred in a professional context, and I continue to see my weblog as a space where I can do a kind of writing that is academic yet more informal and in-process than I could otherwise. The question for me was, what can I do in this space that I can't already do somewhere else or that might make more sense for me to do here. And so, I spend more time on my blog and less time on listservs, less time watching or reading news offline, and a little less time with leisure reading. That's the place that it occupies in my life--expression of more personal thoughts, for me, occurs elsewhere, as I've always been better talking those kinds of things through than I am at writing about them.

Does gender play a role in issues of technology adoption? Of course. Does the context of adoption go on to affect the way that people use a given technology? Again, I'm sure that it does. But I'm slower to move to conclusions about gendered blogging, in part because I think those conclusions are often self-fulfilling prophecies (the patterns/conclusions almost inevitably predate the actual inquiry, and tend to color it) and in part because stereotypes like these can have a chilling effect on the very people who might work against them. I was chatting with Madeline today about these ideas, and was struck by how conscious she was of the "kind of blogger" she was. My feeling was that it's hard enough to write every day without imposing all sorts of standards upon what you write. It's not as though anyone in the discussion is approaching it with the idea of "developing gendered blog guidelines," but observations about gendered behavior have a nasty habit of translating pretty quickly into norms. I may very well be the archetypal academic male blogger for all I know, but honestly, I don't really want to know that. I am indeed male, and that does affect the choices I make when I blog, but these facts surely don't exhaust the rationale behind my choices.

On a related note, Madeline informed me that the reason I can't blog pseudonymously is that I'd be completely unable to write about anything related to my scholarship. Granted, she's known me for like 6 years or so now, but according to her, even my "public," "professional," "scholarly," "academic" self is shot through and through with recognizable personality. And that's another reason why I'm hesitant to draw conclusions--it's hard not to think that any definition of personal or intimate is going to prefigure the answers to the questions grounded in that definition. Even something as seemingly bureaucratese as ending my posts with "that is all," for me, is a wink to Lori, Alyson, and Dylan--what seems pretty impersonal to one audience is a marker of intimacy to another. I realize that I'm collapsing here a difference between subject and style with reference to the "personal," but I feel pretty secure in the fact that I'm not the only one...

Yeah. That's all.

(Oh, and yes, you should see me when I do have "the energy to link and trackback." Heh.)

December 22, 2004

Various points along the "welcome" spectrum

As I continue to update my blogroll, I humbly call your alphabetically ordered attention to

  • Susan Adams, one of our students who's in the midst of her dissertation
  • Chris Anderson, whose Wired article on the long tail is fast becoming (a) required reading for anyone interested in network studies (including my class next semester, and (b) a book
  • Tyra O'Bryan, who's in her 2nd year at SU, and will be auditing my course this spring
  • Amy Robillard, who finished up her diss this past summer and is in her first year as a tenure-track prof at Illinois State.
  • Jen Wingard, also a 2nd year student at SU, also taking my course in the spring.

It's interesting to note that blogging in the CCR program now has moved definitely from "a few" to "some," and with both Becky and myself using them in our spring graduate courses, it stands to become "many," at least for a little while. It'll be even more interesting, I suspect, to see if (a) it lasts, and (b) what lasting effects (if any) they will have in the program. While I'm excited about my course, obviously, I'm also pretty jazzed that Becky's course, which is not explicitly about technology, will be doing some tech as well. Ultimately, that's one of the keys to actually integrating this kind of work--it's not about the program's "tech person" using tech, but rather everyone else...

That is all.

March 11, 2005


I don't have a lot to say about this, but yesterday, I took a walk across campus to the SU Law School where, at the invitation of Wendy Scott, I took part in a workshop for some of the Law Faculty introducing them to blogging.

I spoke a little bit about making the decision to use blogs in a course, and then I showed them how I'm using Bloglines and in my course. And I answered questions. We were pressed a bit for time, so I didn't say as much as I could have, but I have to admit that it was nice to do a little blogvangelism--I was originally scheduled to do a university-wide workshop at the end of the month, but it looks like that'll be postponed until next semester...

March 28, 2005

Taming my sidebar

Let it never be said that I can't be shamed into spending precious hours tweaking the code for my site. In addition to finally committing myself to a set of categories and adding them to the sidebar, I've added a toggle feature for several of those sidebar elements, so that I can make my page a little more manageable.

And over the next week or two, I'll probably add back some of the features I've dropped -- the media I'm currently consuming, a second blogroll for sites as opposed to people, etc. Now if I could just develop a toggle feature on my to-do lists, one that would make large sections of said lists disappear...

April 22, 2005

This episode is brought to you by the letter D

Don't think that it's escaped my notice that lots of folks lately seem to be switching over to WordPress to manage their blogs. I've managed the spam pretty easily through a combination of Blacklist and MT-Close, and I've been thinking about adding a keystroke captcha as well, or as a substitute. Bottom line, though, is that I think it's just a matter of stalling the inevitable--maybe someone who knows more about than I can tell me if it's just that WP has flown under the radar of the sp4mm3rs thus far, or if there's something genuinely better about it? If the former, then the very quality that is drawing people will ultimately draw the fungus too.

Dissertations: I would be remiss if I didn't send a shout towards Mary Queen, who successfully Defended her Dissertation toDay. CongraDulations, Mary!

Dat's gonna get olD fast.

I have other things I could report: I haven't been Dreaming much lately, I got to see former colleague Dana at the Defense, I've been a little Depressed, the site will soon undergo a reDesign, etc., but perhaps I'll just close with the observation that D is 500 in Roman numerals. Which should be explanation enough for all you clever people.

That's all.

April 25, 2005


I'd like to say that my redesign was inspired by the fact that I saw Kung Fu Hustle last night (review to come), but the fact of the matter was that I was just feeling like it was time for a change. And I had this new graphic in mind for some time. Expect various tweaks over the course of the week as I get the colors and layout to where I want it...

June 27, 2005

Speaking of statistics

The production crew here at cgbvb has asked me to let you all know that we're rapidly approaching another Magical Milestone, this time related to the number of comments on this here weblog.

Let it never be said of me that I was above the occasional, well-placed bribe. Let's just say that comments are currently somewhere in the 990's, and for the 1000th comment (or rather, for the author of the 1000th comment), I offer two--count them, two!!--prizes: first, a random gift selected from your Amazon wishlist (within reason, of course); and second, a blog entry all about YOU. (The occasion of Lori's 500th post reminded me how much fun I had writing fake posts over at Aly's site, and what can I say? I've got a hankering.)

To be fair, I should probably restrict this contest to people who have contributed at least one missive to the 990-something comments that have come before, but we'll see.

June 28, 2005

And the winner might be...

It might be Jeff, depending on whether or not he actually has an Amazon wish list. A search of Amazon reveals no fewer than 25 "Jeff Rice" wish lists, but while one or two suggest themselves as possibilities, I got tired of searching through them. More to the point, I guess, none of them listed Detroit or Michigan in their addresses. There was one, with a single item on it, that seemed a possibility, but there was no mailing address and the item was out of stock.

So, Jeff will get the post for sure, sometime in the next week or so, but the Amazon prize may have to drift up or down the list, depending...

Oh, and no fair substituting someone else's wishlist for one's own, especially if that list was created so long ago that it lists Arlington, Texas as a mailing address. I'm just saying...

Update: Jeff's wish list has been created, and visited. The 1000th Comment Prize should reach Jeff in a few days...

July 8, 2005

Bring me the head of Ivan Tribble!

Ok. I lied. Just when I thought I could pull away from the blogosphere for a couple of days, get ready for my trip, etc., it keeps pulling me back in. Curse you, blogosphere, and your wily ways!

Ok. I exaggerated, because it's not really fair to describe the Chronicle as part of the blogosphere even though, as I think I've observed before, I think they've taken a tabloid turn in their content in an attempt to engage the blogosphere. Exhibit next: "Bloggers Need Not Apply" by Ivan "not my real name, but I have watched plenty of Star Trek" Tribble. (By the way, it's going to be almost impossible for me to avoid the phrase "the trouble with Tribble" as I write this post.)

So anyway, Ivan the Tribble has taken the trouble to disabuse the millions of us who blog of the notion that applying for a job is about standing out, presenting one's self as a human being, or representing one's self outside of the highly conventionalized genres of the application dossier:

We all have quirks. In a traditional interview process, we try our best to stifle them, or keep them below the threshold of annoyance and distraction. The search committee is composed of humans, who know that the applicants are humans, too, who have those things to hide. It's in your interest, as an applicant, for them to stay hidden, not laid out in exquisite detail for all the world to read.

Wow. So that's what it means to be human and what it means to work in academia: trying one's hardest to become, as Jeff puts it, YABC (Yet Another Boring Colleague). I for one welcome our new robot overlords.

Jeff has put a number of my objections pretty well, so I'll just stew for the most part. But I would like to note, just in case there's someone out there who recognizes themselves in Tribble's account, that this faux-bemused account of a job search admits to what are probably borderline ethical violations. Tribble is of course careful to say that the blog was "one of many" factors that killed each applicant's chances, but the fact that they considered things like hobbies and the possibility of airing dirty laundry as factors is probably actionable. Disqualifying a candidate based on something that someone else wrote on their blog? Double wow.

Ok. That's all. Really.

August 3, 2005

What everyone should know about...

I've seen a couple of links recently to the nonist "public service pamphlet" on blog depression, "the more insidious, prolonged strain of dissatisfaction which stays with a blogger, right below the surface, throughout a blog’s lifetime." Definitely worth a read, if only for the fact that I suspect we all go through this kind of stuff on a regular basis.

For a more optimistic take, though, esp for those of us in academia, I recommend Alex's recent post on scholarly blogging:

So, The Scientist writes up a story that says “This has the potential to change the world, why aren’t more people doing it?� and the answer is contained right there in the question. This has the potential to change the world, and not everybody loves world-changing. Those who do are probably already blogging.

There's not a lot that I have to add to Alex's account, because his three reasons are pretty darn close to my own. I've thought a little recently about how I feel less inclined to evangelize about blogs. One possible reason for this is that I think I feel pretty secure in how blogging has fit into my own writing ecology. It doesn't make sense to me anymore not to do it, but I'm not so far gone that I can't see how it might not be for everyone. But I say that guardedly, because I still believe that the habits I've developed here are crucial for success as an academic writer. I still believe that there's a shift in the kind of writing that we do in graduate school, a shift from the event-based model of the seminar paper to the process-based model of the dissertation, and that blogging has helped me continue to develop my skills at the latter kind of writing.

This is not meant to be a blanket claim about how bloggers write better dissertations, books, or even articles, but it's probably at least a hypothesis. When I'm not writing here, it's because I'm writing emails or working on a manuscript, but the thing that blogging has helped me to accomplish is that writing is something I do every day. The event model encourages us to decide whether to write (until the "night before" arrives, at least), while blogging has helped me instead to think about what to write. And as a writing teacher and scholar, it makes a tremendous amount of sense to me that writing itself is no longer a question, but a given.

I've accrued all sorts of benefits as a result--new friends, new colleagues, better contact with people old and new, new ways to think about things, advice, sympathy, accountability, visibility, etc.--but all that is gravy. It makes me a better writer, and that's good enough for me.

Okay, so maybe I'm not quite past the point of evangelism...

August 13, 2005

All groaned up, or, My blog has two mommies

It's important to understand that, for most of my life, it never ever ever occurred to me to keep a journal or a diary. When I was assigned journals for courses, or even weekly reading notes, I always did them all at the last minute. And like so many of my students, I had talked myself into believing that I was really skilled at writing at the last minute without ever having tried anything else, much less something as radical as writing every day.

And so, you'll forgive my utter astonishment at the fact that cgbvb is two years old today. That's right--welcome to my blogiversary.

The festivities include a shout out to the Jennies:

Jenny Bay, when I visited her last week, made sure to remind me how much shit I gave her when she first told me that she was spending time each day reading blogs. Blogs?! Who has time to read blogs when there are articles to write, classes to teach, meetings to attend, books to read, etc.?! Umm, yeah. Apparently, I do. And as she tried to tell me, I think, what I learned was that keeping a blog didn't take away from those other activities so much as it reorganized them and in some cases made me more efficient (and certainly more accountable).

If JennyB laid the mental groundwork for the eventual emergence of the site, Jenny Edbauer was my spark. She's on the 3rd iteration of her own space since I started, but it was reading Jenny from the Blog on a daily basis that convinced me to do the techwork necessary to get myself up and going.

So, thanks, Jennies.

As my blogiversary approached, I went back and cringed at some of the nonsense I wrote during my first couple of months, but I thought I'd reprint one of my favorite entries from those halcyon days of bloggerly innocence and joie de vivre:


From Wave Magazine via MeFi, I am happy to endorse one of the funniest top ten lists I've come across in a while: Decade of Rad: The 10 Eightiest Movies. Here's the review of The Toughest Man in the World (1984), starring Mr. T:

It�'s as if this movie sprang directly from what is probably the awesomest place ever: Mr. T�'s mind. Bruise Brubaker, played by Mr. T, is a bouncer who spends his spare time helping troubled kids at the youth center. As if I need to tell you, the city is threatening to close it down. Mr. T and the kids try a fund-raising carnival, but through a miracle of unexpected plot twists, it doesn�t work. He then goes to plan B: training to become the Toughest Man in the World while listening to rap music also performed by Mr. T. That sound you just heard was probably you having an orgasm. Oh, T�'s plan works by the way. He totally becomes the Toughest Man in the World.

The other sound you just heard was me cracking up. And lest you think I spoil your fun, TMITW is only the #4 eightiest movie. There's plenty more fun to go around.

I'll see if I can't throw down something a little more serious tonight, but in the meantime, enjoy the list, and see if you lay claim to being eightier than I am.

The link is still live, and the orgasm line still makes me laugh, two years later.

September 11, 2005

Poetics of the Everyday

Next time someone asks me why I blog or how in the world I have time to post regularly given all of the other things hanging over my head, this is the link I'll give them (to Kathleen):

No one attempting to be a pianist, whether professionally or for personal enjoyment, would assume that practicing once a month, fourteen hours a day, for three days in a row, would be better than practicing an hour a day, every day, rain or shine. Why is it that so many of us think of writing that way, as something that must be put off until there are huge blocks of time available?

The answer is a simple one. Pianists don't spend 3-4 months listening to performances by other pianists, only to find themselves booked for their own performance a week or so later. At least I hope they don't.

One of the things that continues to appeal to me about blogspace is exactly what Kathleen observes:

When I discipline myself to post something every day, or as close to it as I can, I find myself watching the world around me slightly differently, and treating my thoughts slightly differently, as though any occurrence or any idea might be capable of blossoming and bearing fruit. When I’m not posting, nothing seems worth writing about, just a bunch of dried-up seeds that’ll eventually blow away or be eaten by the birds.

And "discipline" is exactly the write rite right word here. The truth of the matter is that we are disciplined to do exactly the wrong thing when it comes to our own writing, and more often than not, I suspect that we replicate it. It's a particularly acute failure for those of us who study writing, because our disciplinary history typically casts as villain the "current-traditional" assumption that one learns to write by reading those who have written. And yet, how much better are we at teaching graduate students to do the kinds of writing they'll need when they leave our programs?

Not much. I've taken to giving an essay to my students, Paul Matsuda's "Coming to Voice: Publishing as a Graduate Student," from Casanave and Vandrick's Writing for Scholarly Publication (Amazon). What's important about the essay is that it narrates a process that's not about acquiring disciplinary content so much as it is learning about the conversations, about seeing publication as an ongoing process:

My goal was no longer just to publish but to respond to the conflicts, gaps, and discrepancies I perceived in the professional literature by contributing my perspective, which is informed by my inquiry--be it philosophical, historical, or empirical. I was no longer simply trying to express my ideas or to present the data I had collected by trying to engage in conversations with people in the field through my writing (49).

Remove the references to the specific disciplinary context, and what you're left with is a pretty sound description of the way that lots of people approach keeping a weblog. We also respond to the insights and wisdom we perceive--the one thing I'd change about that passage is the notion that writing only serves to address a deficiency, but then again, that's another of the ways that academia disciplines us to think about writing.

Maybe one of the things that disturbed me the most about the Tribble flap was that there was no room in his "analysis" for an awareness of the contribution that blogs might make to a person's development as a writer. For all of our consciousness about blogs, both in and out of academia, that's something that still goes largely unremarked. It shouldn't take us until well into our careers as writers to unlearn the implicit assumptions that we take with us from graduate school, and if weblogs can help in that process, more power to 'em.

That is far more than I'd originally intended, and thus, is all.

September 16, 2005

The wheels they keep on turnin

Coupla days ago, GZombie included me in a synthesis post collecting up some of us who have been talking about writing lately, and I've been meaning, since then, to take a crack at the questions with which he closes that post. To wit,

There are a few gaps between academic blogging and academic publishing, though:
  1. The length of your average blog entry is much, much shorter than an article or a book chapter. So how does one translate blogging the research into writing an article or chapter?
  2. Second, the pace of feedback in academic publishing is practically glacial. So how do you ignore the addictive qualities of instant feedback for the delayed gratification of print publication?
  3. Third, blogging does not involve much, if any, revision. Most of my non-blog writing lately is revision and expansion of things I've already written (though much of that expansion is brand! new! stuff!). So how do you simultaneously embrace the discipline of daily writing and the necessity of constant editing and revision?
Dear reader, I welcome--nay, I long for--your thoughts on these questions.

From the Department of Unintended Irony comes the excuse that part of why it's taken me a couple of days to respond is that I've been, yes, working on some writing that will make its way to a journal or book near you. And I suppose that this fact suggests the very gap that George is talking about. Nevertheless...

1. One of my answers to the first question is that I've never been very good at the straight article or chapter. I don't want to exoticize the writing that I do, because I manage just fine at generating the 20-25 page doohickey. But as an example, I'm just about at the point of sending an essay out for review. I've posted a draft of that essay here before, but I've also blogged a number of its constituents--the essay makes use of two different conference presentations, a couple of extended blog entries, and elaborates on some of the themes that I've blogged here and in my graduate course last spring.

A little more background on this: more than three years ago, I gave a conference paper at CCCC that argued that there was a tendency in our field to use that conference's program as a map of the discipline, and I was interested in articulating that argument (and ultimately refuting it). I was operating more on hunch than anything else, though, and in some ways that paper was looking for a theory that I didn't really find until I started reading network studies work almost two years later. Had I been blogging at the time (I didn't start until about 6 months later), I almost certainly would have been posting about the paper (as I did with my CCCC presentation this past year).

So maybe my answer is that the blog is a place where I can loosely join the small pieces, and the articles and chapters that I write are where they get joined more tightly and seamlessly. That's how it feels to me, certainly, with the essay I'm working on at the moment. Without the blog, though, I'd be a lot less conscious of that essay's genesis and the way that I've put together various smaller texts to arrive where I am right now. And in turn, I'd feel a lot less secure in advising the graduate students in my program about how to work.

2. Re feedback cycles, this is an easy one. Other than acceptance letters (which are almost always accompanied by revision suggestions), I don't expect feedback on the things I publish. That doesn't sound quite right--what I mean to say is that the publication process is not where I expect feedback to come from. The feedback I do get is from my friends who are commenting and suggesting (and sometimes praising) during the process, and so in that sense, it's a lot like blogging anyway.

If anything, blogging has made me more comfortable with putting draft materials out there to my network. The feedback that I get on this site is addicting in some ways, and so when I'm doing more "academic" work, I'm more likely to solicit response in-process as a way of simulating that bloggish feedback. Once upon a time, I wouldn't let people see my writing until I believed that it was "finished," an attitude that blogging has by-and-large cured me of. As a result, I get a lot more help while I'm writing (instead of after I've written) and the end-products are stronger, I think.

3. The third question is a little more difficult for me, because writing and revision are so thoroughly intertwined for me. Let me put it this way: when I came across Kathleen's entry last week, it resonated with my own experience, particularly the way that writing on a daily basis makes it easier for me to find things to write about. Not that I won't do it, but I don't like just doing "ditto" posts--usually my take is subtly different, or I've got something to add. And so in some ways, I revised her entry into something that I would say.

Not that her entry needed revision. But revision isn't just the correction of error or lack--sometimes it's just the ability to imagine saying something differently, testing the alternatives, whatever. And so, I find that a fair amount of the blogging that I do is indeed revision. What I am doing here but revising George's questions in a way that matches them up either to my own experiences or hopes?

This feels like a little bit of a stretch to me, but I'm going to stand by it, I think. Often enough, I open up my browser not with the idea of having something original to say, but with the intention of hitting Bloglines and posting about something that catches my eye there. My scholarly process is not all that different in some ways. I've never been good at being exhaustive in my coverage, or working really hard to be right. Often, I just try and work out the implications of a position, sometimes my own, sometimes someone else's. Sort of a "rather be interesting than right" thing. Although right doesn't hurt usually...

It occurs to me that I'm willfully misreading "revision" here, and perhaps that's so. Perhaps someone might look at my writing pre- and post- and say that I appear to be more satisfied with early draft work than I was before I blogged regularly. And perhaps that's true--I don't really know. Perhaps I'm more satisfied with my own voice as a result of blogging or less willing to engage in the kinds of painstaking revision necessary to remove that voice from the essays I send out. And if that's the case, then I don't have as much of an answer for question 3, I suppose.

There's certainly more to say, but that's all I've got for today...

October 18, 2005

Top 10 Blog Usability Mistakes?

Okay, I should really just let this one go, but I haven't posted in a couple of days. Jakob Nielsen's latest Alertbox is about "weblog usability," and in the grand tradition of his Top 10 Mistakes feature, he's offered us the top ten design mistakes from weblogs. They are...

  1. No Author Biographies
  2. No Author Photo
  3. Nondescript Posting Titles
  4. Links Don't Say Where They Go
  5. Classic Hits are Buried
  6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation
  7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
  8. Mixing Topics
  9. Forgetting that You Write for Your Future Boss
  10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service

Oh, the temptation. Let me start by saying that this list tells me little beyond the fact that Nielsen is incredibly out of touch. The only bit of fairness I'm willing to offer here is that he does exempt "just private diaries intended only for a handful of family members and close friends." Still, though.

Here's the quick rundown of my objections:
1 & 2. See voluminous discussions re pseudonymous blogging
3. This assumes a scan-dump model of reading that simply isn't widely applicable to the blogosphere, even if it is sometimes a useful piece of advice.
4. Ditto. Weblogs are not encyclopedia articles.
5. I actually agree with this one, although I don't practice it myself and don't find it to be a usability issue.
6. Almost every single weblog EVER that I've read doesn't actually rely solely on calendar navigation.
7. This is downright stupid. The point of RSS is that you can read updates without being "able to anticipate when and how often updates will occur."
8. Mixing topics? Umm, read weblogs much?
9. Tribblicious.
10. This is also pretty ridiculous. Design a la Geocities is not the same thing as owning a Typepad or Blogger account.

The chief objection that I have with almost every one of these "mistakes" is that they misunderstand weblogs almost completely. Nielsen begins his article by suggesting that weblogs are simply a subset of websites and are thus subject to the same sorts of usability principles that Nielsen is famous for applying to the web in general.

The model for trust in the blogosphere, though, is not the same as it is for corporate sites, and there are places where Nielsen clearly confuses the two. And as a result, the cynicism of some of this advice is jarring. The notion that publishing frequency, for example, is simply a usability issue (and one to be solved by "picking a publication schedule"?) is almost laughable. The absence of any attention to context or nuance, or indeed the discussions in the blogosphere about many of these same issues, makes this column embarrassingly bad.

October 31, 2005


Okay, who's a geek?

Yeah, that'd be me. I got tired of scrawling out the tail end of my blog URL onto my official business card, which only contains my root URL. And so, I took advantage of Hugh MacLeod's GapingVoid Blogcards:

The front of my blogcard
The back of my blogcard

C'mon. You know you're jealous. My blog now has its own business cards, something it can hand out when it hobs and nobs with other blogs at parties.

November 19, 2005

At your own "risk"

The kids these days, they're blogging up a storm about the recent piece that came out in Slate, by Robert Boynton, called "Attack of the Career-Killing Blogs."

To be fair, this is a pretty balanced account of the relationship tween blogs and academia, despite the fact that it opens with the pretense of Daniel Drezner's tenure experience, failing to reveal until the very end that Drezner's story hasn't ultimately been a sad one.

Lots of people have blogged this, so I don't know as that I've got anything particularly earth-shattering to add to their thoughts. One thing that I've noticed, and which I haven't seen discussed, though, is a writing habit that typically irks the crap out of me, one which I've always tried to get my students to move away from, the "many people say" verbal tic. To wit,

While few are counting on their Web publications to improve their chances at tenure, many have begun to fear that their blogs might actually harm their prospects. (para 2)

But academics aren't just concerned about the public display of an applicant's personal eccentricities. Many perceive blogs as evidence of a scholar's lack of seriousness. (para 3)

In most disciplines at large research universities, tenure is directly related to the number of peer-reviewed books and articles one publishes. (para 5)

And most people agree that blogs would need to be evaluated through some kind of peer-review mechanism if they are to be taken into account. (para 11)

Yes, well. The problem with "many people" is that their opinions are easy to pin down and report, but exceedingly difficult to verify (or to disprove, if it comes to that). And what emerges from Boynton's essay is a pretty cookie-cutter, he-said-she-said sort of account of a debate that varies considerably from discipline to discipline, and probably from school to school.

Still, it's fair enough. The one thing that I would really take issue with is the 11th paragraph, partly quoted above. Here's the full:

The current antipathy toward blogging may have something to do with the fact that universities have no tools for judging blogs. And most people agree that blogs would need to be evaluated through some kind of peer-review mechanism if they are to be taken into account. "It is utterly absurd to propose giving someone credit for activity with no barriers to entry," Holbo says.

Okay, set aside the "current antipathy" nonsense, a dramatic flourish without any sort of evidence behind it. Normally, I find John Holbo's comments insightful, but here I was thrown a little. Partly, I suppose this is because there are plenty of examples in academia where the "barriers to entry" are neglible if not absent. We receive credit towards service for volunteering to serve on committees, a process not known for its cutthroat competition (if anything, we usually compete to avoid such assignments). There are plenty of conferences I attend where the "review" process is a matter of bothering to send in a registration fee. If you're at all assertive in an academic context, you can receive credit right and left for such activities--I see organizational memberships listed on c.v.'s, listserv subscriptions, etc etc.

The answer that Boynton proposes in light of Holbo's "absurdity," an elaborate peer-review system for academic weblogs, would almost certainly have a chilling effect on blogs, and create a barrier for entry that would sap the energy right out of them. The question shouldn't be "how might a blog be peer-reviewed?" but "how might academia begin to think outside of a peer-review system that is occasionally corrupt, leads to navel-gazingly over-specialized minutiae, and grounds itself in the contradictory values of scarcity and constant growth?" Blogs are a pretty good start at an answer to that latter question, but only if we don't waste our energy trying to figure out how to reterritorialize them on behalf of academia. The energy floating around out here is doing so specifically because academia tends towards the conservative, stolid, and glacial, and the weblogs, they don't.

No academic blogger than I know would suggest that we should start giving ourselves credit for starting blogs. But that's the only place where, recalling Holbo's remarks, there's no barrier for entry. The process of building an audience is itself a barrier--most of us have worked at it for a long time, and succeeded only gradually. The discipline required to maintain a blog is, however, a bigger barrier than almost any other than I've encountered in academia, and that's to say nothing of quality, which is its own barrier.

The idea that we should begin setting up barriers, while academic blogging is still in its infancy, is mind-boggling to me, and my guess is that this isn't what Holbo would suggest. My own suggestion? Leave us alone, stop jumping to conclusions based on anecdotal "evidence" of a single tenure case, and stop trying to turn blogging into a tabloid-style issue.

That is all.

December 13, 2005

I have an agenda

and for the most part, it involves being relatively silent in this space until after the turn of the year. So let me just get all my apologizing out of the way now. Sorry. Really. I know that you like it when I write here every day, but I'm just too busy right now, and so you're going to have to entertain yourself in the meantime.

If I have the time, though, here are the things that I may or may not blog about:

  1. Going to see Narnia last week
  2. Going to MLA in a little more than a week (read Steve's post re MLA, btw). I'm going to MLA for the first time in 6 or 7 years.
  3. The Holiday Spirit™
  4. The first full week of my new year
  5. The new "issue" at CCC Online

Actually, I may go ahead and do that last one tonight while my laundry is drying.

That's all.

January 22, 2006

Turn and face the strange

One of these days, once I hammer out the CSS disparities, I'm bringing a six-pack of change to my blog. For almost a year now, I've flirted with the idea of hosting it externally so that I could go ahead and own the domain. That idea kept playing hard-to-get, though, mainly by asking me if I wanted to blog for the rest of my days under my current nom du 'sphere.

Well, I finally got over my reticence in that regard, and took the plunge. It's not live yet, but soon, I'll be directing people to link me either at or the pithier (but more obscure) Both URLs work, but they bring up a version of my blog from a few days ago, as I hadn't realized the extent to which (a) I'd modded my old old version of MT here, and (b) the CSS on MT 3.2 differs from what I'm currently working with. And while I'm at it, and almost reflexively, I should add (c), which is that I'm going to make more extensive use of MT's code modules and maybe, gradually, throw down a redesign.

For the moment, you can keep your links pointing here, but eventually you'll need to migrate. My plan is to leave the old one here in place for a fair amount of time, so that I don't lose specific entry links (or rather, so that I don't end up killing the links of those kind enough to link to specific entries). And I'll be double-posting while I'm making the transition--well, except for this entry, which doesn't make a great deal of sense to double-post.

January 23, 2006

Somepost Wicked This Way Comes

You cannot begin to imagine the regret I feel over the fact that I am rapidly approaching a blog milestone that would best be reached 134 days from now. Unfortunately, this would necessitate making only one more post between now and then. While this would probably help me improve my workflow, I don't think I could manage.

What am I talking about? Go ahead, count it out. I'll wait.

February 8, 2006

40/40 Vision, or, Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

Here at cgbvb, we like to hunt down the source of each and every traffic spike that pushes our numbers just a little higher than normal, and so that's how we located a mention at Donna's English 4040 blog. Hello, 4040ers! Not only does Donna show us a little love in her description, but she links to a couple of exemplary posts, one recent and one much older. We'd forgotten how utterly high-larious that older post was, though, and thus were pleased to be able to revisit it. Moreover, we would encourage you to do the same; "Interpellation" may be our all-time favorite cgbvb post, and it's certainly one of the best replies to a we've ever seen (if we do say so ourselves).

We are somewhat chastened to note that the campaign referenced therein remains in what might be euphemistically described as the "prewriting stage," however.

We might also add, parenthetically, that the usage of first-person plural, combined with the near-bureaucratic diction that it seems to encourage in our writing, is merely an affectation for the present entry and does not signal an overall change in tone.

That is all.

February 22, 2006


I have to admit, even after musing about Scout Niblett, that I'm feeling more than a little guilty, after Jeff went to the trouble of hailing me in his IHE piece, of not exactly living up to the compliment that his hail pays me.

Not that I'm feeling particularly serious lately or anything. Well, that's not quite right. The truth is that there are times when, despite my best efforts, the serious overtakes me, where it seemingly surrounds me on every side. Where every sentence ends up getting weighed against possible readings, especially at a time (like now) where I'm involved both in faculty searches and graduate admissions.

Times like these I can feel my blogging slow down to a crawl--even if no one else perceives them, I can chart my moods pretty accurately by looking through my archives, and seeing how frequently I post, what I post about, and what I don't post about.


That long pause was me reading about four months worth of archives, and forgetting what exactly I was going to say here. You may think I'm kidding, but I'm not. I had something to say, and forgot it.

Come back tomorrow, and maybe I'll have remembered.

March 5, 2006

Newbie Ginning

Mostly for dramatic effect, let me point out that this is the first entry exclusive to the new site. It's going to take me a while to change over my own links, so don't feel bad if it takes you a while too.

And don't expect the site to look polished for a while yet. The house CSS that comes with MT3.2 is a godawful mess transposed directly (it looks like) from Typepad, despite the absence of many of TP's features in MT. For an amateur web designer, I'm actually pretty good with stylesheets, but poring through 23 pages of hyphenated, multi-word crap like "gamma-sidebar-module-itemlist-3" isn't a pastime for any but the infinitely patient. And that's not me tonight.

So bear with me as I sort through some of this dreck and restore cgbvb to its pre-move glory. Or something like that...

May 2, 2006


I forgot, yesterday, to throw up a link to last year's Mayday post, wherein I contemplate the origins of the word Mayday. Not exactly an anniversary on a par with the birthday of the blog or anything, but Mayday is the time of the academic year for panicked exclamations.

And unapologetically light blogging.

June 30, 2006

20 minutes from the end of this entry

In 20 minutes, it'll be July, and to an end I can put the single worst month of blogging in the history of this here space.

There's a story that I like to tell, about when I was in college. Every term (we were on trimesters), our little 10-week session ended with an 11th week of finals, separated from the regular season by 4-5 "dead" days for us to prepare. And I always prepared, mostly, but one of the things I also did during dead days was to read voraciously. There were times where I averaged a book a day while I was supposed to be studying for finals. Whatever the reading equivalent of graphomania was, that's what I had. It didn't interfere with my ability to study and retain so much as it kept the wheels spinning so that I didn't need warm-up time when I turned to studying.

All of this is a roundabout way of coming to the realization that not writing here in June wasn't so much a matter of spending all of my writing time on other stuff. I just didn't write much. Looking back, it seems clear to me now that I needed a break, and a break I took.

I'm pretty sure that it's over now. Hello the July.

August 1, 2006

Academies & Publics

One of the very best thing for me about reading blogs, particularly those from separate contexts, is what Frans Johansson calls the Medici Effect (Amazon), the sometimes productive insights that come when you bang together ideas from different domains. It's also what Greg Ulmer calls conduction. But anyways, I was tidying up Bloglines this morning, and each of the following entries struck me for longer than usual. They're speaking to different issues, but in obvious ways, they started speaking to each other in my head:

First, Ray Cha's discussion of "academics in the role of public intellectual" at if:book. Cha looks at the recent CHE collection of high-profile academic bloggers commenting on the Juan Cole situation, and among other things, writes

I do not mean to suggest that every professor needs to blog. However, on the whole, university presidents and department heads needs to acknowledge that they do have an obligation to make their scholarship accessible to the public. Scholarship for its own sake or its own isolated community has little or no social value.

And then, over at Easily Distracted, Timothy Burke picks up a thread from some discussion of the Ward Churchill controversy, in a post called "Core Truths":

I think it’s worth trying to figure out how intellectuals can operate in multiple arenas or discourses. [snip, with a big However in between these two excerpts]

Quite aside from the problem of assuming the political virtue of doing so, I think it’s anything but clear that legitimating a distinctly non-scholarly epistemology inside academic discourse empowers those that hold to that epistemology: more likely all it does is slightly change the configuration of turf wars for academic resources within universities.

Often, when my wires are crossed as they were by these two entries, I'll try and sort through my reactions to come up with something more univocal. No such luck today, I fear. There are points I agree with in each, but also, as I think these excerpts demonstrate, a fundamental disagreement when taken together. You might say that the two entries, as well as the conversations that they are responding to, are unified by a concern for epistemologial spaces that differ or depart from the space traditionally demarcated (and thus legitimated) by the institutions of discipline and university.

Now, if I haven't confused these posts enough, I can easily imagine careful arguments to be made in opposition to each as well. And rather than try and sort through them here, I'll leave you to assemble your own conversational knot. Neither represents a discussion that a single blog entry is likely to conclude to anyone's satisfaction.

That is all.

August 5, 2006

Not a creature was stirring

It has been an exceptionally quiet day in the blogosphere. In the almost-three years that I've been blogging, I'm not sure that I've ever seen so few entries come across Bloglines. I zeroed out this morning at around 4 am, and have maybe seen 10 posts come across my 100+ feeds. Very strange. Theories?

1. Bloglines is semi-broken, allowing a few to squeeze through, but little else.

2. Someone forgot to forward to me the announcement for the National Bloglessness Day celebration.

3. Good weather, which is never to be underestimated in the effect it can have on blog frequency.

4. The Internets are broken. My staffers, one time, sent me an internet on Friday, and I didn't get it until Monday. Monday! It's not a dump truck, you know.

5. The BATS!!

The most likely answer is some optimal combination of all 5 of these, I suspect. Meanwhile, enjoy your weekend secure in the knowledge that you won't be falling that much further behind on your blog-reading.

That is all.

August 11, 2006


I've been dropping some serious blogology lately, but today don't much feel like it. Nothing really caught my eye in the 'sphere. Also, I find it mentally exhausting to have so much of my life (as it is currently) driven by concerns that are outside of my control. Not that they aren't consequences of the choices I've made, but they are no longer simply a matter of just doing the work.

This is a little cryptic, I suppose, and will have to remain so, for a while anyway. But I've been told lately that I'm flashing a little more edge on the blog lately, and I think it's related to the mental and emotional stress that I'm experiencing this summer. At some point, you realize that, in the absence of control, there's a degree to which being right or wrong is out of your hands. I can feel my patience wearing thin more quickly, the buffers of politeness and propriety being a little quicker to slip, etc. It's not so much a matter of me "really" being edgy and hiding it better elsewhen--right now, I feel more ragged, and it's showing up in all sorts of venues, not just here.

I expect it to ease up soon, which is some consolation. That is all.

Early Morning Update: Winding down but just caught a column over at IHE by my chancellor, called Multiculturalism, Universalism, and the 21st Century Academy. Maybe something for me to blog later on.

August 13, 2006

Alfred Hitchcock, Fidel Castro, and Collin vs Blog

All 3 have a little something in common that I like to call August 13th. Well, me and the rest of those who adhere to the Gregorian calendar. Anyhow, I am pleased to note that the blog, it has a birthday today. Three long years since I began bee-loggin, and as I thought about this post yesterday, I decided that I didn't feel like trotting out the reflection so much. Not that I might not in the next week or so, but for the moment, I'm not really in the mood to craft a long introspective post.

So instead, what I did was to put together a tagcloud that does a pretty fair job, I think, of visually representing the true and aggregated character of this space as I've maintained it for three years:


Looks about right. That's all. Happy birthday, blog.

August 22, 2006

Coming soon, to a theater near you...!

My reaction has been mixed to the new suite of Geico commercials, although I am forced to admit that they are a serious improvement upon the "meta-gecko" crap they've been serving up. If you haven't seen them, "real Geico customers" are paired up with celebrities like Little Richard, Charo, and Burt Bachrach. Bachrach was just plain weird, but it's actually grown on me.

Anyways, one of the commercials features the guy (or one of them, anyway) who does the voiceovers for movie trailers. The commercial is utterly predictable, as you might imagine, a quasi-emergency headed off by Geico, blah blah blah, all done in the MovieGuy voice.

Which brings me. At the risk of appearing to be piling on when what I sort of hope to do is to pile up, I wanted to pick up a couple of the threads that appear in posts by Jeff and Alex, which themselves respond to an if:book post noting Kairos's 10YA. Are we all linked up? Good.

When I went over to Jim Kalmbach's retrospective in Kairos, my response was fairly similar to Jeff's. As I began to read the piece, though, as I read this:

Undaunted by this mystery, they set out to create an online journal that would explore the intersections of rhetoric, technology, and pedagogy, or as Michael Salvo (Doherty & Salvo, 2002) put it:

With Kairos, a handful of graduate students in half a dozen states, with no budget and no sense of what was and was not possible (or acceptable), created something that caught (and continues to catch) peoples' attention.

Here's where it comes together. I couldn't read this passage without MovieGuy's voice intoning it: "In a field stagnant and dominated by print ideals....a band of plucky graduate students...with only the clothes on their backs...armed with an idea and the will to change a discipline...."

This may be snotty of me, I admit. I honestly have nothing against Jim, whom I don't know, nor Michael, whom I consider a friend. In a lot of ways, this folds into Jeff's ruminations about recognition, and the way that "epic tales of struggle and triumph" tend to obscure all of the other tales. And I react against it here, in this case, not because this is an especially egregious example, but rather because the overall pattern is one that I see repeated with some frequency. The "call" is one strategy that's part of it--it's a way of "being first" without actually "being first," and I say that as someone who's issued my fair share of calls.

Jeff's right, I think, to note that we could do a better job of understanding the way that we direct attention, and the thing that "hero narratives" like these do is to direct attention squarely and solely upon the hero. This is an attitude that's been critiqued heavily in terms of pedagogy, for the degree to which other factors, often beyond the pedagogue's control, play as great (if not greater) a role in the classroom as the teacher hirself.

Writ disciplinarily larger, and here it's important to note that this Kairos piece is far from singular in this regard, I see calls for the kind of work that is already going on, but perhaps unknown to the caller. I see histories of "the field" that only recognize certain people as belonging to the field. I see "critical overviews" heavily shot through with self-citation. None of these things I find particularly pleasing. Or particularly critical. Or especially productive.

Now, it's going to be easy to read this list and wonder who I'm talking about in "our field." But, and this is part of my point, it's not just "our field" that I'm talking about. Technology cuts across many fields, and in some places, I'm talking about people that aren't even recognized as part of "our field." I bet you think this rant is about you. Don't you?

Similarly easy to think that I'm just sour graping it. Will all my posts from here on out be bitter reflections on my lack of recognition in the field? Well, yes, but that misses the broader point that all of these things, which in an unkind turn of phrase I might call self-promotion as scholarship (rather than self-promotion of scholarship), function to reinforce some of the tendencies that Alex notes in his post. I may print out the following and tape it above my desk:

A new multimedia scholarship that essentially does what we've always done, only with video and links, isn't worth the trouble it takes to create. A new medium means a new epistemology and not a predefined one held out manifesto-style like an ideological holy grail (though those can be fun to write sometimes). At the same time, though experimentation for its own sake is a necessary part of this, ultimately a new multimedia scholarship must respond to some exigency.

Back in the halcyon days of hypertext, end of books and all that, the assumption was that, if we start replacing books with hypertexts, pretty soon the snowball rolls under its own momentum, and voila! cultural paradigm shift. If you think that this is too glib an account, just go back and read some of it. What some of us, I hope, learned was that the book, for its various faults, did certain things well. Also, it had a couple of hundred years to diffuse into the culture, through attitudes towards authorship, commoditization, education, and all of these different spheres of activity, none of which was especially ready to see books wither on the vine. Plug hypertexts into that culture, and nothing much happens. "Books suck" wasn't much of an exigency. Of course, now that we call hypertexts by the various names of blogs, wikis, SNSs, discussion fora, you could argue that they've had a much greater effect, but I can't help but think that would be cheating just a little.

The moral of this little tale is that a lot of that early scholarship believed, in an astoundingly self-assured way, that you could just pluck out one medium, sub in a newer one, and change would radiate outward. So when Alex implies that Kairos is to a degree constrained by its operation within a fairly traditional, academic attention economy, I think he's spot on. Cheryl asks:

Others are doing on the web what Kairos wants to do. We see that. I see that and totally acknowledge it’s happening. So is it wrong to “call� for some of that action within the server space of the journal itself?

Maybe so, even though that's not the answer the question wants. At the very least, it's no less wrong to call for an electronic journal to blur the focus on emulating print, such that that "action" might happen. Years ago, I tried to argue unsuccessfully to push Enculturation away from the "event model" of journal publication, which is grounded in an economy of clerical and print scarcity. Why would an electronic journal need to publish simultaneous issues? thought I. Years later, and my writing has moved well away from event model poetics, enough so that deadlines are mind killers for me these days. I will count my blogwork in my tenure file the way that other performance disciplines count their work--I don't need a journal to validate it. It's led to other things I can count, like interviews with media outlets, invited talks, etc., all (of course) outside "our field," but oh well.

I feel like I've swirled myself around a bit here. I guess I should close by noting that, despite a little pessimism and skepticism, I do believe that we're slowly inching our way outside of the constraints of the academic economy. Like Jeff, I may come off here as critical of particular efforts, but also like him, I think, I find it more a function of a system than any particular agent within the system (and I'm an agent within the system, too). If it sounds like I'm waffling between "breakin on through to the other side" and "working for change from within," that's because I am. More and more, I find myself unsatisfied with either option, mostly because each requires me to think of my work at a scale that I don't find particuarly productive. My attitude is still a work in progress, I fear.

Snip, snap, snout.
This rant's told out. (#)

September 16, 2006

one list, two list,

There was a letter to the editor in the SU paper this week that I happened to see, despite the fact that I don't pay a whole lot of attention to said periodical. This letter complained about the words whitelist and blacklist, for their reinforcement of particular attitudes towards white and black folk.

I have to admit that my first reaction to complaints like these is to come down on the side of language, which pretty much does what it does without paying particular attention to the complaints or efforts of we individual speakers. But it stuck with me. I make a real effort to avoid gendered terms in my writing, and I've always been a fan of Douglas Hofstadter's Person Paper on Purity in Language. And, as it happens, I'm slowly assembling a list of the email addresses of valid commenters, so that all y'all don't continue to fall afoul of the tighter spam restrictions I've had to adopt lately.

Even though the plugin itself that allows me to do this is called Whitelister, I think I'm going to describe what I'm doing as red- and greenlisting. I don't fool myself into believing that this terminological change is going to sweep the country like wildfire or anything, but making reference to traffic signals actually comes closer to describing what I'm trying to accomplish.

So if your comment doesn't show up for a spell, please be patient. I'll add you to the ol' greenlist...

That's all.

October 3, 2006


Feeling a bit sluggish lately round the old homestead. Hard even to pin down exactly why that might be. Harder even to talk through it without running the risk of inadvertently hailing those who may or may not be inadvertently contributing, y'know?

Part of it, though, is the relentlessness of the meta, which is one of the unspoken dimensions of processes like the search for jobs or the quest for tenure. In both processes, it's not enough to do what we do. We also have to represent the doing of it, which is a whole nother layer of doing, and one that tires me out, frankly.

Not that I don't engage in my own little sidetrips into meta-land, here and elsewhere, but it's the persistence of the self-surveillance and the self-accounting that gets me down, and that trickles down, making it ever more difficult just to do.

Part of it, too, is that I learned last night that a friend passed away. Not a close friend, but a friend nonetheless, and that has me reflecting more than is generally healthy on my various successes and failures in meeting assorted life goals and whatnot. That's about as euphemistic as I can be. So yeah, I'm a little sad, and that tends to feed on itself when not exposed to direct sunlight.

Let's push things forward.

November 1, 2006

Oh, all right.

Having been hailed, although not in so many words.

And no, I'm not counting this as my Nov. 1 post, although I could.

November 3, 2006

Cringeworthy revelations

Okay, maybe not. But I hope that you all remember what happened the last time someone tapped me for a meme: the Great Bumper Sticker Brainstorm™ of 2005! Normally, I'd pretend not to read the entry in question long enough for people to forget I'd been tapped, but it is NotADayGoesByWithoutMeBlogging Month, and the longer entry I have planned probably won't be ready until after midnight, so here are 5 things that almost all of my readers will not have previously known about me:

1. Had soccer and tennis not happened during the same season while I was in high school, I was good enough as a young'un to play varsity tennis. I stopped playing regularly in jr. high, but could hit around and hold my own with most of my varsity friends, without any real practice.

2. When I was in grad school for the first go-round, I had the good fortune of a local radio station that (a) played music I liked, and (b) allowed the overnight DJs to hold call-in contests as often as the daytime crews. So, I might be the 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 10th caller, but I won a bunch of music that way. To this day, the only boxed set I own is the collected works of the Clash, won in a call-in from WOXY.

3. There's more to it than this, of course, but one of the main reasons I ended up going to UTArlington for my PhD was Milan Kundera. (Mysterious...!)

4. Our house growing up bordered on a creek, and when it would flood, it would occasionally leave deceptively thick mud deposits on the bike path that parallelled it near my house. One year, in jr. high, one such patch sent me flying head over heels off the front of my bike. I tore up my hand and wrist pretty thoroughly, but rather than returning home or going to the nurse at school, I kept my hand in my sweatshirt pocket almost the whole day until I could take care of it at home. In my head at the time, it was more important to not admit that I had fallen off my bike than it was to get medical attention. The sweatshirt was dark enough that the blood didn't show.

5. Until last year, when I helped my mother clear out the house I grew up in (in anticipation of her move to a smaller place), I had kept every award, debate trophy, high school letter, etc. If I'd wanted to, I could have kept that stuff, but it was strangely liberating to part with it. I kept a few things, like yearbooks for example, but mostly, I couldn't conceive of any scenario where that stuff would be even remotely valuable to me. On the off-chance that someone someday will biographize me, I made their job a whole lot harder.

So there you are. Most of this will be news to most people. And some of it I hadn't thought about for years.

Snip, snap, snout.

November 25, 2006

Tapped out

Less than a week to go in NotADayGoesByVember, and to be honest, I'm pretty much running on fumes as far as blogging goes. Not that I don't have things to say or anything. But it feels like the last few weeks have slowly built up other parts of my life, parts I can't really blog about right now, such that it's tough to see over the surrounding junk to topics for blogging.

So rather than working harder for a post than I want to, I'm afraid I'm going to just let this entry stand, and then go off to work on some of the unbloggable stuff. I've got a two-part entry I've been meaning to write, but I need to put it off while I unload some of the backlog. So that's all for now. If I'm in a mood later tonight, maybe I'll show back up.

November 26, 2006

On Blogging

I'd heard about this a while back, but Lilia's got a fully linked TOC to the new special issue of Reconstruction, on "Theories/Practices of Blogging." In addition to her own piece, the issue features writing from Michael Benton, Craig Saper, danah boyd, Tama Leaver, Erica Johnson, Carmel L. Vaisman, David Sasaki, Anna Notaro, Esther Herman, and Lauren Elkin. Also check out the issue's "Blogroll," which includes brief "Why I blog" statements from all sorts of folk. I haven't had time to look the whole issue over yet, but it looks like a good mix of topics and approaches.

Craig Saper's "Blogademia" in particular was one I found worth reading. From his conclusion:

The challenge of blogademia is to focus on this translation process of scholarship and knowledge into the currently disparaged and debased sociopoetic form of blogs. Beyond apprehending the issues at stake in using this form, one can begin to articulate the advantages of research that uses the blog, not as an object of study, but as a vehicle to comprehend mood, atmosphere, personal sensibility, and the possibilities of knowledge outside the ego's conscious thought. The blog, podcast, and wikis may hint, fleetingly, at the future tools of academia.

And I recommend it not only because a few of us from Jeff's blogroll appear there. It's a nice extended reflection of what academic blogging might have to contribute to the production of knowledge--a question that has too many answers right now to be quickly or comfortably resolved.

So go take a look. And enjoy what's left of the Thanksgiven weekend. That's all.

November 28, 2006

Crazy Delicious Fish Sticks!

Here's how you can have an impact on one of the MLA panels I'll be seeing next month. And yes, meme propagation is a perfectly valid activity when you're in the home stretch of NotADayGoesBy.

The skinny:
Scott Eric Kaufman is conducting an experiment on the propagation of memes, the results of which will be part of his talk at said panel. He's asking people to post entries about his entry, link back to the original entry, and then ping Technorati (if your blogging platform doesn't already do so automatically). That's all. And to make it easy, all you really need do is to copy and paste this very paragraph, formatting in the links to Scott's entry and to Technorati, then visit Technorati and enter the URL for your own entry. That sounds like more work than it actually is. And the reward is that you'll be contributing to Science™.

Scott's URL:
Technorati Ping Form:

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program:

Snip, snap, snout.

November 30, 2006

NaBloNoMoMo just a day away!

Okay, so December will probably not end up being National Blog No More Month, but I'm sure that the pressure of NotADayGoesBy, combined with the end of the semester and the joy it brings, will lead to something of a dip in traffic round Blogademia.

As for me, the pressure of finding something to say every day has kept my mind from the fact that in less than a week, I'll be celebrating the completion of yet another annual step towards old age, also known as the anniversary of my birth. Luckily, I'm getting dangerously close to the "new 30," which brings with it a little extra hop to my step, or so I've heard.

I can pretty much guarantee, though, that it won't mean daily blogging through the month of December. I've got a fair bit of travel ahead of me, and a little bit of work on top of that. Somewhere in there, I'll need to summon up a little holiday spirit as well.

Fare thee well, November. I blogged thee pretty well, if I do say so.

December 6, 2006

Having come far enough along

Having come far enough along in the writing of this weblog, I find now that I am less interested sometimes in producing new™ and exciting™ content on a given day than I am in reading past entries for the particular day in question.

Case in point. Today, in search of a little birthday inspiration, I went browsing back back back, where I (re)learned what happened on this day in history, reflected on positive and negative freedom, and contemplated the artifice that is the birthday. Busy busy fella. And see, already, just in the process of recounting past birthday blogical triumphs, I'm all ready to rip out a big old birthday essay for your reading pleasure™.

Okay, so maybe not. But I will do more than backlink my birthday posts.

This is my birthday tale for this year. Back back back in the day, like high school back back back, I once knew a girl, a couple of years younger than I was. When you're in high school, though, calendar years are like dog years, and two or three years is like forever. So it would have probably been riding the fine edge of appropriateness at the time, I suppose, to admit that I had a crush on her. Not that it really mattered. Her family moved away, I moved on to college soon enough, and we lost touch.

Flash forward to the present day, where she's sitting at work one day, and decides to throw my name into Google and to see what pops up. This blog, among other things. And she sends me an email, I reply, and before you know it, I'm ringing in my day of birth with a three-hour phone call, where I learn about her marriage (and divorce), three kids, a life that's been even more nomadic than my own, and all sorts of stuff besides. I suspect she'll be reading this entry at work later today.

So the moral of my birthday tale is that, at a time in my life where it's felt like my ties have weakened in general, where I'm prone to pity over the fact that I'm cruising up on the "new thirty," and where I'd planned on "celebrating" by doing nothing in particular, I celebrated instead by renewing a friendship that I lost so long ago that I'd even lost the fact that it was lost. That's not too shabby, as far as gifts go, not too shabby at all.

So enjoy today; it's on me.

February 3, 2007


It occurred to me last night as I was putting together my last entry that there's a deep need going unfulfilled here at cgbvb. When I linked the phrase "event model" to one of the pages from my course blog from a few years ago, it was a little more indirect than I'd hoped. And there are a couple of other posts that might do just as well. In other words, as I've been working slowly on the second book, I'm also polishing up concepts that in some cases are variations on others' terms and in some cases are my very own.

I'm planning this summer to do a fairly elaborate site redesign, and as part of that, I'd planned on doing some "Best of cgbvb" linking, fronting some of my favorite posts and some of the screencasts that I've done over the years. I'm thinking that maybe I should also put together some synthesizing posts on some of the vocabulary that I've been taking for granted, both my own and others'.

This occurred to me also recently as I was finishing up Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map (Amazon). I'm in the habit of talking about fallacies of scale (which you'll find as part of this essay), but Johnson's book has me thinking about a corresponding "felicity of scale" that might be worth making similarly explicit.

I really don't mean for this to sound as arrogant as it probably does--I don't mean to suggest that my thinking is so important that what's needed is a glossary so that people can understand me better. Rather, I'm coming to realize that the invention and/or development of concepts is pretty important to my own work process, even when I move past them or ditch them in favor of other ideas. Phrases like "event model" or "fallacy of scale" feel like pieces of the puzzle I'm working on, and I think it'll help me to start pinning them down a little bit. As I write about this, though, I think that this is something worth doing over at Rhetworks, even though I'll still talk about them here. It occurs to me as well that what I'm talking about here is the same kind of thing that Kenneth Burke did in his earliest books, including local glossaries in both Counter-Statement and Attitudes Toward History, and that recommends this idea to me even more.

So we'll see. There's only a few entries that I've got planned so far, but it may be worth picking up some related ideas from some of what I'm reading, and glossarize those as well. And who knows? Maybe a full fledged Brookapedia will make more sense after the third or fourth book. Heh.

That is all. Go Bears!

February 23, 2007

Chains of love

It's one of those weeks where my waking moments are filled with thoughts best left unblogged, for any number of reasons. But I've been meaning for the past couple of days to link to an entry over at Tim's joint. He's speaking mostly about the whole Edwards campaign kerfuffle, but for a paragraph, he references a conversation over at Laura's about whether or not she planned to continue blogging. It motivates some reflection on the double standard operating in some folks' conceptions of blogging. On the one hand, they want what happens in blogspace to matter in the larger world; on the other, they don't always seem to want to be held accountable by that larger world. But I was especially interested in the finally paragraph (gently pruned for your consumption):

This is not just about blogging: it’s about history. The more you write, the more your writing is both burden and expectation, a second self whose permission is required before you do something new–or whose betrayal is necessary should you wish to be free of your shadow....When I write it–even in a blog–it has, and ought to have, some greater weight. If that weight becomes like Marley’s chains, forged in life, it’s up to me to do the hard and complicated work of unlocking, not to complain that what I wrote was read.

I mentioned in the comments thread at Laura's that she'd articulated something that I've been experiencing lately as well. And I think that it's that notion of what I write here as a second self. When I'm feeling especially transparent, the blog doesn't feel all that separate from what I do. I don't feel like I have to police it for polysemy, worrying about whether or not what I say will be taken up in unintended ways. Which isn't to say that it's weightless--I hope that there is some weight to what I write, at least on occasion. But when it becomes a second or a third self--if my private and public meat/selves are the first two--it takes me that much more energy to tend to it. And that much self-maintenance can wear me out after a while. Right now, I'm feeling that fatigue. Part of it's the weather, part of it's the time of the year, and part of it's just the junk that happens.

What prompted this entry tonight was a conversation with D about last night's ep of Lost, which didn't jazz me quite as much as the week before. I'm worried that the writers of that show have decided not to "do the hard and complicated work of unlocking" their narrative, opting instead for more plot, more characters, and more distractions (assuming that Jack's tattoo was one of the "big mysteries" solved last night), and hoping that those of us who loved the show through the first two seasons will simply let it slide. Lost is no longer the must-see it was for me those first two seasons, and while I'm willing to ride it out a while longer, I'm beginning to feel a bit betrayed by the fact that I've watched regularly, closely, and with interest. I wonder how much the writers are longing to be free of the shadows of those first two seasons.

That's not to compare my humble blog to a show like Lost. But I had a much more concrete sense after that conversation of how even a labor of love can begin to feel like a unshakeable shadow. That's all.

And that's really all I have to say tonight.

March 12, 2007

Because Monday begins with M...

I thought I might mention three items of marginal interest, all of which have to do with the number 1000:

First, I think I'm going to perform a drastic redesign on the ol' site, but I will roll it out to coincide with my 1000th entry. That entry is a ways off yet, seeing as that I'm only floating somewhere around 900. But if timed right, I can waste some time in the late summer bedazzling the joint.

Second, I've finally crested the four-digit mark over at Library Thing. I've been taking it more seriously lately, and making slow, steady progress. I put in a little extra push today to put me over the 1000-mark.

Third, and most importantly to you, you might recall that, with my 1000th comment, I ran a little contest for the person who left my 1000th comment. The prize was an item off the winner's Amazon Wishlist, paid for by me (Jeff won a copy of Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good for You, if I recall.). Well, I'm getting perilously close to 2000 comments, so I figured that it was time to break out the contest again.

This time, though, I should note that I'm somewhere in between 1900 and 2000, so flooding my post with one-line "Did I win?" comments will not really work--my spam filters will most likely catch you, and if it doesn't, I will. But it's more than a few away from 2000, so I expect the winner to come sometime soon, but it's hard to say when, so that strategy is not likely to work anyhow.

I will try to post more regularly over the next few days, so you don't have to write the 50th comment about Syracuse's NIT berth, and I will try to keep an eye on the junk filter if you haven't commented here before. And I'll announce the winner once he or she has hit the magic number...

That is all.

March 17, 2007

Ethics v Ethos (& Class Blogging)

In an episode that demonstrates where my media preferences and habits lie, I caught a post of Kathleen's today a couple of hours in advance of the digested email list to which she refers.

Anyhow, in this conversation, a senior scholar raises the question of whether or not students should be blogging about people who may one day be their colleagues. In short, this scholar has a Google alert set to inform him of mentions of his name, and he wonders about the ethics of allowing students to post their initial forays into his work publicly ("While I am happy that folks are reading my stuff, I am aghast that their entries are on the web for all to read.").

It's an interesting question. Like Kathleen, I don't think it's "unethical" per se, as long as it's made quite clear to the students what the potential drawbacks are should they choose to make themselves identifiable.

But I do think it's a question of ethics in the sense of ethos, which is what I take Kathleen to be talking about. It's important (for different reasons at different points along the academic spectrum) to understand the ethical consequences of blogging, the ways that it may help to construct an identity that potential employers and colleagues may one way be able to access. That's one of the lessons that emerged from the whole Tribble flap.

I think another point worth raising is that, soon enough, these same people (in the case of graduate students) will be writing articles that are in the journals for all to read. It's not quite the same thing, true, but there's one thing about the comparison that does work. It's easy in graduate school (and beyond) to imagine that scholarship, particularly in the humanities, is a matter of moving around quotes and citations, almost treating our sources as chess pieces in our various writerly gambits. It's easy to forget that the proper names that appear on our books and in our articles are more than simply functions. They also signify real people, who will react to our work and our citations in various ways. In other words, it's easy to forget that we are often writing about real people with varying levels of investment in the ideas and quotations that we patch together with our own writing.

I'm not always good at it myself, imagining how the people whose work I draw on would themselves respond to my appropriations. But I think that many of us have to undergo the transition where we write dissertations that challenge "the field," only to realize eventually that we ourselves are "the field," that there is no objective field-out-there but instead networks of colleagues, each of whom tries just as hard as we do to get it right, to advance our understanding, to contribute to knowledge.

Transforming one's self from a student to a scholar is in part a matter of coming to terms with the fact that your audience as a scholar is in fact real, addressed rather than invoked. And I don't mean to make it sound as though my transformation is complete--I think it takes a long time to shake the temptation to treat the field as a reified, monolithic whole in need of correction, revision, or enlightenment. I struggle with this myself.

But one of the things that blogging can do, particularly if one does it in the context of a community of scholars, is to make that transition easier. I'll be spending time with a lot of other bloggers in New York next week, some whom I've known (and I know) pre-blog, but many of whom became "real" to me first through this space. And in a lot of ways, that community has become the audience that I write to, even when I'm not writing in this space.

Not everyone who keeps a class blog is going to have the same experience as I have, certainly, but the potential rewards are substantial, I think, if they develop some sense of the ethos they must develop and the audience they may one day address under more formal circumstances.

That's all.

March 30, 2007

And the winner is...

Donna! After sitting on 1999 comments for almost 48 hours, I was about ready to comment myself and just buy a book for me. Then I remembered that nothing stops me from buying me books anyway. (Daywatch anyone?) At long last, though, Donna contributed the following:

By the way, hasn't anyone made comment #2000 yet?

Yes, yes someone has. Thanks to that comment, Donna will soon receive an undisclosed item from her hastily assembled wish list, delivered to her door by the fine folks at

It's a little anticlimactic, I know, for the 2000th comment to be a meta-comment about the 2000th comment. But them's the breaks. The next milestone round these parts, if I can get off my butt and post more than once a week, should be my 1000th entry. It's a ways off yet, but I daresay you'll know it when it happens.

That's all. Have a lovely weekend.

August 13, 2007

Year Five, Day One

Seems a little disingenuous to pop on after a long disappearance, and announce my blog's birthday, but here we are. It was four years ago that I posted for the first time, and the voice of me then is not the voice of me now. I think it's a TMBG lyric that goes something like "I was young and foolish then, I feel old and foolish now"?

So happy blogday to me.

That's one reason to return. The other is that a few days ago, I actually had a dream where someone dropped me from their blogroll, and I initiated a huge blogwar to get back onto it. There's no law says my dreams have to make sense. But if you've dropped me recently, watch out!

It may take a while for me to get back into the swing, and I still want to run out some autobio posts, in the interest of achieving quadruple digits post-wise and rolling out a new design in celebration.

That's all for now.

January 6, 2008


I shall return. Soon.

February 7, 2008

The blog runneth over and thus not at all

I started the week with an idea for an entry, but not really the time to deploy it.

And as the week has progressed, ideas have come at me from all directions, but I've held back, waiting for the time to draft my early-week idea.

But now, I think I've mostly forgotten the original idea. Maybe I'll have a little time tonight to reconstruct it. Here's a tease: it's tangentially about the possibility of Welsh rhetoric.

More anon.

February 11, 2008

My ultiMate roMan nuMeral

If my MT interface is to be believed, this would be my 1000th blog entry. I am only a little stunned by this fact, although it makes sense, considering that I've been at this for almost four and a half years now. This is the final roman numeral milestone, and so I offer three forms of celebration, in likely order of their achievement:

First, I present to you similarly roman numeralled entries, bolded for your clicking convenience: D C L X V I

I'm warning you now: it's a motley bunch of posts.

Celebration #2 is that I'm going to finally upgrade here to MT4, and I'm hoping that a new suite of antisp4m will cut down on the crap round these parts. I had to clear out close to 600 junk comments this weekend, and it's catching legitimate comments from new folk way too often. Maybe I'll slap a captcha on there too. Anyway, that's coming soon.

And coming a little later is a redesign. I need to redesign the CCCOA too, and that has priority, so it may not be until later in the semester. But look for that...

Wow. 1000 entries. Mmmmmm good. That's all.