Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Blogging: academic digressions

Clancy points to the digressions part of the e-journal Lore , where she and some of the other blog-writing people I consider friends have written short takes on their experiences as bloggers.

This is both an annoying and an interesting piece. Reading like a confessional, a collection of the "why do I blog" stories that are so well known from blogs, they feel very true to the topic and the medium. At the same time the informal nature of the writing collected like this makes those pieces less interesting reading than when I read the same stuff in their blogs.

Part of my delight in reading blogs is finding a new person. By reading through the older links and the archives, I can explore and imagine a personality, a human being with a certain slant. Reading what Clancy and Dennis writes in this collection, I find myself smiling because I know the tone of their blogs, their chats, and their actual real life speaking voice.

But this makes the rest of the pieces pale in comparison. I skim through them quickly, looking for some new take on academic blogging which has not already been hashed to death, finding little substance. Eric Mason cautions adjuncts to be wary of the arrogance of writing, the false security it may create, combined with real danger. It resonates with both the written words of The Invisible Adjunct and the actions of Alex Golub - who cleaned up his blog and removed much of the material which had so delighted his readers when the time came to apply for jobs. (His new blog is nice too though, although not as much fun as it used to be.) Others, like Carlton Clark, writes about how he feels he can do his job better by blogging, as it is a good lesson for people to see that professors who teach writing 1) can write and 2) are human beings.

Common to all the posts is the personal experience and how this experience somehow weaves into the life of an academic. Academia tends to be very self-referring, hence apparently isolated from the rest of society, what non-academics like to term "the real world". Blogs open up a window into scholarly practice, research, publishing, teaching - bringing a public debate into an arena where the public can participate. It changes not the role, but the practice of the scholar, and the digressions together form a cute little collection of personal descriptions of how this happens.

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