Wednesday, October 12, 2005

 

To Blog or Not To Blog

That is, of course, the question. (And God, another really long post follows. My apologies!)

In case you haven't noticed, there is a bit of talk out there about what a bad idea it is for academics - and particularly the untenured ones or the masses on the market looking for tenure-track jobs - to blog. After reading the latest cautionary tale about what happened to Daniel Drezner, I thought to myself, "Crazy, maybe you are jeopardizing your career by blogging. Sure, you don't write under your own name, you don't write about things you wouldn't freely express in mixed company, but maybe you don't know what you're doing. Maybe the vanity of having readers has blinded you to the real life consequences of your idiotic pontificating."

Yeah, and then I decided that I'm keeping my blog. Nyah-nyah. I thought to myself, "I'll show you, you gray-haireds who will be utterly flummoxed by the practice of using technology to communicate and who will deny me tenure because of it!"

But then, having had these self-aggrandizing thoughts, I decided I'd like to think about this a little more critically and actually to post about it. Because I have some problems with the way that this discussion of this newfangled blogging fad that's sweeping the nation is being organized, particularly in the way that it seems to reinforce particular hierarchies of privilege in academe and the way that it neglects to admit that there is diversity among the blogging professoriate. To put it simply, there are a lot of us "academic bloggers" who are not men employed at elite research institutions. Let's look at the Inside Higher Ed article, and consider who it speaks to (and for).

1. As Inside Higher Ed reports, "“A blog raises your profile, but it raises your profile for something other than research,” [Sean] Carroll said. And even if you are extremely productive as a scholar, he said, some professors may view a blog as sign that you could be spending more time in the laboratory or library, engaged in traditional research." When I read this quotation, I tried to imagine my tenured colleagues or administrators taking this kind of position. I tried to imagine a moment in which my chair would say something like the above. I giggled. At a teaching institution, one works hard, yes, but many have no research agenda to speak of and they still get tenure. I kind of think that my chair would be happy to know that I have a hobby, honestly. He's always worried that I'm doing too much work and that I don't have a life.

2. Carroll and Drezner are both reluctant to point to their blogs as reasons for their failure to be awarded tenure, and then the discussion moves to what kind of content is appropriate for blogging: "Obviously, there are other ways blogs can get a scholar in trouble, Carroll said, “if you write embarrassing things.” [. . .] Both [Carroll's and Drezner's blogs] reflected their personalities and some non-academic interests. In announcing his tenure denial, for example, Drezner noted that Friday was a “pretty bad day” for that reason and because the Boston Red Sox are out of the playoffs. But the topics covered on most days — while not written strictly for academics — were serious and related to the two professors’ academic fields." I first want to address the "if you write embarrassing things" comment, as I think that probably many would say that I write embarrassing things. Why? Because I write personal things. The whole reason that I started this blog was because I wanted to experiment with articulating how the personal and professional fit (and don't fit) together for me. That's the whole point. I'd argue that it's also a feminist project. Thus, by formulating what kind of content is "appropriate" in this way, it puts out of bounds a lot of the kind of writing that many women academic bloggers do. In other words, if you've started up a blog, lady academic, you'd better take it down toot sweet or your ass will be out of a job. I resent the implication that in order for a blog to be "appropriate" it must be serious or related to my field, unless of course I'm talking about my love of a fucking sports team, which of course, is a-ok.

3. We then move to the comments of Gina J. Hiatt, tenure coach: "Attitudes may well change, she said, but it’s important to remember who has influence in tenure decisions. “Perhaps in 10-15 years, people will be looked up to for the scholarly dialogue on their blogs. But when you think about who is going to be on a tenure committee, they are going to be older and may not understand or respect it,” she said." Something about this strikes me as, I don't know, really fucked up. I'm thinking about my colleagues on the tenure committee, and you know what? They're not a hundred years old and listening to gramophones. They use computers. They have iPods. I feel like saying this would be equal to having told a junior faculty member when the tv was invented that they shouldn't watch it because the people on their tenure committee "are going to be older and may not understand or respect it." Times change. And old dudes who decide our futures aren't necessarily from another planet.

4. Hiatt then goes on to address anonymous blogging (and you know I was interested to hear what she'd have to say about this one): "As for anonymous blogging, Hiatt said junior professors who think they can be frank about their departments and stay secret are fooling themselves. “I don’t think there’s any such thing as anonymous blogging,” she said. “It’s not that difficult to think about who this is. If you do any amount of blogging at all, you are going to give yourself away.” Ok, so I kind of agree with her on this one. You'll notice I rarely talk about specific things to do with my department. I do, however, think that this is another one of those, "shut up, ladies" sort of messages, because, again, how many women academic bloggers do you know who use their names?

5. After this, the article goes on to say that anonymous blogging "may run directly counter to a blogger's goals" because professors should be public intellectuals and for that reason it "matters" who is talking because with the name comes authority. Now, first of all, I suppose this is true if one's goal is to use the blog as a professional tool, but I would argue that most anonymous bloggers are not blogging about their research in any sort of a substantive way (if at all). Thus, the idea that there is only one true goal for all academics who blog is clearly a wrongheaded assumption. Second, I think I resent being told that I cannot be a public intellectual in a way that suits me - in this case, as Dr. Crazy. Yes, I like that this is a public outlet for me to explore things I'm thinking about in my life and things related to the profession, but no, I don't want it to be available for the public consumption most particularly of my students. If I use my name, my students could ostensibly read everything I write on here. And you know what? That is the thing that keeps me pseudonymous. Not fear of colleagues or an unwillingness to be a public intellectual.

So I suppose what I'm saying, after all of this, is that I think that the current debate about whether one should blog or not only speaks to a certain kind of academic blogger, and that it leaves a hell of a lot of people out of the conversation. It reinforces the idea that all professors aspire to tenure at Fancy Elite Universities; it reinforces the hierarchies that situate jobs at research I institutions as the only "real" jobs; it reinforces the idea that many things that feminists might be interested in writing about are "inappropriate" or "embarassing." The debate, as it is currently framed, is ridiculous to me.

Comments:
I recently started blogging and had many of these same questions about the wiseness of that action, since I am half way through a doctoral program and will have to be out on the job market soon. I came to many of the same conclusions you did about the appropriate ways to handle blogging. I am keeping mine anonymous to avoid the sort of repercussions mentioned in the articles you linked to, but I hadn't thought about your comment of blogging as a gendered form of communication. That bears some more thinking...
 
Hang in there, Doc C. I am an untenured faculty type to and I just started a blog, mainly because life on the margins of academia is stress-filled and hey, everyone needs a hobby.

Even though graybeards everywhere slide through the system w/out doing much of anything, our generation will never be that lucky. We paid more for our education and that will never end, we will always have to do twice as much or more to keep up. Academia will never offer a 'free lunch' program again, it just costs too much in all possible ways these days.

That does not stop me from feeling resentment when I see seniors creep out at 2 in the afternoon and I live in my office, 24/7. I guess they never promised a rose garden...
 
Great post - I totally agree that the debate has been based on unhelpful assumptions about what academic blogging is. Like you say, it's part and parcel of the whole academic hierarchy, which defines something very narrow and difficult to achieve (tenure at elite research institution) as "the" appropriate goal for all academics. While I think there are a number of people at my current institution who would be confused by my blogging (because they've never heard of blogs and/or can't understand why anyone would want to talk to strangers on the internet about their life - which was how I felt, actually, till I tried it), at the same time a blog like Sean Carroll's or Dan Drezner's would fit my institution's goal of service to the broader community really well (they are VERY service oriented here. Thankfully they do recognize that there are not really a lot of direct links between medieval history and the community...but that's another point). That kind of thing is, again, ignored by the current debate. Anyway, great post!
 
I love you.

I want to add, also, to your points (4) and (5):

(4) She's totally conflating "frankness about one's specific department" with the desire to be anonymous. I like to think that although, yes, there are quite a few people who know who I "really" am, that isn't b/c of the blog--it's b/c I've left comments (with an ip addy) on their blogs, or simply told them via email. And anyway, there are PLENTY of good reasons to be anonymous other than to tattle on one's own department. Like you, I almost never talk about my department (or even my discipline).

(5) Agreed re. different kinds of goals. Also, why is a name an automatic conferral of authority? Honest to god, if it weren't for his blog, I'd have no clue who "Dan Drezner" even is. What authority he has depends on *what he writes*, not his name. The name gains authority from the writing produced under it, not the other way around. At least, most of the time.
 
I found the most chilling part of this to be the possibility that bloggers are liable because they could be using their blogging time to do more academic research. This was the most horrifying part of all this, because (a) it takes me about 10 minutes to write a blog post, and (b) all the people who aren't blogging are watching TV or perhaps doing culturally rewarding things like reading books or going to a museum, but they're still not doing research!

If I were an active member of a local church, and I sang in the choir and did fundraisers and had a bible reading group, would my peers still want to penalize me for dedicating too much time to Not Work?
 
You rock. And if I plan to continue in graduate school, I best stop writing about my discipline, huh? It's the only thing that I think keeps my blog from being a chronicle of misery; it's the only thing I like in my life right now. Great post.
 
This is paranoid of me, but do you ever worry when you write about Alternaboy that the stories will come back to haunt you? (You know, he or one of his friends will read your blog, your students will find out about the blog, someone will tell a colleague about your blog, etc.,.)

I am a raving fan of the pseudonymous academiblog. And I agree with all your points. But worry that people still need to be quite careful about certain topics. And I'm absolutely not implying that anything that has gone on with Alternaboy has been even slightly inappropriate. But I'm still paranoid.
Do you have tenure?
 
Not much time to respond to comments right now, but I do want to respond to academic coach's fears about alternaboy.

1.) Absolutely nothing has happened with him, and I suspect nothing ever will, but if it were to...

2.) He's 22 years old and graduating in May. There was never a hint of a hint of anything inappropriate while I was his instructor, and he will not take another class with me (though of course I'll feel much more sure of that after next semester begins).

3.) Nope, I don't have tenure, but I am not worried about receiving it based on something like this. First of all, many of my colleagues know about it - or if not about this particular situation enough still to comment about the-boys-who-are-my-groupies. It's what happens when you're a 31-year-old fairly attractive woman at an institution like the one where I teach. I'd never let anything happen that was out of control or unethical, and my colleagues know that. And, in truth, I think Alternaboy knows it, too. It doesn't make him any less fun to write about, though :)

4.) Finally, what if Alternaboy or his friends found me? Well, I suppose it'd be mildly uncomfortable, just as it would have been if Freud or his friends had found me last spring. But you know, I just can't bring myself to care that much about it. If I'm going to be paranoid about that, it would be impossible for this blog to exist. In other words, I suppose it's a risk I'm willing to take, at least for the moment.
 
The debate is not only rediculous it is also moot. If you had succumbed to outside pressure regarding the propriety of blogging than we wouldn't be having this pleasant interaction and you would be someone else's lit bitch. Own your thoughts. Speak your mind. Wear a mask. Elastogirl does. http://mousetimes.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pos=-2310

Your identity is all you truly have. Protect it, yes. That doesn't mean you have to silence it.

Cheers

B^,
 
I'm not sure I would have assumed "Dan Drezner" was his real name.

I don't really have anything to add. what you said. what everyone said.
 
Regarding your second point: I think it's less about a gender issue and more about the appropriateness of laying out your personal life for all to see. Yes, there is some degree of anonymity, etc. However, would you talk to your colleagues in your department in the same manner that you employ on your blog? Would you reveal such intimate details? Somehow, I doubt that, and I think that's what the article was referring to--not that it's inappropriate to write about your personal life, not that only women do this, but that you must consider the audience. If your colleagues were to find the blog, it would probably be damaging. That's common sense, I think. I wouldn't tell my tenure committee about a blog where I revealed personal information. But, I also wouldn't tell them that same information in person, either.

As for the ability to remain anonymous, honestly, I think it's a matter of time before people find out. As Dr. Bitch noted above, she has identified herself to a few people. How long will it be before those people tell a few people, and they tell a few people, etc.? Sooner or later, the odds are that your department will find out about the blog--despite how careful you think you've been. Someone can always stumble across it and recognize you from small details that you thought would never give you away. You may unintentionally let things slip. It's highly probable that you will be "unmasked", eventually. I stopped blogging when a local free weekly newspaper began a "Blog 'O the Week" section in their paper. The newspaper is enormously popular, has large circulation, etc. Everyone reads it. And they were trying to "out" bloggers. The reporter would read the blog, piece together revealing bits and crumbs of information, then surmise about who they were in the paper. A coworker and friend of mine was semi-exposed in this manner. (Turns out, they got the place of employment wrong, but only just barely--it was a medical complex, and they guessed the hospital instead of the university.) She was forced to immediately take down the blog and relocate it. She's much more careful now, and works at a different place, but I think it is much easier for people to find out who is behind a blog than many bloggers think.

Regarding this quote in point 3: "I feel like saying this would be equal to having told a junior faculty member when the tv was invented that they shouldn't watch it because the people on their tenure committee 'are going to be older and may not understand or respect it.'"
It's not quite the same, though, is it? This analogy doesn't really fit, and I'm not sure that there is a better one. TV is not used as a means of personal communication, unless you are hosting a show on your local public access station. I would argue that, in that case, your audience would be much smaller. But the junior faculty member would not be revealing anything about herself to the committee through her watching of TV. Whereas, with a blog, obviously, that is the entire point of having a blog. One's personal life (if that is the style of the blog) is laid out for the committee to examine, should they find it. It is fundamentally different.

I had a public blog for a couple of years, but took it down eventually. Perhaps it was paranoia--I did think it was a bit dangerous. I now have a blog in a MySpace profile. Much more secure--I can restrict who reads it, yet still post what I like. I don't blog anywhere near as frequently as I used to, which is interesting. I think it becomes a bit of an obsession with people at times. Personally, I'd rather be secure in the fact that I will keep my job and not be denied tenure due to a public blog. I do find it fascinating how ferociously bloggers will defend their right to blog, though. It's quite the cultural phenomenon.

--Dr. L.
 
I really want to respond to your comments, Dr. L, but I'm not sure exactly where to begin. I suppose with the last comment you make - "I do find it fascinating how ferociusly bloggers will defend their right to blog, though. It's quite the cultural phenomenon." See, I just don't find it fascinating. I find it... good. Because ultimately I believe in the free expression and interchange of ideas. And I believe that it's wrong, particularly in the academy, in which the free expression and interchange of ideas is supposed to be paramount, that we're threatening people with potential unemployment for having and expressing ideas.

Also, there's something about the tone of your comments overall that... well, I'll just say it... pisses me off. I'm not stupid. I know the risks involved in every single thing I write on this blog. I have spent much time considering what I would do if a colleague approached me and asked if I were Dr. Crazy. The point is, these are risks I'm willing to take to do what I'm trying to do on the blog. Perhaps you have chosen not to post on a blog publicly. That's great. But my choice to do so doesn't indicate thoughtlessness on my part. In fact, every post I write on here I assume somebody who knows me will read. I assume that my identity will ultimately be revealed. But I refuse to stop the experiment because of that because I think I'm doing something good here. Maybe I'll live to regret these choices, but maybe not.

Finally, I entirely think that the "appropriate" thing is gendered in that what is deemed "appropriate" and inappropriate in our society relates to how well we conform to gender (and sexual, and class, etc.) norms. Thus, if I'm a woman academic and I write about how I'm trying to get pregnant with my husband, that's more ok than if I'm a woman academic and I write about having a crush on a 22 year old or having anonymous sex with somebody. Similarly, if I'm a male academic and I write about things that fit into a conventional model for masculinity, that's absolutely cool, but if I challenge the norms for masculinity, it's likely to be a problem. To say that what is "appropriate" in our culture has nothing to do with things like gender, race, class, sexuality, etc. seems to me an incredibly naive position.
 
Kudos for identifying the gender bias lurking in all this discourse. I completely agree that the concern about "appropriate" blogging is linked to those hold-over ideas about women's bodies and private voices. But, for that same reason, I think that women academic bloggers are more at risk if their identities are outed ...

Dr D
 
Um, Wow. There's a few things here I'd like to address, if that's okay.

You wrote, "See, I just don't find it fascinating. I find it... good." I wrote fascinating to avoid the normative slant on it. I'm glad that you do find it good. There are others who would not. I'm reading blogs, so it's safe to say that I find it to be a positive addition to other modes of communication as well. However, I also think this is an extremely new and different form of communication. It intrigues me on a professional level--it's something I'd like to study. Is that bad? You seem to indicate that it is in the statement above.

I was rather consumed by it when I had a public blog. I'm still trying to sort out what needs it fulfilled for me. Obviously, it fulfills a great many needs on a personal level. This, I find fascinating. What do we get from blogs that we would not get from a journal? Interaction is the obvious answer, but as a social scientist, I think it's too obvious. I think it serves many purposes, and I find that fascinating. At the same time, I think bloggers (myself included) have a tendency to overestimate the importance of blogs on society, the general public, on communication, etc. There is an overwhelming majority that believes they are nothing but positive contributions to society, communication, to what have you. I think some good old fashioned academic rigor would help here, but I am at a loss as to how to implement it, to tell the truth. I have a hard time escaping my own positive connotations.

This bothers me, though: "Also, there's something about the tone of your comments overall that... well, I'll just say it... pisses me off."

I sincerely apologize for angering you, that was not my intent in the least. In fact, that's the farthest thing from my intent. I assure you, there was nothing intentionally condescending in my "tone," and I am sorry you thought I was intentionally being a prick. I honestly did not mean it that way. (Tone on the internet--another problem with online communication, I think. It is SO easily misinterpreted. I don't mean that in any type of condescending way, either. I would just like you to know that was not my intent, nor was it my tone while writing. It sounded quite different in my head than how you interpreted it on the other end. I also find this a fascinating aspect of this medium.) I was attempting to engage in what I thought was an academic debate. I just thought there was more to it than what you expressed in your initial points above. I am sincerely sorry that it came off as a reflection on your intelligence or a statement about thoughtlessness--I certainly did not mean it as such. In fact, I was intrigued by your points, and wanted to contribute to this. The story about the local paper here is quite true. Unfortunately, many people were unaware about the local paper's column and their possible exposure until it was brought to their attention by a supervisor at work. I have seen, repeatedly, people surprised when others find out about a blog they thought was anonymous. I am sorry--I was unaware of your awareness of the risks. I was attempting to be helpful.

-Dr. L.
 
Oh, crap, I forgot to address the last part of your reply. Yes, I agree, it can be naive to assume that the cultural definition of appropriateness has nothing to do with gender (Note that I did not say there was nothing to do with class, race, etc.) I simply think we might be better off addressing this through in person communication, rather than through blogs. I would prefer to alter the atmosphere through gradually making it acceptable to speak about dating, doubts, whatever, with stodgy colleagues in person first. I'm sure we differ there, but that's my belief, that despite the newness of this medium, it will not provide a cure for this particular brand of sexist behavior. A claim that it will change this behavior seems lacking to me.
 
Hey Dr. L.
Sorry I flew off the handle at you, and thanks for the apology and for the clarification.

1. I don't think it's a bad thing to want to study blogging as a mode of communication at all, and I didn't mean to come off that way when I responded to your "fascinating" comment - I think it was the tone problem at work.

2. You write: "At the same time, I think bloggers (myself included) have a tendency to overestimate the importance of blogs on society, the general public, on communication, etc. There is an overwhelming majority that believes they are nothing but positive contributions to society, communication, to what have you. I think some good old fashioned academic rigor would help here, but I am at a loss as to how to implement it, to tell the truth. I have a hard time escaping my own positive connotations."

This is really interesting. I have written before about the distinctions between journaling and blogging for me, very early on, actually. If you take a gander through my archives I think you may find some posts of interest. Here's what I think, fwiw: I think that you are right that many bloggers overestimate the significance of blogs to the world and the positive effects of blogging in the world. BUT this is one of the reasons why I think we need to be specific about what we're talking about when we're talking about blogging. I think that for many blogging = political blogs or blogging =journaling. I'm not sure our thoughts about what blogs are or do include blogs like mine, for example, because the whole experiment of my blog was about trying to do something that blends the personal with the professional, that is (though I resisted the label when it was assigned) as Michael Berube called my blog, "raw." For me, the blog then works in a way unlike a journal for a couple of reasons: 1) I am trying to achieve a certain kind of voice as a writer on the blog, and in my journal I don't think about things like voice and tone as much; 2) I'm interested in the performative aspects of blogging, how we construct a blogging identity and how that identity projects out into the world (this is especially interesting I think in terms of pseudonymous academic bloggers, whose identity is pseudo-academic but also something else thrown in, usually).

3.) To your addendum: I do not think that blogging changes the world exactly, but I do think that when a person gives something a voice and a community develops around that then change can happen. So no, I do not see my blog as "activist" in any conventional sense but nevertheless I do see it as part of a feminist project of experimentation and inquiry. (I'm not too big on activism, generally, though I suppose that my actual academic work would be considered more straightforwardly activist than the blog is.)

Ok, I'm hogging my own comments, so I'll shut up now :)
 
Dr. D wrote:

"But, for that same reason, I think that women academic bloggers are more at risk if their identities are outed ... "

About this I think that you may be right, and if we think about women writers in the 19th century whose "real" identities were exposed, I think we'll see that such greater consequences have been faced by women before. Here's the problem, though: does it mean that women should then bow to the status quo out of fear and paranoia? Is that a feminist response? The response of a person with agency? Maybe it is, but I don't know. I'm a pragmatist in a lot of ways, but to me that feels a lot like submission. At any rate, thanks for the comment. I'll keep thinking about it...
 
Love the post. I agree with the gendered definition of "appropriateness" (though I do think as discrimination law has evolved that a male professor blogging similarly would be seen not as inappropriate but rather as creepy and sleazy, where a woman provides titillation in the Mary Kay Letourneau mode and does surely, simultaneously, and hypocritically evoke public censure).

Count me in as a Dr. Crazy groupie.

All that said, comments in the original post that seem to reserve women's blogs as anonymous, pseudonymous, and personal make, to me, a far too easy binary distinction. It is true that it seems more academics such as Michael Berube have signed blogs, and do more directly and oftern address institutional, political, and topical issues. However, lots of male bloggers also opt for anonymity and the partially disguised personal. Are you saying that they are culturally and discursively cross dressing? What about folks like Culture Cat, who has a mind map of her diss online? I find the gender distinction here more vexed than you would admit.

Anyway, great post.

Peter
 
I agree that it is more vexed than I admit here... I addressed it in the way that I did partly out of laziness (ah, laziness) and partly for the sake of clarity and then partly (so many parts) because I don't feel capable of speaking for others. I know what it feels like as a woman blogger writing under a pseudonym. I don't know what it would feel like to be a man writing under a pseudonym.

Also, you catch me in the whole woman = personal, anonymous, etc. trap that I made for myself. The truth is, I think that the way that I set that up here is really lame. Obviously to define all women's writing in those ways (as to define all men's writing as public, rational, etc.) is really reductive. I would say, however, that speaking just for myself, one of my projects here is to try to carve out a way of talking about the professional and the personal (and thinking about the professional and the personal) that blurs the distinctions a bit. I don't know, I'm being unclear. It's the end of a looooonnnnngggggg teaching day and almost the end of a looooonnnnnngggg week. Thanks for the comments, though, Peter. More things to think about (though probably what I'm going to do instead, at least right now, is have a nice cup of tea and a little nap with my kitty-cat.
 
Oh, and I love your Mary Kay Lateurneau (and I probably spelled that wrong - sorry) connection and I really do want to address this because yes, totally agree with what you say above, and I've done some thinking about it and yet never get around to posting about it.... ugh.... so many posts and so little time.
 
Oh, and to further hijack my own comments, I think it's interesting the way that the gender stuff is what we're talking about in the comment thread and not the stuff about privileging certain kinds of academic careers (and the tenure requirements for those kinds of careers) in this discussion. That is actually the thing that irritates me most about the current way this issue is framed. I know a couple of my peeps early in the thread mentioned it, but it's interesting to me that somehow the sex/gender stuff has subsumed the broader issues that I talk about in the post.
 
Wow, I'm surprised to find myself mentioned in this thread. I'm on the market this year and have struggled with what to do about the blog. I don't want to delete it, and that would be futile anyway; lots of people in my field already know about it and read it, for better or worse. Nothing left to do but see what happens. I've tried to imagine how I'd react if a department, say, made me an offer but said that I'd have to get rid of the blog if I wanted the position. I don't know what I'd do.
 
Dr. C:
No harm done, no offense taken. I'm sorry I didn't express myself well initially. I got all worked up and excited about the subject, and just jumped right in.

I will definitely check out your archives. Probably later this evening, when I am procrastinating grading a large stack of papers from my Intro to Methods class. Groan.

Your point about definition is well taken, and I agree. Your comments sent me in another direction, as well, however. We are very restrictive about what can and can't be done (as refers to communication) on blogs. The netiquette of blogs has quickly become quite complicated, I think. Your comments about hogging your own comments are a perfect example. (IMO, it's your blog & your comments--hog away! It's a great conversation.) If we restrict how to communicate on blogs (formally or informally), and they present some difficulties in communication to begin with by their very medium (tone, etc.), how effective are they as modes of communication? I often find it difficult to have in-depth discussions on blogs for these reasons. (This might also be due to my tendency to pontificate a bit. Heh.) I think your identity questions are extremely intriguing. I also agree with you about voice and tone--you would not think about them as much if it were a journal versus a blog. I often wonder, though, if blogs are freeing us in our modes of communication or restricting us further. There's some discipline involved there, ensuring that the voice and tone are expressed correctly. There certainly are benefits. I wonder if they outweigh the restrictions, though. (I'm not aiming that specifically at you, it's just something I have wondered about in general for some time now.)

I initially established my blog to chronicle wedding plans. It soon became an all-purpose outlet. It was a very interesting experience for me. I melded personal and professional, much like yourself. It did have some negative repercussions for me, though. I revealed some information that many would consider to be too personal, and was roundly attacked. I adopted a rule about not posting anything I would not say to someone in person or reveal to someone I didn't know very well. Needless to say, my blog became pretty boring very quickly. Shortly after, I took down the blog. I found it easy to forget that it wasn't just a collection of friends and family reading my blog, that it was open to the world. There's such a strange sense of intimacy involved. Fascinating. Fascinating, I say!

Makes me wish I were in a position to investigate this further. Sadly, it's not my field. I wish someone would pick this up as a research project--I would definitely be interested in the results.

I'm off to attempt to grade these sad excuses for papers. Thanks for the engaging conversation!
 
I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. (By the way, to avoid commenting here as "anonymous", I ended up creating my own blog.) Yours is one of many blogs I read, and I have to say it is fun to get to know the things I learn about thanks to generous people like you, blogging and sharing. I find joy in that. Your own sensibilities are different from mine, I sometimes feel as if I am reading a blog by someone living in a foreign country. But most of the differences are those of age and gender, I am a fifty seven year old guy, and of course some of the things you come up with surprise me. But I think it helps me understand my 27 year old artist daughter a little better.
I also read Daniel Drezner, and was disappointed at what happened to him. I hope blogging had nothing to do with his not getting tenure -- I would think making the effort to share his ideas and enlighten his readers would add to his stature, not detract, but I am not in academia, so I would not know.
Anyhow, best wishes, and thanks again, you have created a delightful blog.
 
What a good post (and I have been a huge fan of this blog ever since I first followed a link from--I think--Inside Higher Ed). I've been thinking about this issue today too, after reading the piece about bloggers and tenure. I must confess I was horrified by the quote in the piece by the guy who says he would have been willing to take down his blog immediately if his senior colleagues asked him to! Something in me would rebel at this, I think, though I am not at all a rebellious person as a whole. (But I also think that my colleagues trust me to show reasonable judgment; and I am very scrupulous, as an academic blogging under my own name, about what is or isn't fair material for the blog. My rule is always "Would I say it at an English department party to a mixed audience--grad student, senior faculty--of 4-5 people?" If I wouldn't, or if in doubt, I don't write it. As a result I rarely say anything about departmental or other professional business! Mostly just my private thoughts on private reading.)
 
I love this post too, and I wanted to chime in, but I have to run and I haven't finished reading all the comments that are already here.

I just wanted to say that, like Clancy, I'm wondering about my own blog. Which was published under my own name for a long time, and which I have now sorta-kinda made pseudonymous, but a Google serach for my name still turns up the blog for the first bunch of results. And my blog is very much personal in all kinds of ways, and I think I subvert "a conventional model for masculinity" in all kinds of ways, at least I hope I do. I wonder, Dr C., if in Peter's terms you'd say that I am "culturally and discursively cross dressing"? I mean, I sorta hope you would since it'd be fun to seem so hip and all. ;-)

But as personal as my blog can be, I don't put anything up that I wouldn't tell to a colleague. I've given the address to some colleagues, in fact, and had it lead to some really wonderful conversations. I sometimes wonder what will happen when strangers are reasing it along with my job applications. But somehow I just can't be too scared about that. I mean, I think my blog is a pretty decent representation of myself--it really does reflect who I am in some ways. And I think I come across as intellectually serious, but also a real human being who has interests in the world. And I think, though I'm sure some might disagree, that I am pretty likable on my blog. So I have a hard time seeing how it would hurt me on the job market.

OK, sorry to hijack your comments and to go off about myself. Mostly I just want to say that I think this is a very smart post, thanks.
 
Thanks for the comments, all, and feel free to keep the conversation going. I've got a stack of midterms to grade, so I may not be around for a couple of days. At any rate, I'm not done with the conversation, just taking a little break. And welcome all newcomers or former lurkers!
 
Wow, after reading all of these comments on blogging, I'm starting to freak out a little about my own blog! I'm a first year PhD student and my name's on my blog for all to see.
 
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