In addition to hearing some very smart papers about blogging, I had the opportunity to talk to many bloggers who I respect immensely, including John Holbo, Scott Eric Kauffman, Dr. Crazy and Bitch PhD. (Though I spent far less time talking to Dr. C and Dr. B than I should have.) In our discussions, as we talked a little about blogging, I began to see more clearly what the possibilities of the medium might be, for me as an academic, a writer, and a potential member of a larger community. And it seems to me that this particular community is beginning to change.
In response to Scott’s post about his MLA paper at The Valve, Rich Puchalsky commented:
I’d guess that 80% of the current academics who are ever going to blog are already blogging. The rest of the change is going to be generational—an increasing percentage of new grad students blogging,a slow retirement of people whose non-blogging habits are set, a faster conversion of pseudonymous bloggers without tenure to named bloggers with tenure. Most people don’t have the narrative or descriptive writing skills to hold a mass blogging audience, and without that, I think that people tend to give up. Possibly, they burn out and give up even *with* that, but then they tend to come back.To which Scott responded:
Rich, I don’t buy it. I can’t remember the number of people I talked to this past week who simply didn’t know--or entirely misunderstood--what academic blogging was all about. I think as more people realize its potential--I’ve half-written a post on this excellent, if specialized, blog--we’ll see more people jump into the game.First, Rich may be right about the kind of writing that blogs require, at least if one wants an audience, which I do. There is a sense in which blogging is personal, a way to get things onto paper (or into pixels) that one might not ordinarily get on paper. But the point for me is to enter a conversation with people who are thinking about similar kinds of things. If someone blogs in the forest and no one is there to hear it, I don’t think it really makes a sound, nor does it make any sense—at least for me. Because I think Rich is right about the necessary “narrative and descriptive writing skills,” I’ve been reluctant to start blogging. Like writing an article, a conference paper, or a book (I would imagine), beginning to blog requires a bit of egotism, enough to really convince one’s self that one has something to say, that one can say it well, and that it will be interesting to at least a handful of others. One of the things I admire about the blogs I’ve been lurking around for the past year, is that the bloggers are interesting and do write in the ways that Rich describes.
Scott’s comment also makes sense to me. While I do think I have a sense of what academic blogging is all about, or at least what I want it to be all about for me, I really needed to work out for myself what the potential for blogging was, both professionally and personally. Dr. Crazy, ever the reflective blogger, has an excellent post, written in response to a question posed at an MLA blogging panel, about blogs “counting” toward academic credentialing. Dr. C writes, “I love that I have a public writing space that doesn't quite count.” And at a very basic level, that’s what I’m looking for—a space to write where the stakes aren’t absent (as in a personal diary), but where they’re different. I don’t have clear-cut goals for what I want this blog to be yet; I don’t want to limit the kinds of writing I do here from the outset, rather I want this to be an exploration of what kinds of writing are possible in this kind of space.