La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Against my better judgment

Several blogs have responded to the Chronicle article about academic bloggers.

The reactions run from indignation to an acceptance that this is how academia works. In my own case, I find that I am in that vulnerable position of being an untenured faculty member with a non-anonymous blog, the most dangerous of all blog types. Maybe, but maybe not. It all depends on how you use your blog, I think. (Of course, since I'm not on the market, I don't know this for sure.)

In any event, the flurry of discussion on blogs and the academic job market has got me wondering what potential employers might think about my blog. If they dug through my archives, would they find out that I'm not worth hiring? I'm not so sure.

They'd definitely get a better sense of me as a person. As it is, I find it really interesting that most visitors from university IPs to my homepage go first to the "About me" page, and then after looking at all the pics of my dog, they finally make their way to my "research" page. At least with my blog, they get a more complete sense of "me." Maybe only those that need to hide their true selves should be worried about their blog "outing" their nasty personalities.

On the other hand, I, probably like many other non-pseudonymous academic bloggers, don't post every random thought or idea on my blog. My rants are confined to the Mexican bureaucracy and ugly eyebrow piercings, never my colleagues or other academics.

[...which leads me to another observation I've thought about lately. There seem to be two (maybe three) types of academic blogs:

1. Non-anonymous blogs that usually focus on public issues with only occasional mention of personal events (the birth of a baby, maybe a movie). Would any of these really hurt an academic on the job market? According to Ivan Tribble, yes. But it shouldn't be so.

2. Anonymous blogs by academics that usually focus on personal rants, pets, and strange goings-ons, but that have little academic content. There's a reason these are anonymous.

3. Anonymous blogs that blend #2 with #1, and here, I'm thinking specifically of Bitch, PhD.

What I think is more interesting is that blogs of the #1 type tend to be by men, while blogs of the #2 and #3 type tend to be by women. In part, this is why I decided to try the #1 route, though the academic commentary has been lite of late, given our move back to the states.]

I think Dan was right when he said that non-bloggers over estimate the amount of time a blog takes. Once you get it up and running, it becomes much easier. In my case, the blog hasn't taken time away from my article writing mainly because it has taken the place of TV watching or novel reading. I blog when I can no longer work and seldom instead of work. It's also been a useful way for me to keep up with Mexican politics for my research and comment on what was happening in Mexico while I was there. It's even suggested new areas of research (non-blog research) for the future.

In my case, I don't think the blog will affect tenure at Tech. Whether it would hurt me on the market, I can only guess. I know I have googled our job candidates, but I don't think my colleagues do. I'll let you know in a few years, though.

posted by Michelle @ 2:28 PM,


At 7/15/2005 1:32 AM, Blogger bitchphd said...

You know, you're the first person, I think, to define what are usually (and erroneously, I think) called "political" and "personal" blogs so clearly. They always get defined as political vs. personal, or men vs. women, but I think you are right: it's more about public issues, light on personal events, or personal stuff, lite on "public" style writing.

Yours is a useful distinction; next time the "why don't women blog on blah blah blah" comes up, I'll use this, instead of the other frames.

At 7/15/2005 3:01 PM, Blogger Another Damned Medievalist said...

I like that definition, too, although I also think there's another type (maybe defined by New Kid?) which is the 'academic life' blog. That's how I tend to think of mine -- the occasional rant, but mostly just my experiences AS an academic, in addition to ideas about research, etc. And conference reports, which I've noticed most of the medievalists do, some more explicitly than others.

I'm also glad you mentioned where the time comes from, because I know that's true for me, too.

At 7/16/2005 9:22 PM, Blogger mantooth said...

I admire your bravery in being willing to forsake anonymity even though you're untenured. I don't know if it helps to be at a state school, but at my university--a religious institution with a long reactionary history from which it's only now emerging--I'm concerned about relics in the administration seizing upon my comments and using them to sink my tenure application. For that reason, I'm choosing to go anonymous, for the most part. (Pretty much anyone who knows me could ID me from my blog b/c I post photos of my kid.)

I've also decided to make my blog a "#3" in your taxonomy. I like your ideas about how blogging doesn't necessarily amount to time away from work; thinking about writing about the personal, familial, social, and political significance of the activities of daily life is the job of an academic, especially in the humanities, I'd say.

At 7/18/2005 12:44 AM, Blogger academic coach said...

I agree with Bitch that your definition provides an interesting frame for the issue.


At 7/21/2005 10:57 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

ADM, I would put New Kid in #1. No it's not super personal but it's anonymous and less about public issues.

After reading Bitch's post and thinking some more about gender and categories, it seems less surprising to me that there tends to be a public/male/non-anonymous vs. private/female/anonymous dichotomy (with some interesting exceptions). The anon v. non-anon, I think, has more to do with the content (public v. private). And I think the decision to do a public v. private blog has something to do with gender. (Here I'm remembering all those old texts from my Women's Studies 101 at Barnard.)

I think a really interesting research question (for someone in the humanities or maybe anthro/soc) would be: (why) do women's blogs tend to be about the "private" sphere, while men's blogs tend to be about the "public" sphere?

First, you'd have to determine whether [the top 1000 linked?] blogs do really fall along that axis (easy enough with a 2x2 table, if you could figure out the gender of writers of anonymous blogs). Then, you'd have to explain why.

Maybe it's really obvious why. Maybe it's the private vs. public sphere-thing. Or maybe its something else. (Or maybe there's no gender relationship at all...)

I'm just thinking out loud here.


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