I have all kinds of responses owing to various people – apologies for this: I’m booked absolutely to the gills this week, conducting field interviews for a community development project, and then involved in an annual planning process within my university. I really do want to pick up on the various hanging threads, but may not find the time to do this for several days.
Evidently, I don’t believe that my comment debt has grown large enough, however, because I did want to toss up one new question for consideration. I just received this from my university:
The project we’re working on is an amalgamation of current blogs produced by academics into a best of the best style tumblelog (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tumblelog) that can work as a place where people can see the ideas coming out of the University.
This is the first step in creating an atmosphere of blogging throughout the University to help build a community based around academic thought and its relationship to the world. It will help to build a reputation … as a place for experts.
This is an achievable goal but only with your participation.
In this first stage, the tumblelog will link directly to existing blogs and feature posts from those blogs as they are updated.
My impulse, I have to admit, is to decline to participate in this project. I feel somewhat perverse in saying this, as I’ve put some effort into promoting the concept of academic blogging within the university, and defending the potentials of the medium for serious intellectual exchange. I have no idea how widely read my blog is within the university, but most people who know me, have probably heard that I maintain an academic and a course blog. So it’s not as though I’ve kept the blog secret, or assumed that what I write here would have no ramifications for my professional work. I think it’s generally a good thing that blogging become accepted as a potential medium for serious intellectual exchange, and I personally use blogging to try out most of the concepts I later use in more formal work. All of this suggests, I suppose, that I should be comfortable with the idea that my posts might be syndicated through something like the project above.
Strangely, though, I’m finding myself having a negative reaction to this request.
A large part of what makes blogging valuable to me is precisely that difference in style, tone and content that differentiates it from other forms of academic writing. And I find myself wondering how that difference in style, tone and content meshes with the notion that the blogs of university academics will somehow showcase the university as “a place for experts”. Something about this formulation sits very poorly with how I understand blogging – which, among many other things, I value for its (occasional and partial, but still important) puncturing of claims to expertise. And not simply due to the risk that someone might leap from the ether with some kind of devastating critique, but also because the sort of intellectual production that takes place via blogging is often raw, and dynamic, and strangely collective in extremely complex ways – my felt experience of blogging, and my personal motivation for persisting with the medium as a major medium for my intellectual work, don’t mesh well with the notion, tacit in the formulation above, that blogs might be a means for experts to disseminate their views to a broader (passive?) audience.
I may be over-emphasising the focus on expertise in the invitation above – this may be more of a throwaway line, with unfortunate unintended connotations.
I am curious, though: how are other people struck by this notion? Would other bloggers be happy for their posts to be syndicated on a university-branded site? What impacts would you expect such a formalised syndication arrangement to have on your writing? What problems – and what benefits – would you anticipate?