Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Unusual Literacies: Scott Eric Kaufman’s MLA Talk Online

For those who participated in – or at least followed – Scott Eric Kaufman’s preparations for his MLA presentation, just a note that Scott has now posted his talk to Acephalous. Aside from posting the talk itself, Scott also provides a lovely introductory discussion about the process of preparing for an academic presentation (hint: Scott is a bit more prepared, and a bit less neurotic, about the whole process of converting an academic concept into a talk than I tend to be… ;-P).

Given how many links I’ve scattered in the paragraph above, I’ll provide the direct link to Scott’s talk here, for those seeking to avoid the backstory… ;-P

I particularly love Scott’s description of the original theme of his talk:

the role blogs could play as virtual parlors devoted to the professionalization of sharp minds with rodential social instincts.

(People who know me in person will probably guess why this line might appeal… ;-P)

More seriously, the post contains some very good reflections on the distinction between written and oral presentations, while the talk captures particularly well some key elements of what I agree is a strange confusion over academic blogging, even amongst those who participate in the medium. Trying to slice through some of this confusion, Scott invites us to set aside our technophobia, distinguish professional blogs from more confessional online diaries, and recognise when objections commonly framed as specific to blogging boil down, on reflection, to criticisms of fairly garden-variety violations of professional conduct that could arise in other forms of communication. Scott challenges us to think seriously about what blogging contributes as a distinctive mode of professional practice – and puts forward the recommendation that blogging may provide a particularly important means of overcoming the forms of disciplinary hyper-specialisation encouraged by other forms of academic writing.

Or, in Scott’s own words:

Perhaps reading academic journals at 8 p.m., after having worked since on my dissertation since 8 a.m., strikes some as indulgent (insane, even); and perhaps trying to reformulate that into something a genuinely educated audience can understand, strikes some as a waste—but to me, the former indicates that I list “literary theory” among my hobbies, the latter that I’m interested in processing it Cornell-style and communicating it to those outside not only my increasingly specialized sub-discipline but my profession, so that I might better understand it myself. Consolidating what I’ve learned and rethinking what I’ve written occupy large chunks of my evening and are, I believe, essential to my intellectual and professional development.

But you really should go read the talk for yourself… ;-P

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