Plain ketchup

| | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

Or rather, playing catch up, which is what I've been doing over the last couple of days. And now, ta-daaa, my Bloglines feeds are back at a manageable state, I did a little blogroll updating, and I'm feeling like I should be able to balance the travelogging with a little bit of your regularly scheduled programming.

I'm probably the last person on Planet Blog who (a) cares about this Guardian article from last week and (b) hasn't yet posted on it, but that's okay. The article mentions several of the people in my 'roll, and that's worth a post if nothing else.

Like Clancy, I thought that the portrayal of a resistance to blogging that somewhat missed the mark. McClellan writes

But many more traditional academics are suspicious of taking their ideas public in this way. For some, the blogging academic is the latest incarnation of the media don, ready to simplify complex ideas in return for a few minutes of fame. Others are wary of sharing ideas before they are ready - or of seeing original theories stolen before they are published.

Well, yes, there's a little of that, but far more important, I suspect, is the fact that daily writing is difficult. It requires a pretty deep commitment to a process that carries no guarantee of reward in a profession whose members are hyper-conscious of what meager rewards there are to be had.

I guess I'd put it like this: academia has operated for centuries according to a particular ratio between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and that ratio has its own rhythm. We are self-motivated to the degree that we sacrifice various portions of our lives to the pursuit of knowledge--no one enters academia believing it to be a fast track to any sort of "success" as society defines it. Our extrinsic motivation comes in the form of publications and/or presentations, recognition from a small circle of colleagues perhaps a couple of times a year. We internalize this model: writing is something we do "behind the scenes" and every once in a while, we derive some small bit of recognition for that work.

Blogging changes that ratio and that rhythm, period. It has changed the way I write, the frequency with which I write, and the reasons for which I write. Some of those changes are positive ones, while the jury's still out on others. Asking members of a highly conservative profession to simply chuck their customs and take up blogging is to fight against a great deal of inertia, both personal and professional. That's not to say that I don't see some benefit, particularly when it comes to abandoning some of academia's more absurd customs. But still...

To McClellan's credit, much more of the article discusses what is being done with weblogs rather than focusing on the faux-binary, and even that section is a pretty mild nod to the constraints of the genre. All in all, it was nice to see an article, even if it was written on another continent, that attempts to make some sense of just what it is that we do.

1 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Plain ketchup.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

I'm a total blog newbie. I've been reading them for less than a year and blogging for all of two months. So I can answer some questions but not all of them. If you're wanting a better understanding of blogs,... Read More


Thanks for the link; those of us who only erratically visit the Planet but are intrigued by it find the Guardian's story useful. But actually, your 30 Sept. entry is more useful. I still think, though, that there's another aspect to blogging that isn't getting air time--at least, not where I'm reading it: the generation gap. Find myself in the peculiar place of being a "senior" faculty member--aka old bat--and from that perspective, there's one more impediment to blogging that I'd like to mention: it involves a relationship to discourse, information, and culture that is difficult if not impossible for a BBoomer to grasp, much less participate in. My parents could hear the Doors' music, and if they'd made the effort, they could have sung the lyrics. But they would never have understood what it Meant.

Interesting point Becky makes about generation gaps. So far, I'm the only comp blogger I know over the age of 60, though my colleague Styles in western Washington may be there now.

In talking with an editor from a major publisher this week, I noted that they pitch their books mostly to the WPAs, committee chairs, and department chairs who have major influence where course-wide adoptions are practiced. Most of those folks are over 40--and much less likely to be engaged in the various forms of electronic discourse. I think this particular divide will disappear in 10 years or less, but right now the big DIVIDE I see in computers and comp is not the HAVES and HAVE NOTS, but the DOs and DON'Ts.

And maybe Collin will want to speculate on 2000+ miles of driving as an invention strategy, giving him lots of thinking time away from the blogosphere.

Heya, Becky!

This is interesting to me, bc at ODU (and I know that this is a HUGE generalization), it seemed like there were three generations--untenured, tenured, and full professors. This had something to do with the hiring patterns, which were driven by a flood of compensated early retirements a few years before I got there.

But my point is that, in many cases, the most senior members of the department were willing to experiment more with technology because they were secure in their positions. For us untenured folk, it's a little more of a gamble (although less of one, I think, than we sometimes claim) that what we do will be valued at tenure time. The in-between group was pretty heavily invested in focusing on meeting expectations (for tenure, promotion, etc.) than on changing them (untenured) or not worrying about them (senior).

So, in addition to age and/or familiarity, I'd say that there's an issue of security that has something to do with the DO/NOT divide. I may be overestimating or projecting my experience at ODU, but this was one way that I made sense of things...

Thanks, John. I'm closing in on 60 and intending to set up a blog at any moment, so maybe you soon won't be the lone ranger. It's not that I'm not willing to experiment, C, but just that I know that even when I have a blog, there will be a whole lot about the experience that just goes whizzing past me. Part of that is the generation gap, but part of it is just that I don't really have the wit, insight, and range of cultural knowledge that's essential to writing something worthwhile in this genre.

I'll bet you surprise yourself, Becky. It takes a while to find a rhythm and a focus you are comfortable with, but if you like to write, that will happen.

Leave a comment



Powered by Movable Type 4.1

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by cgbrooke published on September 30, 2004 2:49 AM.

Austin-tatious was the previous entry in this blog.

As promised is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.