Wednesday, March 9, 2011

(Re-)Asserting Myself

A number of things have me reconsidering my recent (non-)uses of social media, this blog and Twitter especially. In order of cognizance:

1) The reading I'm entrenched in for my comprehensive exams and my need to
    a. synthesize that reading,
    b. catalog my notes for fairly easy access during my exams, and
2) This tweet by @thmazing which basically implies, "Geez, @KingTawhiao: where've you been? Your blogs collecting mothballs."

3) These two comments by Sarah Dunster on Wilderness Interface Zone (one and two) that suggest to me
    a. that some people are finding their way here even though I haven't been and
    b. that maybe if I made the place up a bit and re-asserted my focus, I could accomplish something meaningful—or even more immediately, something practical—around here.
4) Alex Reid's "On the Value of Academic Blogging." These thoughts seem especially salient as I transition into my professional career:
[T]o get tenure at a research university, perhaps you have published ten articles, a book, and presented at 20 conferences. This would be a pretty solid vita, in my experience. How large an audience do you think this is in total? Less than the number of monthly visitors to this very modest blog.

It would seem to me that the average academic (or academic journal) seeks to avoid exposure. Publishing an article in the "Journal of narrowly-focused humanities studies" is a good way to hide. Those who do manage to find you will probably be sympathetic. Plus you always have the shield of peer-review: clearly someone thought what you said was ok. Even if someone disagrees with you, the differences will likely be on details that very few people will know or care about. Besides, by the time that person manages to write and publish a response, your article is in the distant past. In any case, this almost never happens. Since 93% of humanities articles are never cited you can safely publish with the assumption that no one will ever mention your article again. Phew!

The same cannot be said of blogging. You might note there is a comment box below. Sometimes people will write about you on their own blog, or go after you on Twitter. Books and articles are too long for most of our colleagues to read off-hand. But colleagues in other departments on your campus will come up to you and mention reading your blog. You are exposed. People will read your blog, and they will respond. I would never suggest blogging as a replacement for other forms of scholarship any more than the conference presentation replaces the article or the monograph replaces the presentation. I do think that blogging and/or other means of digital-networked communication can be an important mechanism for sharing academic work, for connecting to a new, and likely larger, audience.
(Maybe I'll respond to this more in-depth later.)

Sitting at the confluence of these ideas, I decided two things:

1) Give the blog a paint job. Ta-da!

2) Use the blog to share your reading, research, and current projects with whoever cares to listen. If people respond, cool. If not, cool. Hence "Polipoesía and the Ph.D." in the sidebar, where I'll offer/link to updates on my exam reading. Hence "My Mormon Poetry Project." Hence "My C.V." in the header.

My hopes are modest. And I'm busier than ever. But I'm still intent on chasing those clouds.