May 09 2009

Weblogs and the Academy

Posted by Lisa in Uncategorized

Whoah, I’ve never liveblogged — this will be interesting (and not just the papers – I *know* those will be interesting!!)

Weblogs and the Academy: The Scope of the Professional and Boundaries of the Personal in Open, Pseudo-Anonymous, and Anonymous Blogging (organized by Shana Worthen and myself)

Personalizing the Profession: The Value of “Academic Life” Blogs, Christina M. Fitzgerald:academic life blogs v. narrowly discipline-focused blogs. The former works to humanize academics, showing demands of personal and professional and blurred lines between academic life and personal life. Blogs can be read for insight into other types of institutions, situations, or positions to gain broader knowledge of the workings of academia. Academic life blogs can shed light on the process to graduate students beginning the process, demystifying it in the process. Reminds readers that medievalists are not only what they publish, gives voice to their work, but also to the way their work impacts their personal lives and shapes their professional experience.

Balancing the Personal and the Professional in Academic Blogging, Kristen M. Burkholder: reasons for choice to pseudononymously blog and the ramifications of that decision. blogging under own name involves a certain circumspect treatment of blog contents, given the potential negative ramifications of name googling by an institution during a tenure process or job search. activities or opinions outside of academic life communicated in connection to a blogger’s real identity can still shadow that individual and color the opinions of readers. Medievalists, as a fairly ‘rare bird’ in academia, are easy to possibly ferret out based on clues to identity, so a pseudonym alone can’t be considered protection of identity. Blogging under a real name, however, allows the blogger to take credit for the blogging (ex: showing engagement with discipline). Can be a way to establish professional relationships and engage in discipline-based discourse. Blogs used as teaching tools can, obviously, not function pseudonymously if that blog is revealed to students in the course of utilizing it in pedagogy. Closed course blogs can’t be used as an ongoing tool, nor can they engage the scholarly community as a whole. The size of potential audience requires care to balance casual discussion of academic topics (like deconstructing conference sessions) with making actionable statements, and the positive visibility of a scholar as a representative of a discipline or university has another side of the coin if discretion is not applied to the blog topically or in the treatment of the topic.

“A Blogger by Any Other Name”: Pseudonymous Blogging and the Creation of a Legitimate Academic Voice, Julie A. Hofmann: academic blogging has changed significantly since 2002. Initially bloggers were discipline-focused and written primarily by males, whereas blogging by medievalists has exploded in the range of voices and the increase in academic life blogs. In general, the more personal the blog, the more likely the author is female, the blog pseudononymous, and the voice collegial/casual — but increasingly junior faculty are joined by senior faculty and graduate students and independent scholars in bloggingl. Despite the Ivan Tribble series, this expansion in types of bloggers shows that blogging and bloggers aren’t the scary things naysayers feared. Professional voice appears side by side with this casual, personal voice, thus presenting blogger as scholar and serving the discipline and community via information exchange and a space for discourse. Many (although not all) blogging with an academic voice post under their real identity, whether individual or group-constructed. The professional voice is carefully constructed, but the collegial voice is equally as carefully constructed and the pseudononymous blogger that uses it is not, as often accused, trying to hide something nor necessarily over-personal or under-professional. They are not *less* academic – they are *differently* academic. Most academics do not find jobs at research universities, so to stress the purely-professionally-voiced academic blog presents an image of the discipline that doesn’t match reality. And medievalists are often isolated on campuses — collegiality creates community. Questions: why are most academic life blogs written by females? why do males feel more comfortable blogging under their own names? and, if blogs are clearly academic and legitimate, why do so many academic life bloggers still feel compelled to blog pseudononymously?

My Blog Is Not Myself: Negotiating Identity in the Academic Blogosphere, Janice Liedel: Psychologists working on blogs have shown that the elaborate creation of online identity is actually rare – in reality, personal identity is grafted onto avatars and communication. In fact, the internet pulls some to reveal more of the personal than they would otherwise, and that has in part helped form the list of negatives leveled at bloggers: recklessness, senior colleagues can adversely impact careers, posts can create animosity in departments, popularity can create a form of professional jealousy. Even so, the internet identity is a construction (whether publicly blogging or no) however much it’s informed by the personality of the blogger. And the blogger must be cognizant of that identity constructed — a vitriol-fueled personal, for example, it surely not a good choice nor positive contribution to professional goals when bridges are burned with senior faculty and graduate students, alike. Although nothing disappears on the internet, choices can be reconsidered and personas remade to better serve the personal and professional goals of the blogger.

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