Collin recently linked to a convergence between/among several academic blogs attempting to come to terms with the public nature of blogging. The conversation grows out of an observation made by Graham Leuschke about the number of academics who blog anonymously, usually out of concern for their professional reputation. Within the comments, I came across ~profgrrrrl’s~ explanation for why she chooses to blog anonymously, and Collin also led me to Lori’s post on “Stepford Blogging,” where she explains the potential risks of blogging while engaged in an academic job search.
Before I begin, I think it’s important to note that lots of people outside the academy maintain anonymous blogs. The desire for anonymity isn’t limited to fearful academics, but is true for people in other professions as well (and Graham acknowledges this point at the end of his post). And there was a valuable discussion of this issue several months ago, during the peak academic job search season, at Invisible Adjunct (I’m too lazy to find it, but I’m happy the archives are still up–thanks IA!). But Collin, Graham, ~profgrrrrl~, and Lori all rase some important questions about how blogging fits within the academic world.
From the very beginning (now about 16 months ago counting my original Blogger blog), I chose not to blog anonymously, and although I’m not sure I really considered the effects of that choice at the time, I am happy with that choice. I know that it has limited what I’m willing to say. You get very few details about my personal life here (some might say that my personal life *has* very few details, but that’s another story). I usually don’t talk about classroom experiences or conversations with students, friends, and colleagues in very much detail (in part, I avoid talking about them simply because these people haven’t asked for their stories, ideas, or anecdotes to be mentioned in a public place). Sometimes that feels like a major loss, and I’ve considered starting another anonymous blog where I can talk about that stuff (and, no, I don’t have a secret blog under another identity). In fact, I’ve really enjoyed reading ~profgrrrrl’s~ blog today because she is able to talk more directly about some of the issues that confront (single thirty-something) academics on a daily basis.
Collin also discusses the “relative comfort” from which he writes:
I don’t have tenure, no, but I’m finishing up my first book, get pretty good teaching evaluations, contribute to the department in a range of ways, and I believe that my colleagues are quite pleased at having hired me. I’m also a big, white man, who hasn’t had to worry about unwanted attention, who is comfortable screening the material that appears here, and who doesn’t really have to worry about the kind of surveillance that some of the comments discussed. In other words, there’s a certain amount of privilege involved with the fact that I can write as myself here, without much fear of official reprisal or risk.
I’m not yet tenure-track, so it’s hard for me to guess how much my comfort level might change if I were to get a tenure-track job, but with the summer quickly coming to an end and this fall’s job market gearing up, I’m beginning to face some of the same questions as Lori (and my own experience is still mildly shaded my own unexpected publicity last fall when my use of blogging in my freshman comp class became topic du jour in the blogosphere).
I’m not sure yet how much my blogging pratcices will change during the next few months. I do know that I’ve been able to network/make connections both professionally and personally using the blog, and that’s something I don’t want to change. I’d also wonder if academic blogs might not have the effect opposite of what most people imagine. Instead of making a candidate appear to be a colleague who is not engaging in “real” scholarship, or someone who is too opinionated, isn’t it equally possible that a blog might convey that a job candidate is committed, friendly, creative, and dynamic? Maybe I’ve already sipped the blogging Kool-Aid, but I know that if I came across a job candidate’s blog while on a search committee, I’d be more interested in that candidate.