Reflections on Professionalization, Blogging and the MLA
Blogging has benefited my career. The feedback I received at the conference was overwhelmingly positive. If I finish my dissertation in the next nine months, I see little reason to think my online activities will have a negative effect on my hireability. This is not to say that I believe they will have a positive effect—as Bérubé noted during the Q&A to the first blogging panel, a blog is not something to list on your CV. Still, none of the luminaries I spoke to at the MLA believed blogs inherently unscholarly. (A few have even emailed me in the days since asking for advice on the various blogging platforms.) We've made some progress on this count. But at what cost?
The distinction between "academics who blog" and "academic blogs" ought to be insisted upon. The value of anonymous blogs in which a community celebrates/commiserates/communicates the minutiae of academic life has been underestimated (at least by me). The (seemingly) sudden disappearance of a number of blogs and bloggers who were well established when I arrived on the scene speaks to the possibility that "academic blogging" is strangling the life from "academics who blog." Careerists like myself may unwittingly pressure "academics who blog" into thinking their blogs must be more than mere blogs to justify their existence. I don't think that the case, and would hate to feel responsible for changing the environs in such a way that would make people uncomfortable. And yet, I do feel responsible. Perhaps because:
Blogging has made me a nicerperson. Strange as it may sound, a number of people were shocked by how "nice" a person I am. Something about blogging has transformed the asshole you know and love into a kind and (according to a couple of people) "surprisingly young" gentleman. (Do I write old? Don't answer that. I don't want to know.) The former is particularly amusing given that, as one correspondent insisted, the panel (and its success) should've reinforced my native "asshole-ishness." The MLA should've marked my ego's coming-of-age, should've been its extended coming-out party. Instead, I foolishly wasted those days being polite, humble and modest, much like those before and after the convention. Had someone informed me prior to the panel of these expectations, I would've behaved hideously. Instead, I transformed myself into a dim lummox:
Thinking about blogging and academia has made me a dull blogger. When all you do for a couple weeks is theorize your life and its relation to your career, it stands to reason you'll tire of both. And I have. I'm so oppressed by the tyranny of the meta- that mere blogging seems inadequate unless I include a proper justificatory framework for it. (Like the one framing the reproduction of my talk.) Solipsistic meta- posts are as dull to write as they are to read, though, so after this one I'm banishing such thoughts from my mind. Once I resume researching and writing—tomorrow, I attack!—the urge to write dull posts will be drowned beneath the onrushing tide of dissertation- and research-related ephemera.