Saturday, November 04, 2006

Blowin' In The Wind: Reflections On The First Week of Blogging

In the past week, I got determined and went out and looked at other people's blogs. Why, you might ask, did I think I was the only person who had the bright idea of blogging about the academy? Sheesh. I have come upon fabulous blogs: they range from the serious (zapping David Horowitz, sharing ideas about teaching and publishing, getting through your dissertation/job search/new job) to blogs that are reaching real highs when it comes to ironic commentary on the State of the Profession. Every day I now check Quod She (the famous Dr. Virago), A Ianqui in the Village (currently trying to figure out a difficult commuting situation that might result from her partner accepting a dream job), and my current favorite, Ferule and Fescue. Will I always do this? And how dare I claim the name Tenured Radical, when Michael Berube is out there blogging away as Professor B?

I mean, of course I am late to the game. I am late to every game. I just learned about blogging at all because a woman, who is related to me by -- well, given the state of gay marriage, shall we say "partnership"? -- started a blog about her family. I started reading it obsessively because she was writing about people I knew, and I wanted to know what her latest news was and about who. Members of our extended family fall into two categories: those who read and those who don't, and I sense a vague suspicion of modern forms of communicaiton among those who don't. So I don't tell them about me so they won't worry, you know what I mean? The most avid readers are me and my 13 year-old nephew Extravaganza, who has his own blog, where he hopes kids he knows will write with love dilemmas. Through this method, he hopes to learn all the secrets of the eighth grade, and ultimately attain power over everyone. One thing led to another after Extravaganza announced his blog on a family-wide email. I found myself looking at templates, and suddenly I thought, you know, what if instead of writing lies (not that there's anything wrong with them!) or collecting the love secrets of the history department at Zenith University (eeeee-yew) I wrote about -- the Truth? I could be a Hypocrisy Buster!

Now isn't this silly? But the good news is that since then I have also been reading other academic blogs, and have gotten my head right straight. I am working on a better mission statement than the one I started with. In the meantime, I have discovered a new community of intellectuals who don't work with me at Zenith, and who aren't going to read my scholarship to decide whether I'm smart enough to live. Because I'm done with that since my promotion to full professor, if I have not made this clear in previous posts.

I have learned so much. I have discovered new conventions of naming, and ways to reveal myself while cleverly concealing my identity. It's so much better than internet chat rooms, which are very superficial. As far as I can tell, people log on and say "hi" and "bye" a lot - or they tell you with an acronym that they just got up to get something from the refrigerator and walk the dog and pee, but they are BACK NOW. My feeling is that they are all in their twenties and either in the military or working the night shift. Or maybe they are FBI agents trolling for pedophiles. But on blogs, I can fully engage! I have new heroes like Ianqui, Super G, Dr. Virago, Professor B, Historianness -- I've had to trim my reading list to make sure I start writing before eleven in the morning. And to preserve my anonymity, but try to seduce people into actually getting in touch and reading my blog, I have established a new Gmail account (it's which you can get to via my profile -- but oh gosh, I just told you the address, didn't I?

The other way I try to get to people is by commenting on their blogs. Which is not too hard, except no one except Dr. Virago and Professor B seems to be my age, so I have to work really hard not to sound like a windbag. Only one person has commented back and added my link, but it's early yet.

I've also thought that at the next conference I go to I could get cards printed up with my blog address, and leave them in the toilets, on chairs, at cashbars, and so on. That would be so Not Done, I think it would please me enormously. I have always been a Not Done sort of person, because the beauty of it, is if you are going to do what is Not Done you have to have a perfect sense of what IS Done.

If I thought Extravaganza could keep a secret, I would take him with me to the conference so he could distribute cards in the men's room too. But I can't, because he is too busy keeping the eighth grade under control and he trades in information as I do.


New Kid on the Hallway said...

Extravagenza sounds amazing. I wish him luck with his plans for 8th grade domination!

And, um, hi - I followed you over here from your recent comment on my blog. I can be number 2. ;-)

Dr. Virago said...

Hi Tenured Radical.

Oh my goodness I'm *blushing*. I don't think I've ever been anyone's hero before! That's awesome!

Welcome to the blog world. It's good to hear from a tenured voice -- they're fewer and farther between than the asst. profs. and grad students. And I'm both glad and intrigued by the fact that you chose to go psuedonymous, since often the tenured people don't feel the need to do so. I think you're absolutely right when you write:

In the meantime, I have discovered a new community of intellectuals who don't work with me at Zenith, and who aren't going to read my scholarship to decide whether I'm smart enough to live.

That certainly happens whether you're anonymous or not -- and one of the best reasons for blogging -- but anonymity sometimes makes that even more true, since no one assesses your blog by who you are or comes to it because of the work you've written outside of the blog, but rather, they read based on the quality of the blog writing itself.

And I love your blog already. I think you're absolutely right that we need more fun in the academy. And I second New Kid -- Extravaganza sounds awesome.

By the ways, I just sent you an e-mail in response to yours to me. And now I'm going to add you to my blogroll!

The Combat Philosopher said...

I like your blog too. I also agree about there being too few 'senior people' blogs (I'm a tenured Associate).

There is one odd phenomenon that I have observed though that you might think about. There is at least one blog I know where someone junior pretends to be senior! The advice they hand out is often laughable. This is part of the downside of blog anonymity.

Maybe senior people should put together a 'senior commonroom' as they have at Brit institutions?

Anyhow, keep up the good work. Drop by my place some time. I'll keep looking in here too.

The CP

Flavia said...

Oh, aren't you sweet! I second everything Dr. V says--and, as you know from my own blog, I can't say enough good things about the academic blogosphere and the support that it offers.

I look forward to everything that you have to add to the conversation.

Anonymous said...

TR, welcome to the 'sphere. You are already articulating a lot of the anxieties and satisfactions about blogging that I've come to after three plus years of it.

I just switched to a psedonymous blog and am negotiating many of these issues: family, colleagues, students, other bloggers.

Anyway, stop on by my place sometime. You'll find your link on my blogroll.

Dr. Crazy said...

Hi there! This is coming late, but welcome to this little corner of the blogosphere! I'm going to be updating my blogroll in the next couple of weeks, and when I do, you'll be added to the list!