Thursday, October 18, 2007

On the Other Side of the Magnifying Glass

Academic blogging is certainly a potentially risky act, as a panel that I'm sponsoring later this week with other U.C. Irvine faculty will likely re-emphasize. Anti-blogging articles like "Bloggers Need Not Apply" and "They Shoot Messengers, Don't They?" by Ivan Tribble argue that a blogging past can hinder hiring, promotion, and tenure of faculty in many disciplines. Based on the consequences for the authors of Informed Comment, Daniel Drezner, and Sinablog, it would seem that Tribble is right.

So if there are perils, Gina Walejko has been looking closely at the question of "why academics blog." I actually participated in this study, so hearing her results had the strange effect of being able to see onto the other side of the magnifying glass from a researcher who had done research on my own digital practices. Walejko was able to use data from the 1997 National Survey of Faculty, Professional Activities to formulate questions about the disadvantages and advantages to blogging.

Her final sample included fifty tenured and forty-six non-tenured faculty members. Although 51% described the activity as "not important for career," 91% praised the "intellectual stimulation" of blogging, 73% used the genre for "testing ideas," 73% said they enjoyed sharing their ideas with non-academics in the broader public, 70% considered it a vehicle for publicity and exposure, 64% found blogging productive to "build community," and 63% liked blogging because it facilitated sharing outside their discipline. Walejko found no correlation -- either positive or negative -- between blogging productivity and academic publication, but many of those surveyed did bemoan both the hours spent writing posts and being engaged with blogging discourses more generally.

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Blogger Lupton said...

I am an academic who blogs, but I am not really an academic blogger. In other words, I don't blog about my field. I blog about other life matters, and this creates a wonderful space for reflection. I do sometimes worry that colleagues or students will find the content frivolous or otherwise inappropriate. I try to hold myself to the same standard as I do in my emails: whatever I say is public, and I am accountable for it, in the long and short run. The pieces of my persona may be distinct, but they also form a larger whole, and I am responsible for tending it.

8:20 AM  

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