Blogging as "S/scholarship"

I really like what Collin Brooke has to say here in this post about blogs and scholarship. I think he’s right on the money– read what he has to say about it instead of what I have to say about it because what he wrote is probably going to be better what I’m going to write now. Also, I have written a bit about this before, and in that entry, I link to this fine entry from Mike “PEDABLOGUE” Arnzen, who also has some good links to more about blogging and scholarship.

So, do I think blogs are scholarship? Sure, sorta. Several thoughts:

* I think Collin is dead-on when he talks about how blogs in comp/rhet in general (and computers and writing in particular) are a place where folks in the field actually “talk” to each other in different ways. And participating in that conversation makes you a part of the “scholarly community.” I see the same thing with electronic mailing lists, which is one of the reasons why I’m on “tech-rhet” and on the WPA-L mailing list (even though I don’t really do writing program administration).

I don’t know if the benefits for participating in these electronic conversations are quantifiable, and it isn’t the sort of thing you would list on a CV. On the other hand, I have been to academic conferences before where people have seen my name tag and then approached me and said something like “Oh, I’ve read your posts on tech-rhet” or “I read your blog entry about such-and-such,” and that has been a starting point of a conversation. Oh, and I’ve certainly done that too people, too.

Now, I suppose I could join these scholarly communities– the mailing lists or the tiny little world of academic blogging– with a pseudonym of some sort. But I don’t think it would work as well.

Let’s say I had a blog where I identified myself only as “Batman” (which, btw, has a ring to it for me: “Batman’s Blog.” I can even imagine entries that complain about that stupid kid, Robin, and that Joker, he thinks he’s sooo funny, etc….), and let’s say it was a blog where I sometimes posted about academic issues. In terms of the academic/scholarly value of the site, I think I’d have at least two problems. First, I might not be seen as credible even online, especially on the academic electronic mailing lists where folks who post with pseudonyms or anonymously tend to be ignored. Second, I might have a hard time identifying myself as Batman in “real life,” which I would inevitably want to do if at least part of my purpose in blogging in the first place was to participate in the discussion of an academic community.

Picture the conference “hallway chat.” “You know, I’m really Batman on the web,” I’d say.

Riiight, sure you are,” the nervously smiling and confused conference attendee would say as she slowly turned away.

AND JUST TO BE CLEAR HERE, FOLKS– I’M TRYING TO MAKE A LITTLE JOKE WITH THE BATMAN THING. I’M TRYING TO DO THIS AT MY OWN EXPENSE. I’M NOT TRYING TO DIS’ ANYONE’S PSEUDONYM. DO WHAT YOU WANT. And again, several folks have commented here already about how they maintain both an “academic” presence on the ‘net (perhaps including a blog) along with a pseudonym presence.

* Inevitably, a lot of this also comes down to the definition of “scholarship.” I wrote an essay called “Where Do I List This on My CV? Considering the Values of Self-Published Web Sites” that sort of talks about blogs (though that wasn’t what I was thinking about at the time). I don’t want to recap the whole article here, but I did want to cut n’ paste one part where I talk about “Scholarship” versus “scholarship:”

All of us working in academia strive for “Scholarship” in the sense that we want our work to advance the knowledge of our fields; but we also want our work to be considered “scholarship” for the purposes of recognition by our institutions. Usually, “Scholarship” and “scholarship” are overlapping terms. But emerging and hybrid forms like self-published Web sites represent a point of disconnection between these terms, one that also points to other ways in which what we philosophically believe to be “Scholarship” is not always institutionally counted as “scholarship.”

Of course, the notion that these Web sites have to “count” toward tenure and promotion is one that most directly pertains to a relatively small audience: tenure-track faculty members, particularly those seeking tenure, promotion, or other institutional recognition. These Web sites have value (and thus “count”) for an audience that is much larger than this, an audience that includes teachers working in non-tenure-track positions, those teaching at schools where the tenure requirements have little to do with scholarship, graduate students, Web readers interested in the topics of the sites, and so forth. I also think it’s important to say that the creators of these Web sites put together their pages for reasons that exceed the question of how it might (or might not) fit into their own cases for tenure and promotion, much in the same way that most of us who are trying to publish our S/scholarship in journals and books are presumably motivated by more than simply how it looks on our cv.

* Sometimes the work we do in spaces like this does lead to “real” scholarship, too. I had a (very little) article come out recently that was an “invited” piece, based on stuff that I had written on a mailing list and on my blog. There have been some other things too, but that’s enough self-promotion for one post. And like Collin mentioned, blogs are chances to either post sorts of “pre-writing” projects and/or drafts of essays to see if anyone else has anything to say about it.

Anyway, like I said, Collin probably said it better. But I had to say something…

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