Too much information?

I have to get caught up on grading and get geared up for my road-trip/golf trip to the Computers and Writing Conference in Athens, GA (don’t worry, more will be coming soon on that), but I thought I’d take a moment to post on a couple of articles that I’ve been meaning to post on for a couple days now.  The first Julie Frechette’s piece in Inside Higher Ed, “Crossing the (Digital) Line,” which points to a NYTimes piece, “The Professor as Open Book.”  The short version is that both stories talk about the ever-amusing “Professors Strike Back” web site and show, and they talk about that fuzzy line between a college professor “relating” to students and materials by sharing personal information, versus the professor who shares, um, too much.  Frechette sees this as a potential professorial power-play:  the professor shares details and expects his students to give up equally (more so?) juicy details.  That makes sense to me, but in my own experiences as a student, I guess I was particularly put off by the professor who interprets a class about, say, 18th century British Literature (I didn’t take that class, btw) to be primarily about him, his cats, his wife, and their broken-down Subaru.

But I think what information a professor shares in a teaching/professional environment is different than the information that a professor (who, generally speaking, is also a human) shares about him or herself via a web site or a blog or a Facebook account or whatever.  And while there is always some discretion involved in what one does or doesn’t write about online (or at least there should be), I think that most professionals who work in the public sphere (professors, but I would also include lawyers, doctors, journalists, clergy, etc.) have to make a decision about “sharing.”

I used to keep a “professional” blog and a “personal” blog in an effort to draw some separation between those areas of my life.  I like Derrida and Spongebob Squarepants, for example.  But as I wrote when I started this combined blog, I realized that that separation had broken down a long time ago.  Thus one blog.

In any event, students in my students are not likely to hear me go on and on a lot about my wife, son, and dog during class.  But they are as likely to read my thoughts on teaching, scholarship, and the upcoming C&W conference as they are about my golf game.  Fortunately, this week’s trip will likely combine all of the above.

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