talking the talk, blogging the blog

Three very interesting papers on academic blogging, all presented for the same session of the Modern Language Association conference. They've made me slightly wistful because I haven't been really using this blog enough for academic things, and now I'm in the final months of writing my MA thesis. The blog is a brilliant format for negotiating between the life of an institutionalised academic or just an intellectual in general, and the life of the public sphere. Somehow, the two are- or (it seems) have become increasingly antithetical, and that's just not right. Maybe I could have done this more while I was still a student. I suspect it would have been rewarding.

(As an sidenote or afterthought, if we want to increase the readership for the Norwegian academic blogosphere, maybe group blogs are a better idea than single-author blogs? How much interest one person can generate is, after all, fairly limited unless you write in English.)

Anyway, the three talks:

John Holbo's talk "Form Follows the Function of the Little Magazine" is a good and very enthusiastic rundown of the functions of academic blogging and possible and probable futures for it.

Bitch Ph.D's "I'm Nobody, Who Are You?" has some nice parallels between blogs and 18th century periodicals, some remarks on the public sphere, as well as an interesting take on pseudonymity which I think is really interesting (and which is part of the reason I became fascinated with her blog in the first place - it's an excellent rhetorical device).

Scott Eric Kaufman's talk is called "Talking, Endlessly Talking". It ties in well with the Norwegian debate on research credits for academic authors (small peer-reviewed articles in international magazines = good, publishing huge researchy books with any kind of pedagogic intentions = bad). Actually, the Holbo talk (above) ties in with this as well. As one commenter on that presentation said: academic publishing is turning into a kind of vanity publishing."

Most write to impress, and not their audience either; no, they write to impress their committees, the tenure review boards, the functionaries of the literary-academic bureaucracy, and they do so at a speed which precludes revision. Advancement demands it. Their lives, our lives increasingly depend on the production of works we will know won't be read. "Professionalization" becomes code for the manufacture of unread and unreadable works superficially invested in a dialogue of diminishing stakes.

It also swerves into the same territory as a smaller debate that's been hopping around my circle of friends both on- and offline lately on the virtues of having or not having a difficult style of writing (and reading). That part of Kaufman's argument is mostly above the fold, and in the comment threads.
That said, I don't believe difficult-to-follow presentations have a place. If they're difficult for the sake of being difficult, they're performance; if they're difficult because they're articles read aloud, they're profoundly disrespectful of their audience; if they're difficult because they address subtle topics but the speaker recognizes the genre and medium and does his/her best, I don't mind. Some topics will be more difficult to discuss than others; but all topics, when read aloud from a text designed to be read silently, become difficult.
But then again, this post by Adam Kotsko makes all academic metablogging look... silly.


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