Friday, July 15, 2005

Is This Blog A Liability For My Employment Prospects?


The bloggers' responses to the Ivan Tribble's article about academic discrimination against bloggers are numerous and varied. My initial reaction was short and to-the-point. But I have been thinking about it a lot since then, and this post by Bitch PhD, in which she writes:
Her division, summarized, is: (1) blogs that focus primarily on public events or public affairs; and (2) blogs that focus primarily on personal events and thoughts. (Obviously there are other kinds of blogs as well.)


led me to this post by an academic blogger. She says:
On the other hand, I, probably like many other non-pseudonymous academic bloggers, don't post every random thought or idea on my blog. My rants are confined to the Mexican bureaucracy and ugly eyebrow piercings, never my colleagues or other academics.

[...which leads me to another observation I've thought about lately. There seem to be two (maybe three) types of academic blogs:

1. Non-anonymous blogs that usually focus on public issues with only occasional mention of personal events (the birth of a baby, maybe a movie). Would any of these really hurt an academic on the job market? According to Ivan Tribble, yes. But it shouldn't be so.

2. Anonymous blogs by academics that usually focus on personal rants, pets, and strange goings-ons, but that have little academic content. There's a reason these are anonymous.

3. Anonymous blogs that blend #2 with #1, and here, I'm thinking specifically of Bitch, PhD.

What I think is more interesting is that blogs of the #1 type tend to be by men, while blogs of the #2 and #3 type tend to be by women. In part, this is why I decided to try the #1 route, though the academic commentary has been lite of late, given our move back to the states.]

I think Dan was right when he said that non-bloggers over estimate the amount of time a blog takes. Once you get it up and running, it becomes much easier. In my case, the blog hasn't taken time away from my article writing mainly because it has taken the place of TV watching or novel reading. I blog when I can no longer work and seldom instead of work. It's also been a useful way for me to keep up with Mexican politics for my research and comment on what was happening in Mexico while I was there. It's even suggested new areas of research (non-blog research) for the future.
So, here is a longer version of what I meant to say originally but was too angry to think straight.

When I first started blogging, I did it pseudonymously. Someone really Internet-savvy and with lots of time on their hands could have traced "coturnix" back to the Kerry/Edwards forums (and a couple of blogs, like Legal Fiction) where I was "Liberal Zoo", and from there to the Edwards primary blog and JREG.org, where I posted under my real name.

About six months after I started this blog, I decided to start another one, Circadiana, a blog with a very different concept from this one. Circadiana is devoted to science: posts range from educational, i.e., explaining the basics, to highlighting current research, to analysing how media reports on it. That is a kind of blog that can be used as a teaching tool - why would anyone decide not to hire me for developing such a tool?

There is nothing personal or political on Circadiana. But, it is a kind of blog that is often referred to as an "expert blog", and for the expertise to be acknowledged by readers, I had to write it under my own name. I was thinking about starting Circadiana on a different platform, or at least start a completely new Blogger account. But I thought it was fine to switch Science And Politics to my real name, too. Is that going to lessen my chances of getting hired in the academia? I don't think so.

If you dig through the archives of this blog you will see that I have only 5-6 posts that are in any way personal, something about myself or my family. I have no skeletons in the closet, so those posts do not reveal any dark sides of my personality.

I have written a few book reviews and a couple of movie reviews. Big deal?

There are also 5-6 posts about blogging and about blog carnivals. Writing those certainly does not make me a techno-geek who will spend all the time playing with computers and never getting any research or teaching done.

I have hosted several carnivals, I make the Meta-carnival every now and then, and I often post links to new editions of various carnivals. Again, there is nothing compromising there, nor especially time-consuming.

I also don't often post about current event or news. There are many bloggers who do that much better than I do. If I have nothing original to say, I don't say anything at all. I may post a link to a couple of bloggers who have done a good job covering the story, and then I move on. If I cover the story, it is usually AFTER the whole thing has pretty much blown over and I write a single summary of the event from my idiosyncratic perspective. You are not going to see me posting five posts a day about Downing Street Memos (though I am following the story on other blogs and in the MSM). The exception may be the current Rove/Plame story - I have not waited for the affair to come to an end and I have already written two posts about it, but this is probably the most important story (since the election) and I feel like I do have something to contribute that other bloggers do not cover.

Yet, I have never on this blog called people names (e.g., Chimpy for Bush, or Turd Blossom for Rove). I try to keep the blog serious and dignified, at least most of the time. I mocked Dr.Roper recently, and an occasional wingnut blogger gets skewered, but the only person I used offensive words to describe is David Horowitz - which should endear me to anyone in the academia.

So, what kind of blog is this, if it is not in any of the categories described by Bitch, PhD or Profesora? It is not predominantly current events and public affairs. It is not predominantly personal, either. Circadiana is science/academic/educational blog. What do I do here, at Science And Politics, and can that screw me up for positions in the academia?

Most of my posts are longish (and sometimes reaaaally long) essays trying to understand America and Americans, and the current political environment. So, it is a political blog, but not in the sense of "following politics", but more in the sense of big-picture analysis. I have dissected and built upon the work of Lakoff. I have looked into historical parallels. I have looked into the history of marriage in order to understand the current struggle over gay marriage. I have looked into psychology of childrearing in order to understand the ontogeny of political ideology. I have looked into the mindset of religious fundamentalists, neo-cons, proto-fascists, I have looked into racism, mysoginy, femiphobia, homophobia, creationism, nationalism, xenophobia and other elements of a conservative/regressive wordlview. In short, I am trying to figure out how can people NOT be members of a reality-based community in the 21st century.

I would assume that anyone from the academia reading this blog and making decisions about hiring me would appreciate my efforts to be rational and yet to try to understand the irrational people instead of summarily dimissing them. What's there not to like?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:36 PM | permalink | (3 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink