More about the public life of an academic blogger from Natalia Cecire

Natalia Cecire discusses the pros and cons of thinking in public on a blog, and rather hits the nail on the head with why I’ve come close–and am still thinking about–shutting down this blog.

Thinking in public is a difficult habit to get into, though, because public is the place where we’re supposed to not screw up, and thinking on the fly inevitably involves screwing up. Blogging with any regularity in essence means committing oneself to making one’s intellectual fallibility visible to the world and to the unforgiving memory of the Google cache. This is particularly a problem for academics, who are, after all, professional thinkers; we have a culture of making it look easy, and of concealing as much as possible “the raw material of poetry in all its rawness.”

My own problems have been that it’s too easy to make an argument on the Interwebs and have nobody challenge you, which means you can fall in love with your own argument even when it’s wrong–and worse, you can fall in love with your own idea of yourself as authority. The second problem is enough of a temptation in the academy. I prefer to exist in a space where 1) yes, my years of working and studying and thinking in a field do mean that my informed commentary isn’t worthless the way some people seem to think if they see a PhD by your name *and* 2) I’m still not right all the time.

Alternatively, people do challenge you, with differing level of adroitness (but that’s ok), but not all that often. It’s pretty quiet over here in this part of the Interwebs.

Nonetheless, I think she has a point when she writes:

In blogging, I’ve come around to the idea that academics need to do a lot more thinking in public if we want said public to have a clue as to what it is that we actually do. It really only seems fair.

When I discussed shutting down the blog, Richard Green referred to the blog as a “service, especially for students.” At first I was dubious, but I’ve come around to thinking of it as a service and not just a vehicle for self-promotion or a place to forge new writing.

It’s a struggle, though. I’ve always needed privacy to really write and really work. There’s part of me that thinks that private universe of thinking and struggling with ideas is happening parallel to the blog. There’s another part of me that thinks the blog saps energy from that.

One thought on “More about the public life of an academic blogger from Natalia Cecire

  1. Hi Lisa,
    I’m reading you, or at least reading the topics of what you write about all the way over in Israel. I also blog, in hebrew, on my own work. I do it in Hebrew even though it doesn’t make sense from the point of view of readership, because there is very little written in Hebrew on these subjects, and I want to reach a non-professional as well as student public.
    I found out that you have to be much more careful about what you wrote in a blog than in an academic paper – the potential for readers is much greater. It’s also harder to write because you have to limit yourself to about 500-600 words – who’s going to read more anyway.
    But in the end it’s gratifying, and people are still reading and commenting on posts that I worte more than 5 years ago.

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