Why academics blog.

Came across (via Pink Flamingo’s wonderful links page) a great set of reflections on Crooked Timber in response to a post asking why academics blog. The responses reflect the diverse satisfactions and uses of blogging.

Timothy Burke reflects on being a public intellectual through bogging and trying out experimental forms of scholarly publishing:

I try to do several things, not all of which are related to my scholarship. One, just be a “public intellectual”, e.g., someone interested in many things, willing to write about them in a communicative manner, and knowing that most of what I have to say is relatively ephemeral and unpublishable. Two, I do try to do some things that involve publishing scholarly material of various kinds; I’m about to try and start a new format of book commentaries, for example.

While Brian Weatherson reflects on a more mundane motivation:

In my case it was less because I was particularly motivated by some positive ideal, but more because I was in a writing rut and thought trying to write up 1000-1500 word notes on things I’d been reading might be a good way to get started writing again.

Matt Weiner and a number of others talk of using blogs as “pre-scholarship—I’d like to rework a lot of the ideas for publication sometime, and the blog posts are first drafts.”

One of the interesting things is that a number of the academics who responded write about a process of the blog starting out as one thing and becoming something else. Laura writes:

I had a lot of extra ideas kicking around and I needed to purge them. I never expected anybody to read it. It was mostly just to entertain a couple of close friends. Nine months later, I am still at it, because I have stumbled into a virtual community, and it’s good conversation. I’ve gotten good feedback. Actually, I’m a bit obsessed. I find myself writing my posts in my head during the day, and later running to the computer to dump the brain.

I think that one of the interesting things about blogging is that it is such a flexible form but it is a form. We can grow into the type of blog that suits us but there are other models to guide us through our contacts in the blogsphere, through the energy that happens in that contact. This is in a sense Ricouer’s notion of narrative identity as self actualised through relation with other selves, which is not about a dispersal of selfhood but the measure of its self constancy. Our story measured against the stories of others.

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