Carrie S. and I put together this proposal for a roundtable on academic blogging at NEASECS next fall:
Blogging the Long Eighteenth
Blogging, like the mighty Ipod, democratized a technology by making it cheap and accessible enough for non-experts to use. First-time users were able to gain access to new virtual communities with very little prior knowledge or experience. Unlike the Ipod, however, blogging—and the forms of online communication and community it has fostered—follows a logic distinct from that of the marketplace, because it is done for free and is just as freely consumed. The absence of the property relation or the profit motive in most of these cyber-communities, where information or texts cannot be bought or sold, but only circulated, makes such online communities seem “utopian.” This sense of the utopian openness, freedom, and possibility of the cyber-community has been strengthened by the otherwise triumphalist discourse of the global marketplace, where narratives of compulsory modernization, a “flat world” and the collapse of national barriers have made us wonder what part of the world, or aspect of contemporary life, is not to be dominated by the imperatives of the marketplace.
In the decidedly non-utopian state of the contemporary academy, however, the cheapness and the accessibility of the blogs have made them attractive to scholars eager to interact with other scholars and communities about their work, their lives, and their research. The eighteenth-century scholarly community has long been part of these developments, first through the amazing generosity of Kevin Berland and the listserv C18-L and now through the appearance of scholarly blogs like our own. And we should never forget that all these developments have taken place during the defunding and dismantling of the American public higher education system, the corporatization of the research university, and the resulting crisis in academic publishing at both university presses and scholarly journals. Under such unpromising circumstances, it is not surprising that the blogs look utopian, especially when compared to our universities, our departments, and our work conditions. But many paradoxes still surround the scholarly blog, because of this medium’s constitutive tensions with scholarly hierarchies of expertise and specialization. In our own case, the question is how to generate an open and inclusive discussion in our chosen medium without surrendering our specialized knowledge of the period. In other words, is it possible to take advantage of the collective intelligence of the blog without losing the individual perspective or experience of the long-time practicing scholar?
Comments, anyone? This panel has been approved, and will appear in the upcoming CFP for NEASECS. And since we still have slots open for the roundtable, contact me offline at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to send a proposal. Here’s the address for the NEASECS conference:
And thanks to Peter Cosgrove and Anna Battigelli for coordinating this event.