Look who’s blogging

Ever since I saw Anthony Grafton (yes, that Anthony Grafton) pop up in the comments section at Tenured Radical (http://tenured-radical.blogspot.com/), I was curious about what he was doing there: Slumming?  Slapping his forehead at the boneheaded comments?  Sneering at the sheer mediocrity of it all?  But no, he actually seemed concerned about the discussions taking place there, and interested in other people’s comments, and eager to participate.

And then I was delighted to find, courtesy of a tip from Ancarett’s Abode (http://ancarett.com/?p=414#comments), a nice essay from Grafton himself, explaining why he likes to read blogs:

http://www.historians.org/Perspectives/issues/2007/0705/0705vic1.cfm

The piece speaks for itself, but I wanted to point to the following observation, that pinpoints one of the reasons for the growth in scholarly blogs:

[These blogs] offer the comfortably tenured reader uncomfortably vivid insight into what it feels like in the 2000s to go through the job search year after year, to try to make a home in a new department and a new city, to attend one’s first conference as a professional, and to move from writing a dissertation to working on articles and book chapters. These blogs have all become the hubs of virtual communities, whose members offer one another a kind of support, intellectual and moral, that sometimes seems to be missing in actual departments.

Best,

DM

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2 responses to “Look who’s blogging

  1. Great post, Dave.

    Coincidentally, I just received an email invitation(perhaps all of us did) about participating in a survey about why academics blog.

    That last bit of the Grafton excerpt you cite seems to cover it for me–there is a collegiality to this forum that provides both the “intellectual and moral” support we really do need to keep on the day-to-day grind.

  2. Dave Mazella

    Thanks, Sharlene.

    The most interesting thing about AG’s post for me is about civility, scholarly civility, to be precise. As someone who’s worked long enough in 18c studies to have some suspicion of civility and politeness, I find it interesting to see them reinvoked here. But they do work here, because blogging seems to partake of that Habermasean dynamic of voluntary associations, and civility is one of the reasons people come back to a discussion.

    And yet Shaftesbury and any number of 17c and 18c writers denounced “pedants” for their lack of civility, and their insistence on conducting polemics. And we could name quite a few blogs that seem to feature this polemical, aggressive side of discussion, and this version of “community.”

    But I’d admit that the main reason why I do this is because departments seem strangely ill-equipped for this kind of intellectual exchange, even when there are plenty of people in the same field. So it has something to do with the voluntary nature of the association, I think. That’s why writing groups and reading groups have been so important to me over the years.

    DM