NEASECS interim report, from the Milltowne Grill, Manchester Airport

Hello everyone,

Carrie, I think, is still at the conference, but I had to head out this morning to catch my plane out of Manchester.

This was an interesting conference for me, because first of all this was my first opportunity to meet Carrie face-to-face, after communicating online with her, and collaborating on this blog,  for well over a year.  I still find the differences between virtual and face-to-face communication disconcerting, especially when it involves the same person, but I think it went OK.  Incidentally, I learned that Hanover, like many college towns, is not a great eating town.  (please correct me if I’m wrong)

The Blogging the Eighteenth panel went well, and provoked some good discussion.  Anna Battigelli (Hi Anna!), who was kind enough to invite us to NEASECS, turned up, as did some old and new friends of the Long 18th.  I’m hoping we can figure out an effective way to put the talks out, and perhaps see if others who were not there might be interested in chiming in and responding. 

Carrie will probably give her own impressions, but I was struck by the technological divide reflected in the audience’s questions: some were familiar with the mechanics of blogging and the internet, and others were not.  Some used technology in their teaching already, others were receptive to the idea but nervous about the investment of time, and some seemed pretty familiar with the whole enterprise, and were ready to start reflecting and generalizing about the impact of blogging on scholarly communications. 

One of the interesting topics that came up was the whole phenomenon of trolls, and the challenge that they present to the blogs’ self-image of free and self-regulated discussion.  Another question was the perennial question of “Should grad students blog?”  (Answer: only in moderation, and perhaps only with pseudonyms).   A third topic was the value of book events, and how different these reviews were from conventional journal reviews. 

Speaking of book events, a number of people at NEASECS asked me when we would do our next collaborative reading.  I think it’s time for us to gear up to do another one.  Any suggestions for the next candidate?  Susan Staves’s latest was mentioned again, and I’m looking to see if there are other books that might also attract some good contributors/readers.  If you have any ideas for candidates, or are interested in joining in, contact me at and we’ll try to set it up for the next semester.

I heard some good papers at a Libertinism and an Equiano panel, which I might blog about if I have the time/others seem interested.  And keep looking for our followup to the blogging panel.



3 responses to “NEASECS interim report, from the Milltowne Grill, Manchester Airport

  1. david mazella

    Whoops, spoke too soon (blogged too soon?). Manchester was fogged in all afternoon, and no planes out until early, early tomorrow morning. Trains are always better, even without wireless access.



  2. Sounds like an interesting panel — sorry I couldn’t make it to NEASECS. It still feels a little strange not being based in the Northeast. But I will be at SCSECS and SEASECS as well as ASECS this year. Perhaps closer to February we can do the “who else will be there and let’s meet up” thing. Disconcerting though it may be, I like meeting y’all in person.

    Here’s a question on the topic of blogging and academia, though. Do you tell your students about your blog? If not, do you take measures to prevent students from finding your blog?

    I have a blog on LiveJournal that I began in grad school and keep to this day; I make a point of not posting anything I wouldn’t want strangers, students, colleagues, or employers to read, but I speak freely and casually on it. I recently started working on another website to feature my professional work, just to have a more formal presence on the internet, since I’ve learned that students, colleagues, and potential employers *will* find a person in cyberspace if they want to. I learned after I was offered my present job that both grad students and faculty here had discovered and read my blog during the job search. Fortunately, they seem not to have read anything that turned them off my candidacy.

    Any thoughts on the rules of maintaining a presence online as an academic—especially one at the vulnerable grad school or junior professor stage?

  3. david mazella

    Those are really good questions, Gena.

    This semester, I’m running class blogs for both my grad and undergrad classes. It wouldn’t surprise me if students from either class “found” (or looked for) my stuff here, which does occasionally talk about those classes.

    This awareness probably does limit the kinds of things I say here, because part of what I’m doing, esp. as an advisor/director/mentor of grad students, is building the trust necessary to direct their work. So it seems counter-productive to record the kinds of episodes, even in earnest, that others would feel uncomfortable having publicized. And I take it for granted that one should never trash one’s colleagues, department, or university, on the principle that they will find it someday and ask you to explain yourself.

    On the other hand, I think the kind of defensive attitude of “never blog until you have tenure” seems weird for people seeking to disseminate their ideas. (I’m not ascribing this to anyone; I just think it’s becoming a conventional wisdom that others feel the need to honor). There are pseudonyms and masking strategies, as Bitch PhD and others have used, but I think the point is that a lot will be forgiven if you are offering people valuable information or a perspective that’s been neglected.

    I just think that those who choose to represent themselves in these ways before the public need to understand that it is public, that it requires rhetorical self-awareness, and that like any form of public expression there are risks involved when addressing strangers. Certainly the risks of rejection, if not worse. We talked about “civility” as a way to reduce those risks of online conflict.

    But I still feel that any job that would try to ambush a potential candidate with such digging around, or a workplace that would make you feel bad about your blogging, is probably a job you don’t need, or need to leave.

    So it’s a judgment call, about one’s own conduct, and about what one can and cannot say publicly in a particular work situation.

    And, yes, I’ll be there at a bunch of these meetings, too.