Thursday, December 21, 2006

jeremy freese: the footnotes interview, part 1

I received an e-mail from someone who is writing a story on sociologists who blog for Footnotes, the official newsletter of the American Sociological Association. I told him I would do the interview over e-mail and he sent me five questions. I've decided I am going to answer them here, in addition to replying to his e-mail.

Question #1: Why did you start a blog and do you feel it contributes to a wide audience?

I've had people ask "Why did you start a blog?" and "Why do you have a blog?" as if the two questions are interchangeable. Most people who start blogs stop shortly thereafter. I think the question of "Why do you have a blog?" is really two questions: "Why did you start?," and "Why do you continue?"

I started my blog on a whim because it was summer, I was working hard but also a little bored, and it looked fun. The only blog I had ever seen was Kieran Healy's, and since he called his Kieran Healy's Weblog, it never occurred to me to call mine anything other than Jeremy Freese's Weblog.

I figured when I started my blog that I would probably do it for two weeks, get bored and stop. That was three and a half years ago.

The main reasons I keep blogging are that it allows me to introduce a different kind of creativity into my day, and it provides a different way of feeling connected to other people. Blogging has been good for me in a number of other ways, including leading me to embark on some fun adventures that were justified solely by the thought they would make for a good post later.

Do I feel like my blog contributes to a wide audience? Strange question. Reading blogs is a sedentary activity, and so the time people spend reading my blog is time they could be spending exercising. Still, I would think that even those readers of my blog who are relatively "wide" would not blame my blog for it. Indeed, when I went on a diet and tracked my progress on my blog, several other people joined the same diet and also lost weight. For this reason, I would say that if anything my blog has played a positive role in the ongoing War on Obesity.

If the question instead refers to the number of readers, I have no idea how many people read my blog. I do know that more people at the sociology meetings recognize me for having a blog than recognize me for anything scholarly I have done so far. Obviously, I have very mixed feelings about this.

As for whether I contribute anything to the people who read my blog, I view blogs as much more ruthless than the academic world, which has many forums that allow people to contribute by expressing their thoughts to essentially captive or otherwise coerced audiences. With blogs, if you aren't giving people anything in your posts, they won't keep reading. That said, exactly what I'm contributing to those people who check in on my blog from time to time remains mysterious.

19 comments:

Nick said...

So what were the other 4 questions you were asked?

I'm a 6th year soc. grad student who procrastinates on his dissertation by reading blogs such as yours. It's saved as one of my favorites, though I wouldn't say that your website is "one of my favorites." No offense; I actually enjoy reading your stuff. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon this while doing a search on Manson's crater. Now it is the first blog I check every day. It is a wonderful mix of popular culture, sociology and general angst. It's very educational since angst is the only subject I am well acquainted with. Don't stop writing, JF!
~pj

Anonymous said...

I think you are giving this reporter too much to work with. You know how they are notorious for pulling things out of context. For example, I distilled the following from your response:

When asked why he started a blog, Freese responded, "The only blog I had ever seen was Kieran Healy's, and....I figured...if you aren't giving people anything in your posts..."

When asked why he continues, Freese explained, "Three and a half years ago...I went on a diet...For this reason... more people at the sociology meetings recognize me."

eszter said...

LOL, Dan, good job.

I got an email from this person as well. But I opted for the phone interview. I always feel like email "interviews" are as though I was writing the article for the person. Of course, they still have to consolidate material from different people, but it still puts more of the work on the interviewee. And I have plenty of work as is.

I see you're going to keep readers in suspense and milk this for all its worth (possibly more). I could just blog all five questions at the same time after my interview later today. Then people could come on over to my blog and start pondering how you will have answered the other questions.

Anonymous said...

JECG: Regarding the question of what your readers get out of this blog...

One of my favorite parts of college was the time I spent sitting around with people, such as JF, and just talking. For hours. About everything. (Remember, this was before the Internet, so we had that kind of time.) I remember several nights when we would be talking, either in person or on the phone (which was dumb since we lived across the street from each other), and the next thing we would know, it was morning. I have no idea what we were talking about, I just remember the wonderful feeling of being engaged in conversation with an intelligent, dear friend.

Now, I have a husband...a toddler...a career (NOT in academia) that is both rewarding and exhausting. Motherhood in particular is kicking my ass, and I sorely miss the feeling of knowing I COULD while away the hours in conversation with someone if I was so inclined. So I read this blog every morning when I get to work, as part of my "start the day" ritual, to have a little of that feeling again. And to remind me that even though I may now be a wife and a mother and a career woman, there's still a part of me that is just a smart girl enjoying the musings of a smart friend.

Merry Christmas, Jeremy!

eszter said...

Anon 10:07, that's great!

One clarification though: when Jeremy was in college, the Internet did exist, and I happen to know that Jeremy spent quite a bit of time hanging out online already back then. Maybe that was only in his senior year. But he was already "wasting" time on it back then.

As to why I would know all this? Uhm.. well... uuuuuuuuuuuuhm.......

john said...

Does your blog contribute to a wide audience?

I would say yes, especially when strangers at department stores recognize you, and then also see fit to ignore their customer so they can meet you.

eszter said...

1. Why did you think this interviewer was a man?
2. I didn't get that question about "contributes to a wider audience". Contributes in what way? Contributes what?

jeremy said...

(Will respond to other comments later.)

Eszter: The name was gender ambiguous and I guessed male. I take it I was incorrect?

eszter said...

I wasn't sure about the name either, but the "La" part made me think female. But that may be a French bias.

Anonymous said...

sounds like it's time for Q2...

Kieran said...

I got an email from this person as well.

What am I, chopped liver?

tina said...

Kieran, don't feel too bad. Still-blogging-but-overlooked still kicks the ass of former-blogger-who-still-feels-like-a-blogger poseur.

Jeremy, I don't know if Footnotes can handle that much sass. They are going to have to add a disclaimer at the beginning.

Brayden said...

Kieran - Don't worry, the interviewer probably just felt like you wouldn't have time to answer his/her questions with all of the other interviews you're doing.

Kieran said...

True, Brayden. Turns out that once you let Dianne Sawyer into the house she is absolutely impossible to get rid of. You can lure her outside with eggnog but then she just grabs it and quickly runs back inside to her camera crew.

jeremy said...

Dan: Hilarious!

Eszter: I think doing an interview over e-mail lessens the probability of feeling misquoted later. Plus, if you have a blog, you can provide the full interviewees cut of what was said. As for my online pastimes in college, I just wish blogs existed back then.

JECG: Ah, college. Merry Xmas!

John: I was in Target the last weekend and sad that I didn't see you.

Tina: I like the idea of being 'Too Sassy For Footnotes'. It's like those 'Too Hot For TV' Jerry Springer videos.

Kieran: I presume Brayden's interpretation is correct.

Anonymous said...

Reading your comment about feeling connected to others reminded me of a project I did a few years ago on networks in Social Psychology. You were one of the actors with the highest betweenness scores in our "advice" network (which meant that people mentioned you in the acknowledgemnts of their SPQ articles). Turns out that even pre-blog you were a great connector.

jeremy said...

Advice giving in SPQ networks? Really?

Anonymous said...

Really. The score was significantly lower than Shel Stryker or Lynn Smith-Lovin, but still ranked 6th, I think.