Saturday, December 23, 2006

jeremy freese: the footnotes interview, part 2

(part 1 here)

Question #2: What are your views on the controversy surrounding academics who blog (ie, hiring committees that look askance at it, perceptions that blogging is taking time away from "legitimate" scholarship, etc)?

The issues surrounding hiring committees using information from blogs in their evaluation of a candidate are more complicated than what I have time to answer.

But: I think hiring committees are short-sighted if they take the existence of a blog per se as a strike against a candidate. Given two candidates who seemed otherwise equal but one had a blog and one didn't, I would go with the person with a blog. I think having a blog and reading blogs is a good indicator of being intellectually alive and wanting to remain so. The latter is especially important in sociology, as there are so many promising sociologists whose curiosity is dead by the time they are five years out of graduate school. Blogging is also a good indicator of being able to write and being eager to share ideas, which are attributes sociology departments should value.

As for blogs taking time away from "legitimate" scholarship, I understand that there are sociologists who have monomaniacal devotion to their craft to the exclusion of all else. However: many sociologists pursue hobbies, watch television, practice religion, engage in extensive personal grooming rituals, or have kids they refuse to neglect. I have little patience for anyone who does any of these things and thinks me derelict for the time I spend blogging. I have much enthusiasm for my work and spend much time at it, but I am not going to forgo all other things I enjoy for the sake of sociology.


eszter said...

My answer to this one was similar to the thoughts you express in the last paragraph, not surprisingly. I went a step further by trying to explain why it may be that people confuse blogging with time spent on scholarship (as opposed to realizing that they should just compare it to whatever activity one might do during one's "downtime"). I suggested that because it involved writing occasionally on academic topics, people may assume the time comes out of one's work hours.

If anything, couldn't one argue that those who blog on their own time and do so about sociological (or whatever academic) topics are actually spending more time and energy on their discipline? (I didn't say this in the interview, this just occured to me as I was writing this comment.)

Amusingly, as I was responding to this question during the interview, I finished by answering a question the interviewer never asked: What are the potential benefits of blogging? I wonder why we weren't asked that question. Oh well, I answered it regardless.:)

Felix said...

Plus, people who blog are clearly ahead of their time. Take a look at the header of this post. Saturday, Dec 23. In my world, it's still Friday. Bloggers can time-travel. Beat that!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure exactly how this fits in, but I have been getting a little bit of extra crap from people when I don't get something done on time. "Well, I suppose you DID have to write in your blog today..." This is BS. In my life as a chair, it is exactly impossible to get everything done on time. These people are implicitly saying that I must work 24 hours a day unless I get everything done--and then I can do something else--blogging, parenting, TV, running...

It's just because they can see the blog that they get worked up about it. If they start posting all of the activities they do outside of work, then we can talk.

I easily work over 40 hours a week doing chair stuff. Then I still have to teach, research, advise grad students, committee work, etc. If that isn't enough for them, they can...Whoops, you got me off on a rant there...Sorry, I snapped for a second!

Anonymous said...

So I have a question, which is, how much are your ideas as a sociologist judged based on your blog? That is, the blog can be a space where you write ideas that are not quite developed yet, that you just thought about, which means that it's more risky, there is more room for bullshitting. How does that affect your reputation as an academic in this regard?

chris said...

dang, jeremy. your responses here are really thoughtful and well-articulated. i haven't yet developed a rationale or vocabulary to justify my blogging. i tend to be a little defensive about it, i guess, but i haven't gotten too many complaints. on the time question, people seem relieved when i tell them that writing helps me think, i don't sleep much anyway, i've cut back on other leisure activities (e.g., running), and that i've always written lots of things that have little to do with sociology. i've been tempted to interrogate the interrogators on their tv time (or whatever), but have thus far resisted the urge. in any case, thanks for posting your responses to the survey. it helps.

nina said...

If you blog and are also imperfect in any way (and it is a given that we are imperfect: too late with exam reading or assignments, not attending to things with 150% of our capabilities, etc), the blog will get blamed.

The problem is that if you blog using your true identity, you cannot, or most of us cannot, touch on topics related to work. It's just stupid to think that it wont have an effect on hiring/promotion. And the line between what is okay and what is not okay to post on is sometimes very blurry. I will not write anything about students anymore (in spite of readers asking me to do so), I wont write about pretty much anything that happens at the Law School where I teach because I have gotten into trouble for it in the past and I don't want the headaches. As a result, I am certain that people who read my blog think I lead a frivolous life in which I do not work, teach or have contact with students. Even when I go on a business trip, I NEVER write about the work that I do then -- only about the lighter side of the day. And so I seem to be traveling on business and not working at all. Ah well, bummer.

Okay, that's my take on it. Jeremy, I liked your answers to this one. They're not too defensive. For whatever reason, we tend to steer toward verbose justifications (see above: mine included). Yours is sharp and to the point. Nice.

Anonymous said...

When you blog, you reveal yourself.

Some people will like you, some won't.

eszter said...

That's a really good point, Nina. Of course, I don't blog about a long list of items either several of which are related to work and professional issues. As you note, this may make it seem as though we're never preoccupied by complicated issues surrounding professional topics. But of course we are. This is just not the forum for them. Perhaps it is not surprising that some of the most popular blogs in academia have been written by pseudonymous authors. They are able to discuss openly many of the issues so critical in our everyday lives. The fact that some of us don't talk about them openly doesn't mean we don't experience them or aren't preoccupied by them.