(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Blogs Vs Academic Jobs, Or: Academic Bloggers Vs The Chronicle of Higher Education!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Last Saturday Alex Halavais posted a slightly worrying entry called 'Torpedoing my job prospects?' which highlighted an article from the US Chronicle of Education which basically argued that maintaining a blog could seriously undermine the process of applying for an academic job. Even if there was nothing presently in the applicants blog that the selection panel disliked, the anonymously authored article argued that the freedom of expression that blogging facilitates would worry potential tertiary employers to the point no appointment would be made. While I think this is absolute bollocks, I didn't write a repsonse at the time, and in the past few days the article has got a very serious hammering by academic bloggers, so I thought a little quotefest might in order:

Alex Halavais:
... unlike the Chronicle author, I do think that the personal and the professional are related and are relevant to a hire. In any case, I'm not about to stop blogging, at least not in order to get a job. People are going to know what they are getting ahead of time. If anything, I'll be stepping up the material that appears here. So there!
apophenia (Danah Boyd):
There is no doubt that all faculty searches include a Google search. Hell, i searched all applicants during mine, not just the narrowed candidates. One of the things i hear most frequently about our new hire is how disturbing it is that he doesn't have a web presence. Something must be wrong, right? Everything that we could find about him online was accidental, not controlled. Abstracts from conferences, posts to academic Yahoo Groups, etc. You worry about people like this, particularly in the more technical realms. [...] But seriously, what's the point of telling a bunch of potential academics that they need to be homogenous, unquirky and unlikely to rock the boat? I'd bet that "Ivan Tribble" is trying to protect current PhDs, but he's also supporting the status quo. Herein lies the greatest tension to the future of academia - be proud of the quirks and fight or go for status quo to be tolerated.
Planned Obsolescence:
As a happily tenured (and therefore safe from such depredating opinions) author of a blog that has of late become, at least in part, a 'therapeutic outlet,' one that no doubt reveals some odd things about the 'dank, dark depths' of my 'tormented soul,' and yet as a scholar whose research focus at the moment circles around questions of the potential literary value of such writing, I find myself, not to put too fine a point on it, seriously pissed off by the infuriating combination of condescension and authoritarianism on absolutely unedited display in this article.
The days and nights (well, some nights) of Terri Senft:
Contrary to the author's position, I'm going to go out on a limb and argue it's GOOD to be a potential job candidate and a blogger. The issue of brand that Danah addressed is one reason. Another is that some of us actually want to have a life with fewer, rather than more surprises after being hired. The author of the Chronicle piece says it straight out: blogs are easier to track and read than scholarly papers. When someone hires me, I assume they've done due diligence and are comfortable with someone for whom the personal, the political, and the pedagogical are of a piece. This means I can come into a place committed to working my butt off and not pull back for fear that I'll be asked to leave once someone discovers the Real Me
purse lip square jaw:
I began writing here to keep track of my research and to present some kind of public but personal "field notes" - and it's been an experiment that has paid off in ways I never imagined. If what people have said to me is true, then my weblog has been directly responsible for invitations to present one conference keynote address, moderate and participate in at least half-a-dozen conference panels and workshops, and submit three articles for publication in academic journals and books. It has provided the foundation for a variety of academic discussions and collaborations, and has been instrumental in getting feedback on my doctoral research. I've even seen my blog posts cited in academic publications and as assigned reading for university courses! And if all that isn't enough, my weblog has also provided for an immensely satisfying on and offline engagement with non-academics, interviews for news articles in Wired and The Guardian, and invitations to write for non-academic publications.
Doug Tygar:
Did you notice the key word in the paragraph above? It was impersonation. Because this whole article is a big fraud. I’m certain of it. My evidence? Just take a look: He can’t write. Look at his cliches: “train wreck,” “cat . . . in the bag,” “all bets are off,” “stick your foot in the mouth,” “put them back on a a plane,” “dark depths of the … tormented soul.” He’s not sure if there is a dash between “alma” and “mater” (he goes both ways, in fact.) He forgets that when one is talking about a department, one really ought capitalize the name of the department. And check out this mixed metaphor: “a confessional booth, where inward thoughts are publicly aired.”
Matthew G. Kirschenbaum:
If anyone needs an answer as to “why blog,” an utterly crass, careerist answer (as befits the Chronicle), here’s one: networking. First, go read Phil Agre’s “Networking on the Network.” Then ask a blogger how their blog has paid off in terms of networking dividends. Bet they’ll have some stories to tell. In fact, why don’t we do just that? Would all academic bloggers reading this consider posting a comment or a trackback entry about some specific professional dividend that their online presence in the blogosphere has garnered for them?
From my side, I've got to say that I think of my blog as a substantial asset in terms of my employability in the tertiary sector. Sure, my blog posts aren't always serious or confined to my thoughts about academia, but the majority of what I comment on is in some way related. It does help that I position myself broadly at the interesections of Media Studies, Communication Studies, Literary Studies, Digital Humanities and New/Digital Media, so there isn't a lot that happens online or in the media more broadly that I can't justify writing about. That said, I think it is important for all academics to have some sort of public voice in order to maintain a rich, vibrant and engaged relationship between academia and the public more generally; blogs are one of the best ways of maintaining such engagement. Moreover, on a personal note, while I have some wonderful collegues in Perth, it is the most isolated capital city in the world, and the blog is a wonderful way to build, maintain and enhance my connections with scholars (and others) across the wired world.


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