September 21, 2004

From Gerald R. Lucas

Why Blog?

Well, Scribblingwoman has a fairly good answer for her tenure committee, with references that I’ll probably need in a couple of years—maybe even this year as I begin to get my tenure portfolio together for my third-year review. Indeed, as she points out, blogging is not considered one of the traditional activities of scholarship; however, I believe that I can communicate with many more people, not just colleagues in my field, but those who would otherwise never even see my published work. It’s part of an ongoing discussion, a way that Gary Olson used to characterize as the nature of academic writing: you do not live in a vacuum, so you must consider your publications as just a voice in a continuing scholarly conversation.

I always liked this idea, but it seems that much of that conversation that we as academics engage in is so specialized and exclusive that we end up communicating to no one but our immediate peers—what, a couple of dozen, if we’re lucky? Another aspect of the rush to publish is the fact that our work, in an effort to deliver something original enough to even be published in the glutted market, is often so rarified that anyone who does not have a Ph.D. will have an easier time winning the X-Prize than understanding what Dr. Big Brain has to say about James Joyce.

Blogging also gives me a place to think about ideas. One of the great features of blogs is that mix of essays and notes, poems and scraps—bits of brain detritus that might otherwise end up gong nowhere is stored conveniently at the end of a keyword search. My blog is an extension of my brain, and the bits seem less tenuous than my aging neural links. As Scribblingwoman puts it: “weblogging is a new and developing amalgam of the scholarly and the creative.” Quite.

Something for tenure? Well, I guess that depends on how forward-looking your institution is. I believe that here at MSC, a school that prides itself one being a “college for the new century,” blogging will be considered scholarly work. As for other, more “traditional” institutions, I think that blogging might be scoffed at as not a true, rigorous pursuit of a real scholar. More thought on this is obviously required.