Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Blogging as affective politics

Melissa Gregg's discussions of intellectual labour and the politics of academic speech have made a valuable contribution to my dissertation's discussion of blogging. In particular, her 2006 book Cultural Studies' Affective Voices "draws attention to the significance of individual writers' voices in maintaining commitment to scholarly life" and she brings this perspective to bear on PhD and junior faculty blogs in her articles Feeling Ordinary: Blogging as Conversational Scholarship and Banal bohemia: Blogging from the ivory tower hot-desk (Draft).

Her basic argument about early career blogging is quite elegant:

"The participatory nature of writing, response and counter-argument on blogs allows for ongoing debate, critical refinement and thinking-in-process. In this sense, what is rarely acknowledged about blogging is how much it contributes to and mirrors traditional scholarly practice rather than threatening it. One of the main reasons graduate students have taken them up with such fervour is that blogs offer solidarity out of isolation, especially on long projects. They create the conditions for collegiality, brainstorming and frank, fast feedback while also generating and maintaining interest, enthusiasm and motivation. Even the best supervision in the most convivial university department cannot offer this kind of support on a regular basis. The persistence with which established academics condemn blogging as a distraction preventing graduate students from timely completion and participation in their desired career does a disservice to the many instances whereby blogs are utilized as a sophisticated research tool. It also wilfully ignores the wider economic and political circumstances making the potential for a tenured academic career increasingly unlikely for a new generation of graduates.


Blogs are a modest political tool in that they can help overturn the hierarchies of speech traditionally securing academic privilege … Blogs allow us to write in conjunction with non-academic ‘peers’ and ‘colleagues’ who not only value and improve our ideas but practice their own rigorous forms of assessment, critique and review. Blogs are counter-heroic in that they expose the life of the academic as banal. They help lay bare the fallacy of the ivory tower scholar secluded from the concerns of the ‘real world’" (Gregg 2006:153-158).


"For those entering the academy today, the natural order of succession and class reproduction that once applied to their vocation is changing at a macro level. Diminished opportunities for tenure and the casualisation of the academic workforce pose fundamental problems for the model of patronage and initiation that typified the profession earlier.


That those in tenured positions did little to resist casualisation or the increasingly gruelling requirements for tenure are simmering tensions on many junior faculty blogs. However accurate, this is a genuinely felt generational grievance that spreads beyond the blogosphere. It is directed towards senior scholars who are perceived to have had a less brutal experience of professional advancement and failed to protect this possibility for others.


Through blogging, early career academics are making this unpalatable condition public. They reveal a fast receding loyalty to the promise that the university life was supposed to offer but does not deliver. Having grown up unable to ignore the realities of economic rationalism on their employment fortunes, these bloggers’ experiences of becoming professional differ from their predecessors ... This newly marginalised middle-class professoriat blogs to gain support for work and life choices that they feel have been constrained by wider social pressures; they write to retain a degree of credibility from a sympathetic audience.


By virtue of their positions, junior faculty and PhD bloggers are structurally prevented from influencing many of the decisions immediately affecting their work lives. In this situation, their readership communities offer a form of solace and support as they struggle up the career ladder, while the blogs themselves provide resources for others considering a similar move" (Gregg 2007:29-31).

And for more on academic or research blogging, don't miss Jill Walker's Blogging from inside the ivory tower.

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Anonymous martian77 said...

There was a piece on academic blogging (well, loosely) by Mary Beard in the Cambridge Alumni Magazine in the latest issue. It is available online at http://www.foundation.cam.ac.uk/uploads/File/CAMArticles/CAM%2052/Dons%20Diary.pdf.

It is a light-hearted piece, but may be of interest?

Blogger Kate said...

This is a fascinating entry; thank you for posting it. I am a PhD ABD and I just started my own blog this weekend, influenced, in part, by PLSJ which I've been popping in on from time to time for a year or so. (Think I first found my way here via Space and Culture but cannot remember.)
Anyhow, this piece encapsulates a great number of the reasons why I decided to start a blog (add to them trying to complete the dissertation in Toronto while my department is in Los Angeles... want to talk about working in isolation?) so this was a timely read for me. Thanks for another great post.

Blogger Melissa said...

*Blush* This means a lot Anne!

As Kate says, your blog has taught me so much about the research potential of this medium, so it's great to be able to offer something useful in return. Cheers, M

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