Where Blogging Leads: A Bit More About How Things Add Up

When I read this post by Eric Grollman at Conditionally Accepted a little while back, it got me thinking about the various opportunities that have arisen for me since I started blogging in 2007. Whether these “extracurricular activities” (Grollman’s term — though he too puts it in scare-quotes) count in some strict professional way is not really the point, or at least not the whole point. Some day I may well make the case that they should count; increasingly the vocabulary seems to be available to explain how and why (outreach, knowledge mobilization or dissemination, public scholarship, whatever). In the meantime, what struck me reading Grollman’s post is that I may have underestimated the impact of blogging on my own activities. Grollman notes that he “received ten speaking/writing requests in 10 months, primarily because I write publicly about my experiences in academia.” That’s a lot, in a hurry! My timeline is a bit slower, and most of the specifics differ (as you’d expect, given our different fields), but one thing we have in common — and I know other bloggers who’ve remarked this too — is that by dint of being among the first and few academics in our circles to venture onto public platforms, that experience itself becomes something people want to hear from us about. (I always feel a bit odd about that, because my own blog is not exactly an “academic” blog — which is something I usually address, if not in the presentation itself, then in the Q&A. But the general issues around blogging for and by academics are things I have thought and written a lot about, nonetheless.)

Here’s my quick tally of things I have done more or less directly because of this blog:

Presentations, workshops, and interviews:

  • In 2007 (when I was just a newbie myself!) I gave a presentation on academic blogging in my department’s colloquium series.
  • In 2008, I was an invited guest speaker in a class on ‘Writing in the Digital Age’; I spoke about academic blogging and online writing more generally.
  • In 2009, I was interviewed about George Eliot by Nigel Beale, for his website The Bibliofile (now The Literary Tourist). (Gah! That picture!)
  • Also in 2009, while at ACCUTE to present a paper on Ahdaf Soueif (one that grew out of some blog posts about her novels), I led an informal workshop on academic blogging.
  • In 2011, I was invited to participate in a panel on “Knowledge Dissemination in Canada” at the British Association of Victorian Studies; that presentation became a paper in the Journal of Victorian Culture.
  • In 2012, I gave a presentation on academic blogging at our Faculty’s research retreat.
  • In 2012-13 and 2013-14 I spoke in our graduate students’ professionalization seminar about blogging (and Twitter). I expect (though I guess I don’t know for sure!) that I’ll be asked back again in 2014-15.
  • In 2013 I was interviewed for an article in the Globe and Mail about Richard III. (I don’t think the interview I did about Jane Austen had anything to do with blogging: as I recall, that was an occasion when the reporter just called the department and got handed off to me).
  • Later this month I will participate in a Twitter Q&A about Middlemarch hosted by the Atlantic‘s #1book140— I was invited to do this because of Middlemarch for Book Clubs, but that site is itself the result (you guessed it) of a blog post.

Writing:

  • In 2008, I was invited to become a regular contributor to the group blog The Valve.
  • In 2009, I was invited to contribute to Open Letters Monthly, and in 2010 I moved my blog there and signed my soul over to them became an editor there too.
  • In 2011, I was invited to contribute a short piece to John Williams’s blog The Second Pass (currently on hiatus as he now has a great gig working for the New York Times!)
  • Also in 2011, I was invited to write an essay on the Martin Beck books for the Los Angeles Review of Books (the immediate prompt for this was on Twitter, but the original impetus was – again — a blog post). Encouraged by this experience I have since pitched and published two more essays with them.
  • This year I was invited to contribute to the British Library’s Discovering Literature site, on the basis of my ‘public’ writing more generally — especially at OLM — but since everything that happens there is fruit of the Novel Readings tree, I count that too!

There have been many other more diffuse effects as well, of course, including courses developed from reading interests initially pursued here “only” out of curiosity and course assignments such as student blogs, wikis, and pecha kuchas that I would never have thought of if it weren’t for the time I spend online. And there are all the intangible intellectual benefits I referred to the last time I wrote about what this whole experiment adds up to. This tally overlaps with the list of specific publications on my c.v. (the ones that “don’t add up to anything,” you remember) but it’s a somewhat different angle on the whole question — I think it shows that in some ways my role as an academic has changed along with my work habits and publication platforms.

2 Comments to Where Blogging Leads: A Bit More About How Things Add Up

  1. May 23, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I so often feel inspired to take my hat off to you, and on this occasion more than ever. I’ve only been part of a team running an online magazine for a few months and already my blogging has fallen behind, I hardly ever get round as many friends’ blogs as I would like and my entire reading list is clogged up with review books. And I don’t have a full time teaching job! I honestly do not know HOW you do it – but I’m hugely impressed!

    • Rohan's Gravatar Rohan
      May 23, 2014 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

      Thank you – you are very generous. Since I wrote this up I’ve been thinking that I’d really like to shake off this preoccupation with how things add up. I wonder if it’s a habit of academic life, this constant need to measure myself against a (perceived? imagined? feared?) external standard. It’s a tiresome internalized panopticon of some kind.

      Your new website is amazing! I can imagine it takes a lot of time, but you must be feeling very proud of it.

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