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The problem with finding a slew of interesting academic blogs is that it's left me feeling intellectually unworthy.

When I was a graduate student, with time and energy to spare, there were all kinds of interesting research agendas I wanted to puruse. From examining online discourse (circa '93) in the context of Habermas' ideal speech situation to applying Bourdieu's sociology of culture to reputation and interaction in CMC.

And then the real world interceded, and I ended up at a teaching institution, with a 3-course-per-quarter load, 300+ students per year to teach, advise, and evaluate, and no time to think outside the constraints of the classroom.

With the burst of the dot-com bubble, our torrent of new students is slowing to a trickle, which brings with it problems (what will happen to the faculty hired at the top of the bubble?) but also blessings (a significantly more manageable teaching load). So like Rip Van Winkle rising from his 100-year-sleep, I now find myself looking around at a new landscape, blinking in surprise and confusion, trying to figure out how to re-establish my ideas for research and exploration in new communication media.

I've found little to indicate that others have taken and run with the concepts I was toying with in grad school. But I'm going to spend some of the upcoming quarter break digging a little more deeply.

Meanwhile, when I stumble across scholars like Kieran Healy in my net travels, I'm torn between excitement and envy. It's a feeling I remember all too well from graduate school, one that Anne Galloway has recently expressed in her blog. I'm thrilled that someone is exploring topics like "Digital Technology and Cultural Goods"...but I hate that I have contributed nothing significant of my own, ten years after I first starting exploring the topic. And I'm wondering if there's anything I have to say that goes beyond what's already happening, or that comes close to the level of clear articulation that so many others are displaying in their writing.

In some ways, I suppose, I'm hoping that saying this publicly here on my blog will force me to move forward. We'll see. Watch this space. By end of summer, my goal is to have at least two articles--perhaps based on those earlier grad school papers--out the door and into editors' mailboxes.

2 TrackBacks

A curious set of posts from Alex Halavais (here) and Liz Lawley (here) remind me yet one more time why I must bless fate for steering me out of academia. I mean, these are two people with their heads on pretty straight. And yet the system has warped th... Read More

Whilst painting the front part of the electronic cottage yesterday in the autumn sunshine I got to thinking about academia Read More


Interesting topic. To take it a bit off on a tangent. I find that "true academics" are afraid to engage us in the "popular press" and are often very focused. I find blogs interesting because, although you have to, "dumb down" your arguments for mass consumption or interdiciplinary debate, you are forced to articulate yourself more concisely and forced to approach issues from a variety of angles using a variety of frameworks.

I still think that academic thinking is underleverged in popular blogs as well as in mass media. I think that even being about to READ academic papers is amazing sometimes. I think that there is a huge value in people with academic backgrounds pointing to bits of academic work and showing us the global relevance.

For example, I read Bruno Latour's Science in action and blogged about it. My sister, who is an academic had given me the book and told me that it was being debated in academia. I had never heard of it. I blogged a summary of it and it spread as a meme through the web.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's OK if you want to get back into the academic press and make a contribution, but please also keep in mind that you are building your reputation with us bloggers and another very worthy task would be to help us find things in academia that is relevent to our debates...

Just a thought.

Bruno Latour entry http://joi.ito.com/archives/2002/08/31/science_in_action_bruno_latour.html
Tim O'Reilly's response to my entry http://www.oreillynet.com/lpt/wlg/1933

I'd just like to state publicly that i had an idea for an SF novel nearly 15 years ago and despite 7 years of trying hard, the next 7 years were even harder, and that saying it pbulicaly only made the lack of movement forward on it worse, as in "I am writing this book".

Be warned public staements are not an abracadabra.

Yes, well, I know such statements won't serve as a magic wand approach to making progress. But I write them for myself, more than for others. Once I've put something in writing, it feels more "real" to me. And having it here on the weblog, which is beginning to serve much like external storage for my brain, is a good thing. No guarantees it will result in valuable results, but I'm fairly certain it will help to encourage forward progress. We'll see. :-)

Oh, and Joi...I think I can only effectively connect the two spheres if I maintain some level of activity in both. It's hard to stay knowledgable and involved in circles of academic thought without contributing to those circles, at least occasionally. The challenge for me is striking a balance, because I really like living on the periphery of various social circles, serving as one of Gladwell's "connectors" in the context of virtual environments.

Excellent answer to Joi, Liz. I wonder where the right balance is, thought. Remaining in the academic loop seems to require quite an investment.

As we transition into the so-called knowledge society, I suspect that non-academics will increasingly compete with academics in terms of generating the ideas that make a difference. The requirement to follow the traditional article form may become an impediment for scholars in that respect. What do you think?

My fear is that much of what I see in non-academic circles is a gadfly approach. People get excited about an idea, and then another bright, shiny though goes by and suddenly they're excited about that. The blogosphere overall seems more about the kinds of short "word bursts" that Daypop's starting tracking. And while lots of exciting things get generated in those flurries, in my experience, it tends to be the academics (bound as they are by their "traditional article form") who have to go deeper into the idea, flesh it out, make it whole.

That's probably an unfair categorization--there are certainly lots of notable exceptions (like Shelley, and Jonathon, and Joi...). But I suppose I'm disheartened by the flurry of excitement over the emergent democracy topic, and then the sudden dampening as the participants meander into new territory. (I'm including myself in that indictment.)

Bottom line, we need more than idea *generation*--we need for those ideas to move forward and carry weight. I think that often happens best when there's a partnership between these spheres. As always, I see the exciting things as happening in the boundaries and overlaps.




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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on February 23, 2003 10:14 AM.

points of intersection was the previous entry in this blog.

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