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Jan 1, 2005 8:59 pm


Cliopatria at the MLA ...



Several Cliopatriarchs will be at the American Historical Association convention in Seattle this week. We'll probably confer there about doctrinal matters and enjoy our meal together. Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed scoops us with a report on"Bloggers in the Flesh." That's what happens when bloggers meet at the Modern Language Association convention and a reporter listens in. Cliopatria's Miriam Burstein, the Little Professor, of SUNY, Brockport; Erin O'Connor of Critical Mass; MGK's Matthew G. Kirschenbaum of the University of Maryland; Charles Tryon of The Chutry Experiment and Georgia State University; the University of Pennsylvania's Nick Montfort who blogs with the Grand Text Auto group blog; dave e of the University of Maryland, and the anonymous blogger at Thanks for Not Being a Zombie are featured.

But, in her forthright way, Bitch Ph.D., who is threatening to publish pseudonymously as"Dr. Bitch," shifts the whole discussion of blogging and gender."Why don't men keep academic blogs?" asks Dr. B."Is it that their verbal skills are less developed, so they are less likely to write as a hobby? Is it that their natural hunting instincts make them less interested in forming communities? Is it that their competitive nature means they are less likely to put their thoughts out in a public forum?" Take that, Crooked Timber. Thanks to the Little Professor for the tip.

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Julie A Hofmann - 1/2/2005

I agree with you there, but I think you might underestimate both the degree of anonymity anyone has AND the fact that the blog community (or communities) still has a set of standards. My impression is that, pseudonymously or not, we all have voices, and they are public by virtue of being, well, public. Bloggers write to share their ideas with other members of that community. If, for example, a pseudonymous blogger I regularly read and corresponded with were to post at Sharon's (for example) site something flame-ish at her without provocation, I would immediately undergo a mental shift -- not because Sharon blogs under her own name and I think of her as a colleague, but because Sharon's blog voice seems immensely sane, well-balanced, and thoughtful. Her comments on other people's sites indicate to me that she's a genuinely decent, intelligent person with whom I'd probably get along. I would feel the same about her if she called herself 'Early Modernist from Wales.' My respect for the flamer would decrease, and, unless there were some kind of explanation and aology, I'd probably read flamer's blog less often or at least let that flame color my opinion.
I agree that it can be irritating and frustrating to feel like you are the person who's putting it all on the line - but I think that there is only a true disadvantage if you're arguing something as an expert.
SInce we are a community of sorts, I think that we do have some standards of polite behavior. From what I've seen, people who are out of line (pseudonymously or not) are seen to be so, and often treated accordingly.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/2/2005

Don't misunderstand me. Anonymity or pseudonymity are options on the net. People choose them for their own mix of reasons. I wouldn't deny them that. On the other hand, when an anonymous or a pseudonymous one goes into high dungeon on a named one, I often think: oh, wait a minute, you can say whatever you want to because no one knows who you are. High dungeon prophetic name naming suddenly seems a little less brave than it otherwise might have.


Julie A Hofmann - 1/2/2005

Ralph, I'm surprised. As you know, pseudonymity can be a very important thing on the web -- whether it's leaning towards anonymity or more in terms of having a nom de plume.
In terms of trust, there are different reasons for and kinds of trust. Because you write under your own name and can be traced (like all of the Cliopatriarchs and Crooked Timberites), I have more reason to trust your opinions on professional matters. I can say, here's Ralph, and his field is Civil Rights History (it is, isn't it?), so I'm going to trust him on this fact. But in terms of trusting your opinion and your voice, that's something that comes only with experience. Since many of us don't know each other personally (in a face-to-face way), we can only choose to trust or not trust the voice. After all, lots of people have their public and private faces.
In terms of pseudonymity being a reason not to trust someone, I can't buy it. There are good reasons for academics to use pseudonyms, especially if they are not yet established. And since many blogs deal with opinion and personal experience, it's the voice that counts. It doesn't matter to me whether Prof B. or New Kid or Profgrrrl (to name a few) blog under their own names. What they say about their experiences as academics rings true. And I realize we're coming back to those questions of public/private, gender, academic/non-academic/disciplinary blogs again! ;-)


Ralph E. Luker - 1/2/2005

Julie, I disagree with your equation of the fact that you've never met me with Professor B's pseudonymity. What you know is that a Ralph Luker, who you can hold accountable, and at times try to do so with glee, I might add, exists as a discrete personage. You may know that a person who calls herself Professor B exists, but you'd play hell trying to identify who she is.
As for "trusting the voice" of such persons, why would one be inclined to trust the voice of a person who declines to identify herself on a par with a person who identifies himself and, thus, has a long track record of publications, the reliability or unreliability of which gives you a clear and sufficient reason to trust or distrust?


Julie A Hofmann - 1/2/2005

I trusted Prof B on the irony thing because she's a Lit person. Maybe the irony was in the responses?


Jonathan Dresner - 1/2/2005

Well, I missed the irony, too. I got the sarcasm, sure, as a mirror of the questions from CT about gender and blogging. But I don't see it as particularly ironic; more a matter of bad data set selection (blogroll counting? Come on, people!) on both sides.

I didn't think the reporter missed it, either: I read her comment as arguing for a strong female academic voice in blog-discourse, if you go looking for it. Nothing terribly ironic there. Just a challenge to the lazy conclusions offered by others.


Julie A Hofmann - 1/2/2005

I'm not really crying foul, Ralph -- just pointing out that the guy totally missed the irony in the first place -- regular readers of Prof. B and followers of the whole "Why don't academic women blog?" nonsense knew right of the bat that she was taking the mickey. Also, I really don't think the anon/pseudonymous thing has anything to do with it, in this case. I've never met you in person, so I read and understand you through your written 'voice', just as I understand Prof B through hers. In terms of understanding or knowledge, I don't think the two are functionally different.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/2/2005

I think you have a good point, Julie, as I think Jonathan may have. I'd still say, however, in the journalist's defense, that if you a) blog anonymously or pseudonymously _and_ b) assume on ey-ron-ik voice, there are at least two layers of abstraction from the self that you're putting it on the journalist to understand. If you do that, I'm not so sure that the deck is so clearly stacked to cry foul ("entirely out of context", etc.) when you've done a pretty fair job of hiding responsibility for what you've said.


Julie A Hofmann - 1/2/2005

It should probably be noted that the author took Prof. B entirely out of context ... see her take on it:
Ey-run-eee

If you read the comments to her original post and its follow-up, you'll see he doesn't do her justice!


Ralph E. Luker - 1/2/2005

I noticed that about Erin and started to make a comment about inaccurate journalism, but I hesitated to do so because I'm not certain that we know she has actually resigned. Probably she has, but she may be on a leave of absence. Mark Bauerlein took a leave of absence from the English Department at Emory to become Director of Research for NEA and I recall his saying at the time Erin made her announcement that he was making the same kind of move.


Jonathan Dresner - 1/2/2005

The article is OK, though it's too short to do much good (an article about our get together would be pretty much the same, frankly, at that depth) and he's got Erin O'Connor still teaching at the U.

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