Career Killing Blogs

Slate has a new article on academics who blog, Attack of the Career-Killing Blogs – When academics post online, do they risk their jobs? by Robert S. Boynton. The article mentions the infamous (among a very small circle of academic bloggers) Chronicle article, Bloggers Need Not Apply, which essentially argues that academics who have their own blogs ultimately damage their careers.

Boynton’s take is much more nuanced, recognizing both how the academic publishing industry is rapidly changing (downsizing is more like) and what underlies the tension between blogging and universities (which academic blogger John Holbo calls in Boyton’s article the last vestige of the “medieval guild system”).

As for me, I don’t expect my blog–this blog–to affect my career one way or another. It’s not like I’m spreading gossip, sharing dark fantasies, or posting my neuroses.

Many of my posts are simply observations–the kind I would talk about with a group of friends, if I still had the time. But I’m too busy teaching and writing to sit around anymore and talk about these kinds of things. So I steal a few random minutes, spit them out on my blog, and then, I forget about them.

The posts that aren’t simply observations are usually ideas in incubation that will eventually surface (peer-reviewed, documented, cited, leeched of personality) in a conference paper, journal article, or someday a book. The posts are placeholders, in a sense, for the real intellectual work that lies ahead.

What my colleagues make of all this, I have no idea. I suppose the real problem with academics who blog is that they leave evidence that they’re not at that precise moment engaged in research or teaching. A blog is an index to one’s daily “unproductive” activity. If all of our other unproductive time (eating, commuting, watching television, basic personal hygiene) was likewise plotted and mapped for the world to see, then everyone would realize that everyone else is also making space for things other than “work.”