Building on the work of Lee Shulman, Mark Sample defines scholarship thus: "a creative or intellectual act becomes scholarship when it is public and
circulates in a community of peers that evaluates and builds upon it." Sample is trying to articulate the boundary between service and scholarship, specifically as it relates to the digital humanities (where, as in the immediate case of Sean Takats, scholarly work may well look like service to academics not in that line of endeavor). What intrigues me about this definition is that there is no intentionality about the "creative or intellectual act" in question--that is, an act not intended to function as "scholarship" may well become scholarship if Sample's criteria are met (although he is clearly discussing DH scholars who define their work as scholarship from the get-go). In effect, scholarship becomes such at the point of reception and circulation. Obviously, this definition separates scholarship from the various modes of its production and distribution, which is a key part of Sample's point. However, it also suggests that the academic community may creatively appropriate, as it were, certain "creative or intellectual" products, no matter what the medium or the intent, and then incorporate them into scholarly discourse--whether or not the original author/coder/whatever may have anticipated entering into such discussions.
Sample's definition speaks to blogging, I think, because academic bloggers have long been mumbling away at the problem of how to categorize their practice. Is it service (because you're engaging in a form of academic PR work?)? Is it scholarship (because you're actively discussing your work in a public forum?)? Is it teaching (because you may, in fact, be conducting curricular activities on the blog, analyzing pedagogical best practices, etc.)? But if we focus on "what does the academic community do with your work?" then the blogger's intentions no longer matter very much at all. This post, for example, was not intended to be a serious scholarly contribution, although it certainly articulates, in sardonic form, some serious observations about neo-Victorian fiction (in particular, its frequent faux progressivism--Rules #2-#4 especially). And yet...it has worked its way into books and articles on neo-Victorian fiction, which, using Sample's definition, would make it "scholarly."
I've finally managed to dispatch the scariest things hanging over my head and/or lurking in large file boxes, so I plan to return to regular blogging in due course. Look for a discussion of Maggie Power's neo-Victorian/neo-Gothic novel Lily fairly soon...
In recent weeks, my father has taken to pointing out that my posts have no comments. To which I generally respond that there are indeed no comments at the blog, but there are often comments elsewhere. I'm therefore receptive to this post by Kathleen Fitzpatrick (building from this), which notes that Facebook, in particular, often makes off with discussions that might originally have happened at their point of blog origin. Ironically, this makes the experience of blogging more like writing for print than for electronic media: there are conversations out there on Facebook, or friendslocked posts on LiveJournal, or Twitter (it's often hard to track back to Twitter), but most of them are inaccessible to me. It does make blogging a bit more lonely, as nobody appears to be there (even though the stat count says somebody must be reading).
Of course, it has generally been my experience that my "serious" blog posts--the ones that take, as Scott says, "five or six thoughtful hours" to write--have never garnered much in the way of comment. The squibs, which may take all of thirty seconds, are far more likely to accumulate responses. (By the same token, the most successful "scholarly" blog post in my repertoire is the satire of neo-Victorian novels, which has now been cited more than once in peer-reviewed venues.) The unfamiliarity of the material is an obvious culprit, but the seriousness itself also appears to be at issue: can the respondent be equally "serious" in a comment that will not take five or six hours to write? In any event, the silence tends to make the effort to blog into something of a blogging-for-blogging's sake type of endeavor.
Of the responses to a recent talk she delivered about blogging, Rohan Maitzen comments that "[m]aybe people were taking for granted that blogging could be beneficial in the ways I was describing and so didn’t need to ask about it, but the impression I got (perhaps unfairly) was that they couldn’t quite imagine those benefits trumping the low likelihood of professional rewards for the time spent." Concrete "rewards" from blogging tend to be, at best, random: the CoHE buys one of your blog posts; somebody invites you to a conference; you're asked to review books; somebody takes one of your posts and quotes it in a book1. "Communication," as Rohan suggests, seems to be a better way of thinking about what academic bloggers do when they write about their scholarly work and lives. Not simply the results of one's research, but also how that research interfaces with teaching, with family life--even, I suppose, with one's cat developing an aggravating taste for rare leatherbound Victorian periodicals. I don't want to trot out the word "relatable," if only because legions of students will consign me to the Eighth Circle for hypocrisy, but perhaps "demystifying" will do. Even if the demystification involves revealing that some academics spend an awful lot of time reading rather unreadable Victorian fiction, because sometimes, that's just what you have to do in order to responsibly achieve your scholarly goals...
A different question might be: is the communication heard or overheard, to borrow from John Stuart Mill? Much of my writing about Victorian religious fiction, for example, is primarily for my own benefit--in effect, I'm using the blog as a repository of notes to myself about particular texts, some of which I'll plunder later for more formal writing. I'm dubious about the use of a blog as an alternative site for peer review (see "random," above), unless one has publicity mechanisms in place to ensure that the most useful readers show up; there's a reason that this little article, for which I wanted peer review (and not in the "jump-through-hoops" way), started out as a deleted blog post. (Among other things, it's not at all in this blog's usual niche.) That being said, I've found that blogging has been most valuable in reshaping my academic prose--more relaxed, less Englishese (although I have to discipline my habit of indulging in parentheticals like, er, this one). I don't think that Book Two is about to rival Dan Brown or Stephen King in sales any time soon, assuming that its contract goes through (my apologies to the publisher...), but I also don't think you need to be a certified English professor in order to read it, either.
1 Which is why I finally broke down and listed TLP on my CV, under "other publications": there's no point in continuing to erase the existence of a blog that's being cited in scholarly works!
I've been writing some version of this blog for about a decade (it originated on Blogspot), and so Dr. Crazy's questions did strike a nerve. It was always my intention to write an academic blog, and not a political blog, a personal-life blog, a travel blog, or anything else of the sort. In my case, that meant de-anonymizing fairly early on: it's very difficult to anonymously write about your research when the research in question occupies the nichiest niche that ever niched. (Religion and literature: big business. Nineteenth-century non-canonical religious fiction, with occasional visits by poetry: let me introduce you to all ten of us. In the known world. Quite possibly the galaxy.) Moreover, when I started, I was a non-tenured sort of academic. Then I mutated into a tenured sort of academic. And now I'm at the point of thinking about applying for promotion to full professor. Does this affect blogging?
Yes and no. This school year has seen the blogging slow down considerably, thanks to the trials and travails of revising Book Two; I imagine it will pick up again once I can get my new project(s) under way. But more than that, going up the academic ladder means...I've accrued commitments that are not a weblog. Even though I hardly qualify as an academic "star"--more of an academic streetlight, maybe, or perhaps a nightlight--I'm at that point in my career where people ask me to do things, whether it be referreeing a manuscript, writing an article, or sitting on Committee #3921. (As I recall, a previous chair's congratulations on my tenure application included the line, "And now, I have a committee I need you to be on.") At the same time, there are also fewer subjects that I can write about, in large part because I'm not anonymous; some of the strangest/most frustrating/most aggravating experiences I've had as an instructor or graduate director just can't put in an appearance here, because there's no safe way to keep other parties nameless. Too, some things I might have once posted here are now over on Facebook or Twitter.
Still, Twitter is hardly a substitute for a long-form blog post when it comes to writing up the latest Victorian novel about baptism. Although it might be fun to live-tweet a religious novel, come to think of it...
Undine, noting the migration of various bloggers to the Chronicle and similar spaces, comments that "the integration of blogs/Twitter/Facebook that sites are aiming for makes that cloak of pseudonymity even thinner than before," and goes on to say that "when I tried blogging a little bit under my own name, I hedged so much about everything that the posts were worthless (and I took the blog down almost immediately)." By an ironic twist of fate, I similarly found myself "hedging" my posts (so much so that I think they may have developed sharp quills) during this blog's earlier incarnation on Blogspot many years ago...back, that is, when the blog was pseudonymous. References to furniture-hunting (hey, it's nineteenth century furniture) and cats (they have Victorian names!) aside, this has never been a blog primarily oriented to my personal life or political opinions (actually, it's never been oriented to my political opinions). My intention has always been to focus on a combination of academic life in general and my own scholarly adventures in particular. And there's the rub: I couldn't talk about my scholarship in any detail when the blog was pseudonymous, because there are five other people on the planet who do what I do! (That's not quite as hyperbolic as it sounds.)
In my own case, then, associating my blog with my name was more liberating than otherwise. Indeed, it has also proven professionally useful, in terms of establishing connections and, in some cases, creating opportunities (invitations to deliver papers or write articles/reviews, for example). Heck, people sometimes cite the blog in print publications--that little post on writing neo-Victorian novels has gained a surprising amount of traction. However, pseudonymity would no doubt look far more appealing if I were in a perilous position job-wise, or if I wanted to write about politics/my personal life/my hobby of collecting dragon-shaped bottle stoppers. (Before you ask: no, I do not collect dragon-shaped bottle stoppers.)
The internets have returned chez LP! While I'm fond of my campus office and all, it's more comfortable to blog without my fingers freezing to the keyboard. Actual posts to return in fairly short order.
Due to the proverbial circumstances beyond my control (including some busted circuitry, apparently), I'm without a landline this week. I'm therefore also without internet access, save at my office. And because the university is currently in its "let's save money during the break by turning the heat down into the 50s" phase, my enthuasiasm for sitting in my office for long periods of time is...limited. (Unfortunately, I have now discovered the downside of online submissions.) So while there will be blogging, there may also be slightly less of it this week, depending on the variegations in my enthusiasm for chilly conditions. With any luck (*crosses fingers*), all systems will return to normal next week.
I am, of course, turning my Internet deprivation to good use by--what else?--doing even more packing. Besides, I need to reread The Way We Live Now for next semester's graduate course.
Last night, Dad the Emeritus Historian of Graeco-Roman Egypt asked me if I listed this blog on my CV. Well, no, I responded. Leaving to one side the occasional guest appearances by cats, annoyed Vulcan captains, and GLADOS, I've never considered anything I've written here to be more than notes towards a final scholarly product. As I pointed out here, for example, a post on Walter Scott's The Monastery had to be entirely revised, reworked, and just re-ed in general before it could function in the context of my book chapter. My blog prose tends to drown in parentheticals, qualifiers, and other stylistic tics that require stern discipline; moreover, I frequently...ah...express my opinion of certain texts more strenuously than is generally considered appropriate in academic discourse. If I ever get around to writing an article about Florence; Or, the Aspirant (because, believe it or not, it does have literary-historical interest, if your literary-historical interests run to my kind of thing), it's highly unlikely that I will spend the entire essay bewailing my plight. Granted, one's tolerance becomes strained after spending too much time with angelic evangelical children who address other characters as "Mr. Jew," but articles are not the place to gnash one's teeth over a self-inflicted burden. That's what you use blogs for, no?
But this judgment call is getting a little tricky, because some of my blog posts are now showing up as citations in scholarly journals. In particular, the Rules for Writing Neo-Victorian Novels, which have even put in an appearance on someone's syllabus. Obviously, being cited is a Good Thing (and looks nice on one's annual report), but...if I'm going to note that my post is turning up in the scholarly literature, does that mean that I should also note the blog as well? Even with cats, annoyed Vulcan captains, and Glados?