Go read Dr. Cleveland on the uses of academic blogging, and how in many respects it is like Geoffrey Chaucer’s poetry (only with more profanity, lulz, and kitty-cat videos. Warning: he says some nice things about this blog, so file this one under “blogrolling in our time!” Next thing you know, we’ll be blurbing each other’s books!)
You can’t blog your way to a tenure-track professorship.You simply can’t. Even a gig at IHE or The Chronicle for Higher Education is not enough. That doesn’t mean blogging is not professionally useful to you. It means you need to be clear about what it’s useful for.
Blogging and other social media serve academics by bringing you to other people’s attention and building your professional network. It works largely as publicity for your other work, and it widens your potential audience while strengthening your connections.
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What blogging never does is substitute for other academic writing. It doesn’t get counted as scholarship. It does not serve as an employment credential. (If you wish to argue that it should, I can’t help you. I’m interested in describing what is, not what ought to be. If you wish to argue that someday your blog will be recognized as cutting-edge scholarship, I would point out that “someday” will be too late.)
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Blogging functions for today’s academics much the way that poetry functioned for poets like Chaucer or Spenser, which is to say that you can’t actually make a living at it but it can help you make connections for other jobs. Chaucer’s poetry only served him economically or professionally by building his reputation at court while he looked for various civil-service gigs. Writing The Canterbury Tales was a good way to get a customs or weights-and-measures gig. Spenser’s Shepherd’s Calendar led him to a career as personal secretary to important noblemen. Making a living off the books themselves was out of the question for both men. Poetry might have been their true vocation, but it wasn’t their actual career. It was simply grease for their career. If you are an academic blogger, the same is true of your blog. You write it for personal satisfaction and to express various interests and for the pure joy of making something. The exposure it brings might also help your career. But it won’t be the main driver of your career. The exposure only helps if you have other credentials to bring to the table.
I left a couple of comments over on his post that seem to have gotten stuck in his SPAM filter (why? I used no swears, I promise!) that endorse entirely Dr. Cleveland’s analysis of what blogging can and can’t do for an academic career. I also thought that his post was a nice addition to the conversation over at the AHA’s website about the professional ethics of history blogging that I was invited to join this week.
What do you think? What are your experiences?