The anti-social academic blogger? A post by Sam Merrill

Over on his (re)new(ed) blog/site Sam Merrill has posted about blogging and his uneasiness with some of the less collegial, more narcissistic, and perhaps more target-driven (in the vein of h-index etc. perhaps[?]) implications of blogging becoming a normalised part of academic practice. Its definitely worth a read in full [here] but I’ve copied some choice excerpts below…

It all reminds me just a little too much of Zygmunt Bauman’s keynote at the re:publica 15 conference that I attended last month. He discussed how today most people seek publicity rather than privacy, primarily through social media use, and they are thus replacing the community networks which previously belonged to them with the social networks to which they now belong. […]

There is now a widespread acknowledgement that academic progression, especially at the early career stage, often relies on one’s ability to develop their own recognisable brand. This narcissist factor of academic social media use is another that leaves me feeling inherently uneasy about blogging even as I engage in it more and more willingly (the narcissism that is, not the blogging). […]

Although there is little new about Bauman’s prognosis – that social media leads to the state of being alone together – the fact a future colleague later admitted that what Bauman had described sounded just like him made me shudder as I realised that if the pressure to use social media and the Internet for academic purposes was so apparent across the disciplines that I had already encountered (archaeology and geography in particular), then what must it be like in the field of social media studies that I was about to join – and how would I ever find enough time to relieve it!

I suppose I’m inclined to argue that including blogging in your academic practice is only really worth it if it isn’t a chore, if it doesn’t become another target to hit, and if it enables us to celebrate our collective exploration of ideas – otherwise, its surely (yet) another  instrument of ‘governmentality‘ ~ those logics we internalise by which we are in some sense controlled, as workers, and become alienated from our labours… in the sense in which it seems that those that work in academia (at least in the UK) are really good at internalising and living out precisely those logics we critique as neo-liberal (i.e. the REF and so on…) and just to be crystal clear, I am just as guilty of this as any.

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One Reply to “The anti-social academic blogger? A post by Sam Merrill”

  1. Hi Sam – thanks for discussing my blog post. I think I am probably guilty of at least partly framing blogging as a new chore but I am not sure if that says more about my personal disposition and late adoption of social media for academic use than my views on the actual practice. I wouldn’t have started blogging if I didn’t believe in its potential benefits and I hope that it quickly evolves into something beyond a further task and something I am excited about and look forward to doing. Based on the responses I have already received I am more and more confident this will happen and following your earlier posts I am convinced that the best way to ensure my own fulfillment from the practice is by being a sharing, if also slightly anti-social and begrudgingly occasionally narcissistic, academic! I have other blogging concerns – perhaps they will feature in my post – although I don’t know when that will be and I don’t want to get a reputation #notcomplaining! I will probably always remain very aware of how much time these activities consume. Likewise it is hard to ignore the growing neo-liberal logics that you note above – especially those that seem to prescribe that every new funding bid be accompanied by the obligatory blog… !!!

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