This week in blogging

It’s been a rough week for the faithful here in anthro-blog world. Blogger spats spurred by the ability to write fast and inability to delete brought a quick end to one blog I followed. And another blog is pondering the idea of changing the blog into an open journal.
Yes that’s right – the blog vs. journal debate is back! Would you rather post your work on a blog, or in an “open journal”. What motivates the preference? A few quick thoughts –

Not everyone appreciates or feels the need to be unprofessional! Blogging can be a reaction to stiff academic culture, but many people want that professional identity to be carried and developed online. For them, there is concern that blogging their ideas would work against that image. They would prefer to post their work in a journal, with less responsibilty for frequent posting and discussion. Another possibility here is, they are happy to make their work available, but they don’t want to commit to regular interactions about it. Or they choose to make these interactions elsewhere, like in academic conferences.

Others take issue against any sort of professional label being dumped on them! Bloggers can react negatively to the idea that they are “anthropology bloggers”, preferring instead to blog from a personal space. More than one blogger I’ve interviewed has expressed this concern, arguing their blogs were not really “anthropology blogs”.

This points to the wonderful flexibility blogging gives, since it’s not a genre at all. It’s a writing/publishing platform and that’s it. So it leaves a lot of room for all sorts of more specific categorizations for those who chose to do so. The one thing that differentiates the blog generally however, is that it revolves around self-publishing without peer review!

Blogs are a space to express yourself more freely. Here’s to keeping faith that free expression is a good thing, and that learning to write in public is a worthy academic goal. [and learning to write to a broader public, which I’ll play with someday!]

[Don’t you dare label me]   –> don’t professionalize my blog

[but.. it’s just a blog… I want my work in a journal!]  –> blog is too unprofessional!

[this blog is both professional and unprofessional. Deal with it.]


6 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Owen – I like your point about blogging not being a genre but rather a writing/publishing platform. This is why I resist the normative idealism that we often find associated with blogging, e.g. that it’s about freedom from the supposed ridigities or formalities of other realms such as academia.

    I think we should experiment with this platform, see what we can do with it, stretch it in different directions. One experiment that I’m looking forward to is peer-reviewed blog posts! If it fails, so be it, at least we tried. I don’t mean standard peer reviews, rather fast turnouts on brief yet fully referenced research posts or mini-essays.


  2. correction: I meant fast *turnovers* not turnouts! (see what happens when you don’t peer review?)


  3. I am not so clear about blogging not being a genre, especially after hearing Fabian speak about genres.

    I think of genre in terms of content, style of expression, and practice. In terms of content, blogs vary widely and so it would seem quite clear that “blogging” does not imply a unique or distinctive kind of content. But then the discussion needs to be narrowed down a bit and made more specific.

    Blogging in anthropology does indeed imply a limited range of content, and it is a form of writing and expressing anthropological ideas that is very distinct from anything that exists in the discipline. It is short, in comparison, provocative often, and can combine itself with music, video, and illustrations — unique in contrast with print anthropology, unique also in contrast with visual anthropology. Also, it becomes embedded in interactions, which themselves can reshape a post, or reframe its meanings — again, also unique.

    It would seem to me, therefore, that within the context of anthropology (and we need some context), blogging is in fact a genre by most definitions of genre.

    Take that!


  4. …actually, the Trinidadian expression, which I will definitely NOT translate is…

    “Take that in yuh pweffen!”


  5. Look, I really am sorry to spam your blog like this, and I hope John sees this:

    I think we should just go ahead and create a blog shell for posting things we want to be peer reviewed. Since they are short, I am sure we can find even busy reviewers who will have time to post a comment. Personally, I am ready: I would submit my Alien Abduction, Show Me Your Motion, and two of my fictional stories as posts for review…and I am ready to take a good beating.

    We could call the blog something simple, leave it fairly neutral (no commitment to regular posts for example), just someone to copy over the posts from another blog that the author wishes to have reviewed.

    Now, take dat in yuh pweffen!


  6. Dr. Postill thanks for dropping in again! I’m pondering the benefits of peer reviewed blogging, and I see it taking shape in a few ways:

    1) Peers comment and help decide how appropriate the material is for publication, offering advice prior to publication. [ie. save myself from myself]

    2) Peers control the publication, deciding if its good enough. [ie. create hierarchy, ranking, authority]

    In one system the blog post is published privately to get feedback before making it public, but the author can publish it after however they like. In the other system hierarchy and status are created by allowing peers to reject publication.

    I think I need to try and write a journal article, to get more insights into peer review.

    Max, can’t you get those short stories published in any anthro journals that exist now? I heard so much talk about creative writing and anthropology as an undergrad, but now I’ve lost sight of it. Are there any journals catering to that kind of material?


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