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07/26/2015

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Anon

I don't blog for at least a few reasons:

(1) I may share views which I wish to develop later under my professional name, which could (a) undermine the anonymity and/or (2) open up the possibility of (self-!)plagiarism.

(2) Acedemic philosophy in the web 2.0 world has become so heavily "political," sensitive, and norm-volatile that any/everything you say can and will be held against you in the "court of public opinion." There, the onus of proof is often so heavily on the accused, any hint or implication of having transgressed certain heavily-policed norms/rules/language of the profession, basically, you're ruined before you're on the field. Blogs/tweets/tetc. admit of a more relaxed style which can encourage out-of-the ordinary honestly and open expression. But with this, I'd one says something offensive (potentially, actually, or perceived as such), then an outraged, offended "mob" can en masse destroy anyone and turn the ensuing calls for justice into a brou-ha-ha dererving of the "-Gate" label. Any unintentional, perceived micro-aggression can be turned into a intentional, correctly-identifed macro-aggression at the hint or suggestion that one has misunderstood a remark; to deny any ill-intent is to affect violence via a denial of one's lived-experience, of course.

I know of a number of female graduate students in philosophy interested in philosophical issues of gender who have nonetheless (sadly) intentionally distanced themselves from feminist studies for reasons resorting to the aforementioned volatility and norm-policing in addition to the feeling that there is a distinct lack of intellectual freedom within those academic fields (inter alia). In much academic philosophy, the social/politics is first and the philosophy comes second: adherence to the norms and standards of the latter grants you permission to engage in the former.

People see the improprieties, "gaffes," "faux pas," "scandals" and "committees" made to address the symptoms thereof and wash their hands of so much of it that it's not even worth it to try.

(3) Given the above, and the lack of seriousness that "internet-philosophy" is given, many (often older) professionals don't "get" or care about your "philosophy blog" which any old fool with too many opinions can (and do!) use as a bloviating platform.

AnonGradStudent

One simple reason: I'm going on the job market for the first time this year and I don't want to say anything that will sabotage my job search. I tend to hold some unorthodox views socially and politically, so I've already decided that I won't blog until I get tenure (if then).

Elisa Freschi

Hi Marcus and good luck for your deadline!
I have asked this question many times in informal discussions and have myself pondered a lot about it and here are my (tentative) answers:

1. especially in the US, non-tenured scholars are afraid of what could be thought about them by future commissions ---no matter what they say.

2. many scholars (even tenured ones) do not appreciate "beta" writings. They are afraid of letting go incomplete thoughts. I have seen colleagues quite surprised by my "daring" to post even questions about things I could not understand.

3. blogging is time-demanding and does not bring any corresponding reward, in the sense that no committee will think that you deserve something because of the thousands of blogposts you wrote.

4. Some scholars enjoy teaching, others enjoy organising, others enjoy reading, others enjoy writing. You are clearly among the latter group (and among the former two at least, if I know you well enough), but MANY scholars just do NOT ENJOY writing. They struggle with it and produce only a few pages per time-unit (day/week/month). This group includes perfectionists but also people who have always enjoyed different things in their lives.

Let me add to Anon's comment that something similar happened to me at least once: I posted something I conceived as a eulogy and which has been understood as a hidden attack. What followed were the worst weeks ever in my professional life.

another grad

Like others, I fear that blogging might be held against me. Nothing is anonymous. If someone wants to identify you via an IP address, they probably can.

The cost/benefit calculation doesn't make much sense for me, personally. Besides the possibility of making enemies, the time writing on a blog might be used to write papers...

Anonymous

I don't blog or post named comments on blogs (although I do frequent all of the major ones, with this one being most useful to me) because I don't want my name attached to anything an advisor, admissions committee, search committee, etc. may see. It is important to have a very controlled online presence.

anon

I'm really confused by how this question is framed. As far as I'm concerned, we should have positive reasons for doing something, not for *refraining* from doing something, that is clearly not necessary to either our survival or happiness. Shouldn't the question be, why do people blog? I genuinely have no idea what a charitable answer to that question is, though I have some uncharitable answers, so I'll refrain from suggesting any.

Merlin Z.

Someone, somewhere will take offense at something I say. It's quite possible that that someone will be my chair, my dean, a student who will complain, or someone else in a position to endanger my precarious employment. My employment termination doesn't require any reason except "we don't need you anymore." I am careful with what I say but cannot control how others will interpret or misinterpret my words. As far as sharing my purely philosophical work, I am afraid of having my ideas plagiarized by someone in a better position to publish them earlier than I will. That's happened to me in the non-blogosphere, so I cannot imagine increasing the risk exponentially by sharing my ideas online.

Richard Yetter Chappell

I actually think there's a pretty strong case to be made that, if anything, blogging is more likely to help than to harm one's career prospects. This is so even if any given person is more likely to dislike than to like what you post. For anyone interested, my argument is here:
http://www.philosophyetc.net/2009/03/academic-blogging-pros-and-cons.html

Marcus Arvan

Hi Richard: Thanks for drawing attention to your post! I am about to write a post on the same. I'll be sure to reference your post within mine. :)

anon

I mostly don't blog because I think there are more important things to be doing, like writing academic stuff. I also think it--and many bloggers--are generally narcissistic in this "look at me!" sort of way. Also, a lot of blogging is complaining about things, most of which don't bother me in the first place. I wish blogging were more constructive than destructive. But in general, it's just the "ethos" of the whole enterprise, which generally strikes me as smarmy, self-congratulatory, and self-indulgent.

Elisa Freschi

Anon 3:09 and anon 12:29, thanks for your comments. I have to admit that this idea never occurred to me, perhaps because I am deluded and think to blog in order to help others ---my actual blogging developed out of my first blogs, which were only meant for my students--- but perhaps also because I started blogging since I enjoyed other people's blogs and started blogging about what I would have liked to read (a blog on *Indian* philosophy) and could not find.

Helen De Cruz

Hi Richard - Read your post. I hadn't thought of it that way (it's a kind of formalization of all publicity is good publicity, because of the low baserate of getting hired!)

Marcus Arvan

Thanks for weighing in, everyone--and thanks, Elisa, for the well-wishes!

Matt Weiner

I don't fit the criteria but I hope what I say is still relevant.

I started a blog back in 2004 when I was on my first one-year appointment, after commenting a lot on Brian Weatherson's blog. Partly I had a problem I wanted to work on at more length than I could in someone else's comments but with less polish than I could in a paper--but I also thought that this could raise my proposal in a way that could help me on the job market. This was very early in the philosophy blogosphere, and I think some people did hear of me who otherwise wouldn't have, but I have no way of knowing if anyone dismissed me because of it.

The blog fell into desuetude over four or five years, around when I got my second tenure-track job, because updating it got to be too much work. I like spontaneously commenting on other people's blogs--here I am!--but my own blog posts felt like they should be more considered, and that started eating into energy I needed to be using to write papers. (This is related to what Elisa says about writing, though I wouldn't say I don't enjoy writing, just that if I'm being more than a bit careful it's also draining.)

Anyway, I wouldn't start a blog if I were early-career now. It doesn't have the novelty effect that gets you noticed anymore, and I think it'd be a lot easier to really make someone mad, partly because online discussion in philosophy is rightly dealing much more with contentious issues in the profession. This is kind of depressing counsel--to some extent I'm saying don't speak out for what you see as right in your profession under your own name, because people will get angry--but I can't advise anyone to take those risks in this job market, either.

So, I started an early-career blog for maybe some of the reasons you would today. I stopped blogging for intrinsic reasons, because I wasn't that into it any more. But if I were early-career now, I wouldn't do it, largely for extrinsic reasons.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Matt: Thanks for weighing in!

I'm not sure that "[blogging] doesn't have the novelty effect that gets you noticed anymore." If anything, philosophy blogs today seem more widely read than ever before--and some early-career people are very visible in the discipline because of it.

I'm also not at all convinced, for reasons Richard gives (and from personal experience), that blogging is at all bad for one's prospects on the job-market. Quite the contrary, without naming names, my experience has been that early-career bloggers have done quite well on the market. In part, following Richard, I would suggest that this is plausibly due to blogging simply making one visible in the discipline: a recognizable name in a stack of CVs, rather than an unrecognized one.

Nick Byrd

I started blogging years ago during a time when I did not have access to a proper philosophy department. I thought blogging would allow me to test out ideas and get helpful feedback from the online philosophical community. Testing out ideas has been helpful on occasion, but I rarely receive helpful feedback from people in the profession — who has time to a blog post written by someone who is virtually unknown...and then write a constructive comment?

One surprise: family and friends who are not in philosophy and live far away occasionally read my blog. As a result, a handful of non-philosophers have a slightly better idea of what I do in grad school.

This makes me think philosophy-blogging might be best suited as a form of outreach more than anything else. But even that seems a bit optimistic.

Unsurprisingly, I probably read my blog more than anyone else reads it. I don't read it for narcissist reasons...hmm...at least not *only* for narcissistic reasons. I read it in order to spot problems and holes in my thoughts.

Aside: is there a public list of philosophers' blogs? If not is anyone already making one? If not, who'd like to help put one together?

ElderStatesman

stuff like this doesn't help: http://philosophymetablog.blogspot.com/

Sam Duncan

It's interesting I've been thinking a lot recently about doing a philosophy blog (and my fiancé and I have been thinking about doing a cooking blog for the fun of it and maybe to sell some of her pottery). I guess there are four things that have kept me from doing it: 1. The worry no one would read it, or only some of my friends would to humor me. 2. The time involved. It's not just that it would take time to do a blog properly and that time might be used doing other stuff, but it would take more time in front of a computer. And I guess I feel I already spend way too much of my time staring at a screen. 3. It just seems a little narcissistic. Don't get me wrong I don't think all blogs are-- this one certainly isn't-- but a lot are and that seems a real risk. 4. Too many blogs quickly degenerate to something pretty ugly. I'm not going to name names here, but there are a good many philosophy blogs that are just celebrations of the author's ego, gossip sites on the level of the National Enquirer, or a combination of both. Granted I don't think I'd write something like that, but I imagine that the authors of those blogs didn't intend to do that to begin with either.

On the whole job front thing though my initial thought is that a blog probably would help more than it hurts for a few reasons. For one, it's another way to control your online presence. Even if I said something on my blog that might irritate someone having that comment pop up at the top of a google search would be better than having a grouchy ratemyprof review from five years ago in that spot. And I think the real danger in applications isn't that you annoy someone or that you reveal something about yourself that they don't like, but that they never notice you in the first place. Blogging at least gets your name out there, which means that your applications actually have a chance of getting read. All of which is to say that despite losing all my reasons not to blog I think I will start one pretty soon. So I guess in closing I'd ask how one does start?

Trevor Hedberg

I think the standard reasons not to blog have been mentioned already. The one that probably carries the most weight in my own case is the amount of time that it takes to craft a post that I consider worth sharing and the additional time it takes to read (and sometimes respond) to comments. Reading blog posts and emails already consumes a significant chunk of my time during the school year; I've actually been working to cut down the time that it consumes (e.g., by only checking email twice a day) since there are virtually always 3-4 more important things I could be doing at any given moment. Writing more frequent blog posts is obviously in tension with that goal.

Axel Gelfert

It seems to me that philosophy blogs 'peaked' about five years or so ago and that there has been a steady decline in activity since. There are exceptions to this pattern -- this blog being one of them -- mostly in the case of group blogs with a focus on the profession (or aspects of the profession) rather than on a single individual's philosophical thoughts. I think some of the negative associations people seem to have with blogging in philosophy (as voiced by 3:09 above) mostly have to do with such single-author blogs and their authors' egos (in many, though not all, cases). Indeed, I don't think it makes sense to start any new 'firstname.lastname'-type blog (I'm speaking generically here) these days, *unless* you want to be perceived as 'smarmy, self-congratulatory, and self-indulgent' (to use 3:09's words). For a blog to attract an audience and lead to some discussion, you need fairly regular updates/posts, and this is difficult for any one author to pull it off. In most cases, there is a fairly standard pattern: lots of interesting philosophy posts in the beginning, which then slowly descends into posts reporting personal anecdotes and opinions, political musings, and the inevitable weekly Youtube music video (once the author has -- understandably -- run out of ideas...). Much of this has, for good reason, moved to Facebook. Having said that, I think group blogs are a good thing (that's why I joined PhilCocoon) and can do a lot to promote discussion -- of philosophical topics as well as issues relating to academia more generally -- precisely because contributors are under less pressure to churn out posts or comment on everything under the sun.

Elisa Freschi

Sam,
I would start by joining a group blog. It would give you a feeling of how it works and would be a good way to see how often you are inclined to post and the like.

Andrew Sepielli

I'm an early-career philosopher who recently started blogging. The impetus: I'm working on a book; I recently flew across the Atlantic to present material from the book at a conference. I had to rush through material, my session was sparsely attended, I generally thought it was waste of my time and of taxpayer money, and I missed my family terribly. (Of course I thank the organizers for selecting me to present and for running a great conference -- it's not about that.) So I thought: why not blog? I'll get a bigger audience, I can present more material, I can go back-and-forth more with interlocutors, it's free, and I don't need to leave home.

Well, so far it's been a mixed experience. I'm getting more traffic than I expected, but way fewer comments. I'll probably keep doing it for a little while longer, and then reevaluate.

My main reason for not blogging earlier was the aforementioned fear of being perceived as a narcissist. But then I guess I just thought: I'm 36 years old, I'm good at what I do, and it's not healthy or virtuous to let fears like that get the better of me. For what it's worth, I don't think a professional culture in which such fears are warranted -- as I believe ours is -- is likely to be one from which much much truly innovative or culturally-relevant work emerges.

BLS Nelson

I blogged for a while at Philosophy Magazine. I stopped for a few reasons:

1) As a matter of principle I refuse to blog anonymously. I believe that I must learn to be candid, reasonable, and willing to hold myself personally accountable for what I say in public in my early career, given that I know that I will certainly not learn to have any of those qualities just by virtue of getting tenure. So there are genuine risks, right off the bat.
2) An internet troll threatened to "doxx" myself and my family and friends, and started a campaign of poison and slander. Although the episode was more comedy than tragedy, it prompted me to appreciate that blogging can sometimes attract the attention of people who are too much hassle than they are worth.
3) Philosophy blogging is addictive. It is my experience that, if you find a capable audience, then writing and engaging with that audience is certainly more fun, engaging, and philosophically rewarding than trying to get useful or thoughtful comments from "A" or "B"-list journals. So, understanding that I need to publish something in a serious venue I realized that I needed to kick the blogging habit.

Anonymous Too

I don't blog because I make too many typos.

Kate Norlock

I'e been tenured for eight years now, but started blogging before tenure on group blogs started by others, largely because I wanted to bring to people's attention a cfp, a news item, or a journal article that I wished could have a wider audience.

I'm just writing today to add two quick observations. First, I was part of an interesting panel at the CPA on blogging in philosophy (last summer), and I was struck by the very many and different numbers of reasons to blog! My interest in amplifying others' projects was only one of many stated reasons that day. Others were more interested in test-driving philosophical writing, cultivating a hobby or interest outside of work, reaching a more cross-disciplinary audience or a far-away community, etc. There's no one reason to start a blog.

My second bit is just one observation regarding how to start. I thought Tracy Isaacs and Samantha Brennan had a really excellent start at _Fit, Feminist, and Almost 50_ http://fitisafeministissue.wordpress.com/ and showed such vibrance in part because they lined up some content and a couple potential guest-posts first, launched second. So if you're starting something like a cooking blog or an applied-philosophy blog, best to treat it like a magazine roll-out, rather than starting up a site first, thinking about what to write second. (But since, as I said above, there are a lot of different motivations to blog, this is only a good idea for some and not others.)

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