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07/29/2015

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Trevor Hedberg

Some folks have told me that it is a complete waste of time or that the risk of saying something that might offend others or make them dislike you is too high to justify posting anything. Others say it is a good way to increase your name recognition and acquire familiarity with the current issues (both philosophical and professional) that everyone is most concerned about. I'm not aware of any rigorous empirical studies of whether blogging in philosophy is more likely to have a positive or negative impact on one's professional reputation, so the lack of consensus among the anecdotal evidence leads me to believe that we really don't know how to appraise whether blogging is better or worse for early career scholars on the whole. From my own experience, I certainly have a better understanding of professional philosophy as a result of reading blog posts, posting comments, and (occasionally) writing blog posts, and I've met a few people at conferences who have known me from a few of my posts on the Cocoon. (My posts on the Cocoon seemed to have made a positive impression on them, on the whole.)

My participation on the Cocoon stems from the thought several years ago that there was a need for a supportive venue focused on the interests and ideas of early career scholars. It's especially easy for graduate students to be intimidated by the job market and other discouraging aspects of the profession, and as an early stage graduate student, I thought an effort to counteract that trend was worth supporting. I became a contributor because I supported the blog's mission and overall objectives, not based on a guesstimate of whether my participation was more likely to help or harm my professional standing.

Malcolm Keating

I blog at the Indian Philosophy Blog and on my own personal blog. The latter started as a place to put some helpful LaTeX tips, and evolved into a place where I write about once a month or so on topics ranging from teaching to professionalization to pop culture and philosophy. I generally do not put my in-progress thoughts online because I prefer to have my work more fully developed first. Further, if I am going to put effort into polishing something to the degree that I want to put it online, it's going to be part of an article for publication--and I worry about the anonymity of the peer review process.

I blog a bit more frequently at the Indian Philosophy Blog and I have found that experience to be both enjoyable and rewarding. It's been a way to meet colleagues whose work I read and develop relationships. For instance, Elisa Freschi and I put together a panel on language and epistemology after she mentioned the idea in a blog post. So that is an example of a concrete benefit.

Personally, I find that blogging has had primarily benefits and (as of yet) no significant drawbacks. However, I have kept my blogging on the lighter side since I prefer to put energy into writing articles for publication at this stage, although I can imagine developing the blogging into more public philosophy as my career allows. For instance, there are quite a few people interested in "Indian thought," often through pop culture ideas about Hinduism and Buddhism. I have often thought about finding a way to engage with this audience.

Elisa Freschi

I would say that blogging amplifies the advantages and disadvantages of general philosophical activism. If you organise conferences or panels within conferences, edit volumes, invite people for special issues of philosophical journals, found new journals, contact senior colleagues for one or the other project, answer questions on Academia.edu (or contact local radios and newspapers, approach the literary supplements of some newspapers, etc. etc.) you will become more visible. Some will appreciate you for that, while other will agree with Anon 3:09 (and somehow Axel) here (http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2015/07/query-why-so-few-early-career-bloggers.html?cid=6a014e89cbe0fd970d01b8d13fe9c7970c#comment-6a014e89cbe0fd970d01b8d13fe9c7970c) and think that you are doing it just in order to gain visibility. Blogging is similar. I am very grateful for the several colleagues I met through blogging (Jayarava Attwood, Malcolm Keating, Amod Lele and Matthew Dasti ---with whom I am now moderating the Indian Philosophy Blog---, Aleix Ruiz Falqués and so on), several of which became friends or co-authored with me one or the other (panel, article, project…).
On the other hand, I have been schocked by the reaction a post of mine once provoked (further details at your previous query). Since the post was meant as a praise of the participants of the conference I was summarising, I imagine that it might have irritated them (at least also) because they interpreted my blogging like Anon 3:09.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Elisa: Like you, I have had a few difficult experiences blogging or commenting--instances where I either wrote ill-advised things, or what I wrote wasn't taken by readers as I intended or hoped.

That being said, I take it that your experience with blogging has been good on the whole, no? (I don't mean to put words into your mouth. I'm just trying to get a better impression whether--as is the case with me--you find the benefits of blogging to significantly outweigh the costs!). :)

Elisa Freschi

Marcus, I really enjoy blogging and learnt a lot through it, thus my overall experience remains positive.
But experiences such as the above one make me less enthusiastic in recommending it to people who might not enjoy as much as I do interacting with other people.

BLS Nelson

I'm an ex-blogger who might get back into it when I've done something useful for the profession. I put my two cents in already from my comments in the other thread, and won't repeat the points I made there.

Instead I'll go ahead and add that the worries of the folks in the OP are reasonably justified. My experiences have been mixed. Most people are pretty helpful, if you can curate the conversation properly. But you still have to deal with some headache-makers: the anonymous trolls who want to be at the center of *the* conversation, the senior colleagues who want *you* to *want to* be part of *their* part of the conversation, and junior colleagues who are coming to discover how easy it is to participate in call-out culture from the luxury of the armchair. All of them take exception if you disagree in any meaningful way, and this is a sad fact of professional life that needs to be overcome and persevered through.

But, as I said, it's a mixed bag. So for anyone who wants to give blogging a go, I will offer two pieces of advice which might be useful:

A. Develop your own "code of conduct" explicitly and stick by it. For example, I have adopted two maxims (generally geared towards respecting dignity of persons without necessarily respecting their views):
(1). Always be in intellectual good faith (aware of your own limits, have integrity, listen carefully, be candid);
(2). If you should ever happen to fail at that, at least don't be an asshole.

Other people have adopted very different principles: "Kiss down / kick up" or "Don't be a dick", for example. I myself find these alternatives quite defective. But the important thing is to be clear about your own rules in your own head.

B. Develop your own sense of what productive value philosophy blogging has, or might have. For example, later on in the game I tended to ask myself the following questions before posting a new blog entry:
(1) Am I writing something that could be actually interesting and informative if it were published in a professional journal?
(2) Are these ideas I have more than half-baked?
(3) Am I doing more than just telling people about existing literature?
(4) Am I writing about philosophy, as opposed to the profession of philosophy?

If the answer to all four questions was "Yes", I would not write it into a blog post, and instead try to make a manuscript out of it. (1-2) are self-explanatory, I hope. The reason for (3) is Machievellian, in that I think we ought to aspire to flood the internet with excellent surveys of existing literature so that the journals will feel less of a need to clog up their pages with exegetical dreck. My reason for (4) is that in principle I do not believe that systemic incentives should exist to encourage meta-philosophy as an area of professional expertise that is subject to formal peer review.

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