Thursday, December 8, 2016

On SEK and Academic Blogging

I only knew him as the blogger SEK from Lawyers, Guns, and Money, a blog at which I've long lurked/read, but Scott Eric Kaufman passed away in November.  My sincere condolences to his friends, family, and the readers who came to know him through his writing.

In his tribute post, Paul Campos, also at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, references one of SEK's pieces about blogging from nearly 10 years ago. Because I'm eternally interested in this topic, I thought I'd share it with you. In it, SEK, who had a PhD, writes:
"Over the past three years [blogging], I’ve learned what it’s like to write in a way most academics never have: namely, for an audience. If this seems like a simple point, that’s because it is. Nor is it one of those profoundly simple points, either: it’s straight simple. When a blogger sits down to slave on her dissertation, article, or book, she doesn’t turn her back on the public sphere. Because in the end, the public sphere is us.
I’m talking about the communities we currently have, only five years in the future, when we’re scattered around the country, unable to communicate face-to-face, but still connected, still intellectually intimate, because we’ll still regularly be engaged with each other’s thoughts. But I’m not only talking about us. There’s no reason our community needs to consist solely of people we knew in grad school. Why not write for people who don’t already how you think about everything? Why not force yourself to articulate your points in such a way that strangers could come to know your thought as intimately as your friends from grad school do?"
I have about 50 or so blogs in my Feedly. Some of these are written by academics, by which I suppose I mean people who are adjuncts or who have faculty appointments in higher education. Most, like me, are not.

The academic blogs I most enjoy tend to be those where the writers engage with their blog readerships. I say that while also realizing that some writers may be shy, may be too busy to engage, or there may be too many comments to respond to. I also wonder if, in some cases, there is an assumption that it's the role of the academic to lecture and the readers to listen, with the readers interacting only with each other. That is: an expectation of monologue rather than dialogue.

Whatever the case, I appreciate SEK's point: imagine more academics engaging with wider audiences in, outside of classrooms and academic journals. 

I'm currently re-reading Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which I first read circa 2004.  I'm not sure what Freire would have thought about the Internet being used for what he describes. But, in nearly 10 years of blogging I do see people coming together in dialogue to learn to name their oppressive lived experiences. At least, that is, they can do so when those with oppressor/dominator mentalities are excluded from the conversation.

No comments: