why I read blogs

I've used up almost all of my afternoon "blogtime" reading and commenting elsewhere. There's been lots of interesting discussion going on in two related threads -- one the Stephen Krause - Profgrrrl conversation; the other begun by Apt 11D reviving the question of personal vs political blogs (and the gendered assumptions about the value of each.) There are lots of good comments happening everywhere in these links.

As I've commented elsewhere, I don't really see the utility in declaring that one way of blogging (or writing, or teaching, or living) is the One True Right Pure Way and others are Weak Irrelevant Effeminate or Dumb. Yes, I'm exaggerating. A bit. But the arrogance and defensiveness that comes up in a lot of these conversations suggests that there are much deeper cultural issues at work. Some of my hypotheses & observations:
  • it is threatening to those who are invested in the system to realize that there are participants in the system who are criticizing it (or perhaps not even talking about it or them at all)
  • because a myth of meritocracy is rampant throughout academic hiring & promotion practices, the most expedient way to attempt to shut down criticism is to claim that the critics are not articulate or not smart or not qualified enough
  • much of this conversation continues to reinforce, rather than deconstruct, the binary between personal and public identity and voice, precisely because those who are invested in the maintaining the system the way it is are threatened by the political implications of the personal. Yup, basic feminism 101.

So, bypassing the many reasons why I write this blog, why do I read blogs (both pseudonymous and nym'd)?
  • so-called "academic blogs" offer me understanding of a range of experiences and points of view (female, male, untenured, adjunct, tenured, senior, administrative, etc) from within academia in the largest sense. Most of us in our day-to-day interactions deal with people from one department, or one college. Maybe the whole university, but that's rare on a daily basis unless you're a top administrator.
  • blogs create new possibilities for community and dialogue -- within and beyond our professional identities. Understanding your own experience and its larger significance improves by comparing it with that of others.
  • many individuals are in departments, fields of study, or institutions that are not especially supportive, welcoming, or open to change. Blogs offer them support and encouragement. Even though my own department is fairly congenial and has been fairly supportive of me personally, there are many issues that I want to discuss that I don't particularly feel like sharing with the office grapevine. Seeing outside the particular institutional box one finds oneself within is often really clarifying.
  • blogs offer ways for academics to communicate beyond our own little ivory tower world. I read non-academic blogs, too -- because my identity encompasses so much more than my PhD.
  • blogs are one of the most lively forms of publishing currently going on. Blogs are all about reading writing. Not only have I learned about other people's lives -- I have been daily impressed with the style, verve, thoughtfulness, and pleasure to be found in reading the words of so many diverse minds. The more the merrier.