Careers: Academic personal blogs an oxymoron?

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The chatter level of grad students blogs is high regarding an article posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education's website with the title, "Bloggers Need Not Apply." Part of the closing argument reads:
Job seekers who are also bloggers may have a tough road ahead, if our committee's experience is any indication.

You may think your blog is a harmless outlet. You may use the faulty logic of the blogger, "Oh, no one will see it anyway." Don't count on it. Even if you take your blog offline while job applications are active, Google and other search engines store cached data of their prior contents. So that cranky rant might still turn up. The content of the blog may be less worrisome than the fact of the blog itself.

Several committee members expressed concern that a blogger who joined our staff might air departmental dirty laundry (real or imagined) on the cyber clothesline for the world to see. Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum.

On the pro-blogging side, grad student MuseumFreak eloquently writes in her blog:

For people like me, a personal blog does important work that an employer should want to see. By writing about my disability in a consciously analytical way and discussing disability with others, I'm "practicing," in a sense, for the ways in which I should manage that disclosure in the academy. As tsenft says, every time I go to post something, I ask "why am I engaging in this performance?" My blog is, in short, ethnographic data and fieldnote at the same time. In the case of the blogging research, it puts the participant in participant-observation. The internet is a place for me to practice the kind of courage and honesty that my specific vocation in life requires. And using those skills to reflect on how my personal experience connects to current events as well as academic readings is a very powerful methodology for thinking about the issues that matter to people in my field. And without some self-disclosure, it couldn't fulfill it's function as a part of my academic life.

Hannibal on the ArsTechnica blog believes the opposite:

Ultimately, I think the answer to this dilemma is pretty clear: graduate students simply should not blog, and if they do blog they should never do so under their real names. As a grad student, your writing time is much better spent producing papers that will get you feedback from the folks who you're paying to study under. Furthermore, anything that you have to say that's even remotely interesting to anyone other than your parents and your best friend from childhood is not worth publishing online when it could easily come back to haunt you years later. And the more interesting and relevant your comments on the pressing issues of the day, the more you should keep them strictly confined to the kinds of everyday offline intellectual conversations that make academic life so rewarding

My own reaction is that until you have a tenure track job, or a life-time appointment on the Supreme Court, you should be careful about what you write in a medium that is both permanently archived as well as easily searchable. While hiring and tenure committees look at research and teaching as important criteria, they also want good colleagues -- i.e., those who won't rock the boat too much, conservative by definition. The less they know about your personal habits, your love life, and your erotic fetishes the better. From the Chronicle article:

We all have quirks. In a traditional interview process, we try our best to stifle them, or keep them below the threshold of annoyance and distraction. The search committee is composed of humans, who know that the applicants are humans, too, who have those things to hide. It's in your interest, as an applicant, for them to stay hidden, not laid out in exquisite detail for all the world to read. If you stick your foot in your mouth during an interview, no one will interrupt to prevent you from doing further damage. So why risk doing it many times over by blabbing away in a blog?

We've seen the hapless job seekers who destroy the good thing they've got going on paper by being so irritating in person that we can't wait to put them back on a plane. Our blogger applicants came off reasonably well at the initial interview, but once we hung up the phone and called up their blogs, we got to know "the real them" -- better than we wanted, enough to conclude we didn't want to know more.

Blog away, but it keep it professional and don't write anything that you wouldn't want your department chair reading -- because believe me, they will. LiveJournal's friends restrictions are an excellent way to compartmentalize your blog as are pseudonymous blogs.

Further reading:

[Read other articles on Careers in Anthropology on]

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Although the original article in Chronicle Careers is some days old now, I can't blog for myself without commenting this. I did find a reference to it in the Photoethnography Blog and after following... Read More

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on July 16, 2005 2:07 AM.

Jobs: Two tenure-track jobs in anthro (UVT and OSU) was the previous entry in this blog.

Link: Sebastiao Salgado's Genesis project is the next entry in this blog.

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