On blogging and not blogging

In spite of my desire to write more on my blog back in July, I obviously haven’t done a good job of keeping up with it. That isn’t something that you should interpret as a choice. It was more like the result of economic necessity: back in July I started working for the university, first in a web development job, now also as a TA, and that, plus the pressure to write my dissertation, has pretty much made it impossible to find time to write here. That’s somewhat frustrating, because I still have a lot to say, and I think that this blog can be a good place for me to process my fieldwork materials, and to continue my ongoing desire to make French university life more understandable to an Anglophone audience. (And, of course, to amuse my occasional French readers.)

It’s ok, of course, to not blog. Blogging has a rhythm and a lifecourse. Sometimes it fits in with one’s other obligations, and sometimes it doesn’t. But at the same time, I think there are reasons why more scholars should blog that go beyond the personal. On a personal level, it is certainly good for academics to de-dramatize the act of writing, to get in the habit of writing things that are short, that are concise, that are clear. But on a political level, it seems to me that blogging is a good way to remind ourselves that research (especially in social sciences) should have some public import. If not public benefit. A blog is a way of reminding oneself that scholars at least might speak to the public. A blog is a way of acknowledging that unread scholarship doesn’t have much value. A blog is a way of proclaiming that research can be translated into words that a non-academic could read.

That’s not to say that I am blind to the obvious fact that most academic blogs, including this one, mostly speak to a small audience of fellow academics. But I think we have to distinguish between the sociological reality that blogs tend to be in-group, and the fact that blogs do also encode aspirations to be less in-group. And at a sheer level of institutional access, a blog is accessible to the public around the world: anyone can type in a URL.

I guess, to be a little more precise, there is no essence of what blogs do or don’t do. But this one, at least, is the product of an aspiration to do more than write to a tiny audience of the fellow-minded.

I’m hoping that maybe if I find a better rhythm for blogging — once weekly, maybe — that I can get back to it. There are stories I still want to tell. Coming soon: more on precarious labor, more on international university politics, more on the details of French reform movements, and more photos of little campuses in small-town America…

But if it turns out that I don’t get a chance to write more often in the near future, I will reiterate: that is not a choice, it is a matter of institutional time pressures. And this blog is not going away, no matter how patchy it gets.