Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Let me redirect you

. . . if you're coming to this blog from this post on the Valve: I made plain here what I meant by my question at the MLA.

But let me make it clear, one more time: I do not in any way wish for THIS PARTICULAR blog to "count" in any way on MY PARTICULAR tenure file. Just so's you know. (Thanks.)

And if I sound defensive, it's surely because I'd like to be known as something other than "that woman Berube swatted at that MLA blog panel." Ironic, isn't it? That a question related to blogging and the construction of academic reputation would, through its summarial rejection, construct my academic reputation?

Indeed, it's ended up motivating me to get my journal submissions and book proposals in -- at the expense of this blog, of course -- so that I also can be known as, say, that early modern scholar who does interesting work on early English pedagogy and English letters. Who also happened to be swatted down by Michael Berube, for sure. But I'd like to change the lede.


Michael Bérubé said...

Hey, I swatted no one! And, to reference the comments on your earlier post, I don't think you're a twit, either. In fact, it seems that I misunderstood most of your question. For that, my sincere apologies. I liked your followup clarification, and I have only one quibble: there's really no contradiction between claiming historical antecedents for blogging and distinguishing it from refereed scholarly work: there are important historical precedents for fanzines, after all, and I wouldn't include those on my cv either. Though I see that Amardeep's post at The Valve is directed at this question: what if there were peer-reviewed blogs? It's an interesting question, to say the least.

Again, though, I'm sorry I missed most of your interesting question back in December.


As for "swatting noone," of course you didn't swat *me -- I believe Amardeep has it worded as "it," where the antecedent is my "question." I have nonetheless become personally identified with the question in a way I find amusing and, as I wrote, ironic (and occasionally stomach-churning). As I wrote shortly after the event (i.e., before it came to my attention that "it" had taken on a life of its own in academic blogland), I hardly took it personally at the time.

As for peer-reviewed blogs, I think it's an excellent question, and absolutely related to my "clarification," inasmuch as I would like blogs -- or this **technology (I think the word "blog" tends to limit discussion) -- to develop so as to become another credible -- and *creditable -- outlet for scholarship and the transmission of ideas, something in addition to peer-reviewed journals (Holbo's notion), and which also represents (and reforms) academic labor for the general public.

There would be lots of pragmatics to work out here, and I wouldn't expect it to be pretty (i.e., how do we elect "peers"?). But I reckon I should take that up over at the Valve.

Meanwhile, teaching Paradise Lost today. A student wrote to ask if it would be okay to do the "woohooos" of "Sympathy for the Devil" from the back of class.

I say, HELL yeah! So long as they don't mind if I dance.

Thanks for writing.

And thanks to all for your patience with my over-sensitivity. It's the end of term here -- overtired, overstretched. Like Satan, prostrate in Pandemonium. A little prickly.


Roger Mexico said...

A student wrote to ask if it would be okay to do the "woohooos" of "Sympathy for the Devil" from the back of class.

Wow! A class full of Blakeans. That must rock. Congrats on the end of term; we've still got six long weeks to go. . . .

Michael Bérubé said...

Hmmm, that was weird. "Roger Mexico" was my display name for the faux-blog "Future Search," which I created as a meta-joke about two years ago. No idea why it turned up here! Could be a new blogger/ old blogger thing. Well, that complicates peer review pretty significantly! Sorry bout that--


I'm sorry, I'm confused. Michael (if I may be so bold). are you saying that that was you posting -- i.e., Michael Berube as "Roger Mexico"? Or that someone else has purloined your former pseudonym (the work of Satan, perhaps)?

Michael Bérubé said...

I'm saying I signed in with my Google account last night and was myself, and then signed in this morning and appeared as Roger Mexico for reasons that are still obscure to me. Now everybody's going to think I'm a Pynchon character.


Gotcha. Though I could think of worse fates (i.e. worse characters in worser novels. . . hmmm. . . Jessica Swanlake, now there's an alias I could get into . . . ).

More seriously, though (though only slightly), I've been thinking about your comment about "fanzines" on your cv -- where I am, they're called Facebook. I was mortified, to say the least, when I discovered my students had set up a site in my, er, honor (the terms were a bit shocking), but came to realize that, as the students turned sixteenth-century poems into professions of pedagogical devotion, the site reflected "evidence of teaching success" I can only hope to see back from those standardized bubble sheets they're filling out this week . . .

An academic fanzine, though. That'd be fun.

Samuel D. Bradley said...

Thanks for the intellectual exercise. I enjoyed reading this and your realted links. As an advertising prof (yes, the devil, I know), it is interesting that most forms of communication are readily adapting to "new media" (I hate that term, but you know what I mean), but peer review is doing so at a slow rate.

For my own research, my blog is better than my pubs because it is current. People who care about emotion and attention to media can find out what we are doing today. People reading Media Psychology find out what we were thinking more than a year ago.

Keep asking questions. And -- hopefully for the rest of us -- keep talking about them here. Thanks!


Professor Bradley . . . the devil? Not here. That is, I imagine you cotton on to what I am talking about when I express my hope that this medium might help to re-brand academia, especially in the humanities.

And for those who think I've got a bee in my bonnet about this topic, realize that it's our brand on the line when funding decisions are made at higher levels of governance (i.e., when Congress bankrolls the pork but takes a slice from higher ed). It's been quite a fascinating education, actually, moving to a Canadian institution. But that's another post, isn't it.

But I am right there with you on the scholarly promise I believe this technology offers, with regards to the freshness of our ideas. As I've written before, the duration of time from the germination of an idea (through research to draft to submission to first peer reviewer to second to editor to response to more research to editing to publication) to the general academic conversation is protracted; a blog post appears quick as a pixel.

The stop gaps are in place, justifiably, at peer-reviewed journals to protect the integrity of the academic product. Amardeep's post means to establish protocols for *this medium so as to produce another legitimate (credible and creditable) item of consumption. I know it will take time to develop those protocols (especially as we bloggers are a notoriously independent bunch), but I'm all for the conversation.

Much more to say, but my kids are screaming (**way past bedtime). Many thanks for posting: if you're the devil, you're certainly welcome here (woohooo).

Samuel D. Bradley said...

Thank you for not banishing the advertising "devil."

I have to say that the more that I think about this, the more that I think it is some kind of look into the future.

I try not to be a conspiracy theorist, but it is interesting how electronic journals have failed to garner much respect. At least in communication they have. And the (perhaps) sad part is that I myself have bought into that.

A new issue of the quasi-flagship Journal of Communication sits on my desk. It will soon go on my shelf, and when I want to read something in it, I will go online and download the PDF. But I almost never read the Journal of Interactive Advertising, for example, which is only online. So online is good. Online-only is bad.

The latest copyright agreement that I signed finally acknowledged that I had the right to post the PDF online for personal use. Nice of them.

It still remains such a weird juxtaposition. The taxpayers of Texas pay my salary to do this research, which we give to journals for free (I will even have to pay page charges if one revise-and-resubmit makes it), and the publishers in turn charge the Texas taxpayers and tuition payers hundreds or thousands of dollars for the journal in the library.

That's just illogical.

A former colleague of mine, Matthew Nisbet, is the first person who I heard talk about a community-reviewed publishing model akin to Wikipedia.

To me, this seems to be akin to what Amardeep meant. And not only do I think it will happen, I think that something like this must happen.

Of all the tracking problems that exist online, they cannot be fundamentally any more challenging than those that exist in print. Now I personally know of multiple people who have been pressured to cite more articles from the journal to which they are submitting. Impact factor, anyone?

Today, the blog probably is service. It certainly is outreach. It might even be graduate student recruiting. But tomorrow looks brighter.

And I am especially encouraged to see such an active dialog in a widely disparate field to my own.

If nothing else, perhaps the file drawer will move online, and just perhaps that will prevent someone from making the same stupid mistake that I made in a "failed" study.

Now I am looking forward to the Canadian version of academe post.


Dear Professor Bradley,

Apologies for taking so long to respond to your thoughtful note. I was offline much of yesterday "Canadianizing my vehicle." Pimping my ride, you could say, to keep the mounties happy.

It's true that the online journals don't have the same cred as the print ones -- as much because they are *new as online, I would think. That is, were I to publish in a new print journal, it wouldn't carry as much weight as established publications like Shakespeare Quarterly or ELH.

It's a credibility issue, for sure, where the scholarship itself is concerned, but there's also a translation element here, in that, in arguing the validity of our work to our colleagues, we're required to establish and explain the context(s) in which that work has appeared (i.e., which conference, which committee, which journal). The Victorianists and po-co critics on a review committee are likely to have heard of Shakespeare Quarterly, seen it in the periodical stacks, etc. in a way that fast-tracks the entire file.

So even were blogs to be peer-reviewed, it would likely take time for them to have any credibility (but it's a start).

I do wonder whether it would help if some heavy-hitters would endorse it, be part of its development. I'm thinking of the model of the journal _Representations_, a relatively recent print journal that garnered cred pretty quickly because of the status of those who were involved in it and because it (er) *represented a critical mode at its emergence -- it branded historicism as historicism branded it. All of these factors made it not only "hot" but also recognizable, and expedited its ascent to credibility.

It's an interesting thought exercise to consider what critical mode we might link blogging to, if any; and as for my musing whether getting moguls onboard would help to galvanize the endeavor, I confess I bristle at the idea of having to kiss rings to secure some sort of patronage. After all, part of what we enjoy most here (okay, I'll speak for myself) is our freedom and independence.

It's reconciling the lateral structure and movement of blogging with a hierarchical mode (whereby some bloggers would be 'more equal' than others), that I imagine will produce the most wrenching labor pains where all of this is concerned.

The other thing, though, is do we want peer-reviewed blogs to look just like peer-reviewed journals? (i.e., just online?). I don't.

For my own part, I am genuinely *curious to see what other forms of knowledge might be produced by a more dynamic, interactive medium (what more can I **learn?? it's the essential impulse of a scholar). This would likely require that we cling a little less to the monograph model, but people have been agitating for that for a number of years now (which isn't to say it's not still institutionally ingrained -- it is).

But were the **technology to develop to produce exciting new findings, original modes of transmitting fresh ideas, it seems to me that **that's where we get our colleagues to buy in, and thus establish cred. More than merely duplicating what we're already doing in another forum, we need to harness what's distinctive about this particular medium and make it work for everyone.

Finally, as for the "active dialog" in a field so far from your own . . . ah, I dunno. Literary studies, communication and cognition. . . are we really that far apart? I do wonder (and have not had the time to seek out) whether the same discussion is taking place in other fields in the humanities. . . are historians and philosophers meta-blogging the way we do? Is there an analogous Gwynn Dujardin at the AHA [the annual history conference] who asked the same question of an analogous Michael Berube? :) I'm joking here, of course, but it's worth looking into.

The funny thing about English as a discipline is that it is a distinctly promiscuous field, always looking outwards to see what it can incorporate or rewrite to reinvent itself . . . The ambitious part of me would like to see us get something off the ground that would radiate through all fields. . . the humble part of me suspects that we are already far behind . . .

Anyhoo, thanks for writing, and getting me thinking about it again (I kind of avoided it for a while, kinda sick of myself). It *is great to have this cross-disciplinary dialogue -- it's the technology that makes that possible. . .

Have a good weekend.

The Constructivist said...

FYI, Belle Lettre recently wrote about why she doesn't want to be judged professionally for her blog over at Law and Letters. As usual, she's at her Berube-esque best--long, insightful, personal, and funny.

Colleen said...

Canadianizing your vehicle? I request a post on this, please.

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