Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Blogging & Academe

I think it's fair to say that (we)blogging remains one of the new media technologies that's still on the margins of academe, though many academics and certainly a large number of students maintain blogs or have been blogging for some time.

My introduction to blogging at the university came about three years back (was it really that long ago?) when several students in one of my classes told me in private meetings that another student was blogging, and had posts that commented deprecatingly about some of the people in our class. I immediately read the blog, but since the student was writing on personal time and doing all the required work for the class, I simply took note of it and was able to understand much more clearly some of the underlying dynamics in the class. Over the years I have had a few students tell me they were blogging, and many (most) poets I know under a certain age (50) have personal websites, many with blogs, as well as pages on popular sites like Yahoo!, MySpace and Facebook. I remember being surprised to learn when I first went to the university in 2001 that several of the students knew who I was because of my old NYU web page; they had not only read and assimilated what I'd written on it, but had questions about some of the material, like the animated poems. It was one of the moments when I realized I was less Luddite-ish than I often think I am.

But back to blogging. Fast forward to today, and Blackboard now includes a blogging program as part of its standard package for each class. So addition to online course material planning, posting and grade crunching, as well as chatting, threaded discussions, and streaming video, you can now set up blogs. I hope to have my advanced fiction students blogging this fall, either on Blackboard or off it. During the winter quarter, I offered students the option of keeping public, blog journals instead of handwritten or typed private ones, and I believe only two students took me up on the offer. But I know more will in the future, as in, this fall.

On May 23, 2007, the University of California-Davis Department of History, its Institute of Governmental Affairs and its Center for History, Society and Culture sponsored a History Colloquium event on " Historical Scholarship and the New Media." Panelists included Brad DeLong, Scott Eric Kaufman, Tedra Osell, and Ari Kelman.

The .mp4 podcast, which runs about 50 minutes, is here. Suffice it to say that outside of people in new media, you probably won't get any points for blogging, and in the cases of younger scholars, it might still be viewed by the powers that be as detrimental, depending upon the field and the degree to which your peers and profession view such work as peripheral to standard expectations and conventions. (This too will change.) As for poets and other creative people, the situation, I think, is different, and as the new media landscape continues to transform and the arts and related aspects of culture and society (including the publishing industry, about which I'll say more tomorrow) transform with it, blogging and other new forms will play an increasing role.

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