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Statement of Purpose

John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
Marc Bousquet
Matt Greenfield
Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
Guest Authors

Laura Carroll
Mark Bauerlein
Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Meet the Bloggers; or, Another MLA Panel You Dread Attending

Posted by Scott Eric Kaufman on 05/17/06 at 11:15 PM

So that MLA panel I mentioned proposing a few months back was, miraculously, accepted.  I don’t know how the it slipped past The Man whose boot’s been firmly planted on my neck the past three years, but I suspect it had something to do with the other panelists.  (Cue Technotronic.)  Are you ready for this?

Meet the Bloggers: Blogging and the Future of Academia
Organizer – Scott Eric Kaufman

In his June 6, 2003 Chronicle of Higher Education article on academic blogging, David Glenn waxed skeptical about its future, noting that many "academic bloggers worry that the medium smells faddish, ephemeral." Two years later, The Chronicle established a special section of "Careers" devoted to "Links to Academic Blogs." What happened in the intervening months was nothing short of an explosion in the number, the quality and public attention brought to bear on academic blogs. The 2005 MLA convention featured four panels which addressed this phenomenon. Each treated blogging as a stable genre with the potential to evolve into a professional or pedagogical asset, but they could only speculate as to what prominent bloggers would do. This proposed panel differs from those in that it will feature four of the most prominent academic bloggers discussing a future they possess the power and influence to shape. The bloggers in question, followed by their rank in "The Truth Laid Bear" ecosystem of all (not merely academic) blogs are: John Holbo (#36), [Bitch Ph.D.] (#148), Michael Bérubé (#198), and Scott Eric Kaufman (#1502).

Michael Bérubé’s "Instantaneous Citation Index" moves beyond current conversations about "online scholarly communities" to address the mechanisms of citation and influence-tracking among academic bloggers.  His paper argues that insofar as services like Technorati and Google allow blogging scholars to determine the issues commanding the attention of their peers with increasing speed and accuracy, they constitute a new kind of apparatus for the charting the dissemination of ideas, an apparatus that is supplemental–in both senses–to "professional" devices of measurement such as the Arts and Humanities Citation Index.

[Bitch Ph.D.]’s "I’m Nobody! Who are You?" turns to the question of pseudonymous blogging and its place in the community Bérubé describes. Beginning with the oft-noted parallels between pseudonymous blogging, which has become a staple among academic blogs, and the tradition of the eighteenth-century periodical essay, in which pseudonymity was a generic convention, her paper discusses the possibilities of voice in blogging and the ways that pseudonymity, particularly among junior faculty, graduate students, and women, allows us to speak about "private" matters in a "public" forum. In the realm of print culture, blogging puts pressure on the relationship between the author function and the question of textual ownership. In academia, it raises the question of what the role of casual writing is with relationship to "publication" (or "service," or "teaching"). More importantly, however, this question–like that of textual ownership–presents an implicit challenge to a profession that, on the one hand, practices blind review and, on the other, has a well-established and powerful hierarchy.

John Holbo’s "Follows the Function of the Little Magazine" argues that while the future of academic publication is digital, it is not foregone conclusion that the academic publishing culture will fully embrace the possibilities technology brings. Blogging is not the future of scholarship, but the rather unloveable little word will do as a placeholder as prominent scholars and bloggers explore these possibilities. Scholarship should want what blogging has: efficient, affordable distribution; healthy growth; large readerships; good conversations; interdisciplinary cross-pollination; public intellectualism. Last but not least, Holbo claims, blogs hold out the prospect for large conversations; that is, for a great mass of contributions to be mediated and sifted in a manner which is, if not ideal, yet impressively organic. It is hard to design a circulatory system capable of handling the output of the MLA’s 30,000 members, one equal to the task of ensuring their ideas have a reasonable chance of finding ways to the readers they deserve, for better or worse. Building on what Bérubé will argue, Holbo notes how the sheer volume of the blogosphere gives hints about ways academic conversations can stay healthy, given the numbers of participants they should accommodate. In this paper he will suggest what changes are needed: in terms of forms, in terms of the "reputation economy" that rewards production, in terms of general publishing culture. His thesis will be that academic publishing must not only make itself over electronically, but make itself into a "gift culture." Academics live in a world of google book and Amazon "search inside," but also of copyright extension and, in general, excessive I.P. enclosures. Thegroves of academe are well suited to be exemplary Creative Commons. As there is no guarantee they will be, Holbo argues, all academics should work for that.

Scott Eric Kaufman’s "The New Interdisciplinary" contends that the blogosphere offers new possibilities for both inter- and intradisciplinary work. Drawing from his own experience, Kaufman demonstrates how a blog chronicling an English graduate student’s dissertation on evolutionary theory in fin de siecle American literature can be read and commented upon by historians, philosophers, historians and philosophers of science, evolutionary biologists, and sociologists. Such feedback encourages the growth and development of projects with a sound interdisciplinary foundation and functions as a check on the long-standing and oft-voiced concerns about interdisciplinary work: blog-savvy interdisciplinarians need not be, as W.B. Cameron called interdisciplinarians in 1965, “dilettantes” producing works of "dubious quality." Kaufman will argue that the blogosphere affords scholars the opportunity to easily and enthusiastically cross heretofore closely guarded disciplinary boundaries. Furthermore, it enables academics within increasingly balkanized disciplines to reconnect without necessitating a return of the generalist.


Comments

Umm… did you just out Bitch PhD?

Looks interesting - but… did you?!

By on 05/18/06 at 12:16 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Alright, Anthony, that’s the last heart attack you’re responsible for this week.  I’ve now re-re-re-re-read this, and see no evidence that I’ve outed her.  Obviously, I sought and received her permission to post this with the modifications I’ve made above.  But geez you nearly gave me a heart attack there, Anthony.  (And now I have Dire Straits The Indigo Girls in my head now, for which I sincerely thank you.)

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 05/18/06 at 12:28 AM | Permanent link to this comment

And the award for the most egregiously split infinitive goes to ... [drumroll] ... Scott Eric Kaufman! [wild cheering in the auditorium, announcer has to raise voice to continue], for his masterly “to easily and enthusiastically cross heretofore closely guarded disciplinary boundries”.  Congratulations Scott!

By Adam Roberts on 05/18/06 at 02:32 AM | Permanent link to this comment

boundAries.

Sorry, could not resist.

By on 05/18/06 at 06:29 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I’m also going to be on a panel with Michael Berube, on “Literary Studies in the Public Sphere.” Rita Felski is the organizer, and is also giving a talk. My talk, which got its title before the panel did, is called, “Professors Without Borders: Literary Bloggers and the Public Sphere,” and I will probably be talking about Habermas and the idea of the “ideal speech situation.”

Should be fun—and Philly is my home turf, so maybe we’ll try and organize some kind of Valve party once the date approaches. (Funny, wasn’t MLA just in Philly like 2 years ago?)

The pseudonymous blogger in question recently gave a keynote address at a major women’s studies conference where she signed off officially with her pseudonym. I presume she’ll be doing the same at this panel at MLA.

By Amardeep on 05/18/06 at 09:30 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I think that the “Truth Laid Bear” ecosystem expired, like, two years ago.

By Jonathan Goodwin on 05/18/06 at 10:31 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Not exactly out, out.  Besides, I like playing around with misleading details. 

Plus it’s been a long time since I wrote anything *truly* scandalous on my blog. 

Amardeep, your paper sounds great.  I shall most assuredly be attending your panel.  But if you still want me to remain anonymous, I won’t introduce myself :)

By bitchphd on 05/18/06 at 12:43 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"Instantaneous Citation Index”?  What the hell was I thinking?

Oh, well.  I suppose the weakness of my paper will be overshadowed by the revelation that I am Bitch. Ph.D.

And yeah, the Return to Philly is a quirk in the schedule.  The 2006 MLA was going to be in Los Angeles, but we (rightly) decided not to book conventions in hotels that have labor disputes, since this would amount to rewarding management.  So we were going to meet in Vancouver, but that would been difficult-to-impossible for every MLA member who’s not a US citizen:  they would be able to leave the country only so long as they didn’t want to return.  So we decided to meet in New Orleans—and then Katrina hit. 

I still think the MLA should meet in Las Vegas.  Cheap hotels, good winter weather, plenty of entertainment.

By Michael Bérubé on 05/18/06 at 01:29 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Ahem:

In fact, the split infinitive is distinguished both by its length of use and the greatness of its users. People have been splitting infinitives since the 14th century, and some of the most noteworthy splitters include John Donne, Samuel Pepys, Daniel Defoe, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Johnson, William Wordsworth, Abraham Lincoln, George Eliot, Henry James, and Willa Cather.

The only rationale for condemning the construction is based on a false analogy with Latin. The thinking is that because the Latin infinitive is a single word, the English infinitive should be treated as if it were a single unit. But English is not Latin, and people split infinitives all the time without giving it a thought. Should we condemn compound infinitives, such as I want to go and have a look, simply because the infinitive have has no to next to it?

“Boundries,” on the other hand, was a typo. 

We ought to throw some huge blog party, inviting all our favorite commenters and foes, then have an invitation-only function to make us feel important.

(And yes, plenty of blog triumphalism up there, complete with now obsolete TLB rankings...but it was a panel proposal, after all, and the puffery is standard issue.)

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 05/18/06 at 01:58 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Should we condemn a compound infinitive such as “to cross boundries” merely because it has had the words “easily” “and” “enthusiastically” “heretofore” “closely” “guarded” and “disciplinary” crammed squeezed and belaboured into it?  Surely not.

On the other hand I’ve never understood the ‘it’s a rule originally from Latin! We can, nay should disregard it!’ argument.  Seems to me that applies to almost all grammatical rules.

On the other hand, if Henry James did it, then it’s got to be OK.

[Ponders awhile, stroking his beardless chin with his right hand] On the other other hand, it’s just possible that this is almost entirely wholly off the point of your splendid MLA proposal.  Which sounds splendid.  I think as many people as possible should boldly go to it.

By Adam Roberts on 05/18/06 at 03:08 PM | Permanent link to this comment

English would do well to distance itself from Latin in all but one respect: we need more ablative absolutes.

By Adam Kotsko on 05/18/06 at 03:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Ah, I’ll just copy over my comment from Acephalous--

Sounds interesting and amusing, Scott ... but still a little bit blog-triumphial, doesn’t it? Let me make a few additions to complete the unsanitized version:

Michael Bérubé’s “Instantaneous Criticism Index” demonstrates that when you blog, you too can become the target of Horowitzian screeds labelling you a dangerous professor.

[Bitch Ph.D.]’s “I’m a Defendant! Who are You?” turns to the question of pseudonymous blogging and whether it is good enough to fend off lame libel suit threats.

John Holbo’s “Follows the Squabble of the Little Magazine” argues that it is not a foregone conclusion that the academic publishing culture will fully embrace the possibilities for long-term flame war that technology brings.

Scott Eric Kaufman’s “The New And Wholly Unselective Interdisciplinary” contends that the blogosphere offers new possibilities for both inter- and intradisciplinary work. Drawing from his own experience, Kaufman demonstrates how a blog chronicling an English graduate student’s dissertation on evolutionary theory in fin de siecle American literature and anecdotes about office sex can be read and commented upon by insane trolls, failed bullies, dilettantes who do not work in academia at all, and “interdisciplinary” righteous defenders of something or other, in addition to more or less reasonable and informed people. Such feedback encourages the growth and development of chronic loss of sleep.

By on 05/18/06 at 03:47 PM | Permanent link to this comment

it’s a rule originally from Latin! We can, nay should disregard it!’ argument.

But it’s not a rule from Latin.  It’s simply impossible to “split an infinitive” in Latin - hence no need for a rule. 

It’s just a false analogy from Latin.

By on 05/18/06 at 06:27 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Should we condemn a compound infinitive such as “to cross boundries” merely because it has had the words “easily” “and” “enthusiastically” “heretofore” “closely” “guarded” and “disciplinary” crammed squeezed and belaboured into it?

But the infinitive is “to cross,” not “to cross boundaries.”

By on 05/18/06 at 06:31 PM | Permanent link to this comment

No, pseudonymous blogging won’t fend off lame libel suits--but calling people’s bluffs and lawyering up sure is.

By bitchphd on 05/18/06 at 09:57 PM | Permanent link to this comment

So is the MLA conference going to be your coming out?

By on 05/18/06 at 11:14 PM | Permanent link to this comment

English would do well to distance itself from Latin in all but one respect: we need more ablative absolutes.

ITYM “with one respect, the necessity of more ablative absolutes, being excepted, ...”

By ben wolfson on 05/19/06 at 12:38 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Anthony, probably the publication of the program’ll out me to those who are paying attention.  And who don’t already know who I am.

By bitchphd on 05/19/06 at 07:27 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Drawing from his own experience, Kaufman demonstrates how a blog chronicling an English graduate student’s dissertation on evolutionary theory in fin de siecle American literature and anecdotes about office sex can be read and commented upon by insane trolls, failed bullies, dilettantes who do not work in academia at all, and “interdisciplinary” righteous defenders of something or other, in addition to more or less reasonable and informed people.

Ah, I knew there was a reason I don’t post here. An unacademic dilettante with nary a letter after my name, worse, a former journalist with all the faults of an autodidact, all I have is a few books written for children (with a strong possibility of trolls) and some slender collections of poems. At least I am not a failed bully. I go now to drown my shame.

By Alison Croggon on 05/19/06 at 08:40 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Well, I was putting myself in the “dilettantes who do not work in academia at all” category, so it wasn’t really meant to be that much of a slam.

By on 05/19/06 at 09:16 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Damn. I almost felt special.

By Alison Croggon on 05/19/06 at 09:18 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"But it’s not a rule from Latin.  It’s simply impossible to “split an infinitive” in Latin - hence no need for a rule.  It’s just a false analogy from Latin.”

Quite right!  If an infinitive is a single word, it can no more be split than any other single word.  Honestly, what am I like?  Unbe-fucking-lievable.

Of course, a contrarian might say that pretty much all the analogies one makes with Latin are false analogies, Latin being a language radically different to English.  But that doesn’t wish-away the fact that English as a language was codified by dedicated Latinists.  My position is that in every case I’ve come across one a split infinitive just seem to me less elegant and charming than the alternate non-split formulation would be.  It’s like that sentence Churchill came up with to mock the (equally arbitrary) rule that sentences should not end in a preposition: ‘this is the sort of usage up with which I will not put’.  Except that this doesn’t seem mockery to me; it strikes me as just a really elegant and rather lovely sentence.  (’up with which I will not put’ .. how can that fail to bring a warm smile to your face?)

I’m going to let this go now.  (’Adam! .. put down the futile bickering ... put it down and step away from the website ...’)

By Adam Roberts on 05/22/06 at 10:11 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Anthony, probably the publication of the program’ll out me to those who are paying attention.  And who don’t already know who I am.

Isn’t that a lot of people? The MLA is huge and seems to connect with most of the people you don’t want to be outed to.

By rob helpy-chalk on 05/22/06 at 11:46 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Little essay, little magazine. Perhaps it’s not about the technology?

By nnyhav on 05/27/06 at 09:51 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I was just checking out the value for different keywords.  Did you know that the word “blogging” has a value of $5.88 http://www.symbiotic.com/resources/B/Bl/Blogging.html

Jen
VP of Marketing
http://www.layouts.com

By Jen on 01/02/07 at 10:13 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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