Leonard Cassuto has published some further thoughts on blogging at the Guardian, with some specific attention to my response to a couple of his earlier comments in the live chat back in July.
I don’t have time to reply in detail right now as (ironically) I am at a conference in Birmingham heading off to give a presentation about blogging as knowledge dissemination. I will quickly say that the “critical error of fact” he points out (that “[his] writing for the Chronicle is in fact a column, not a blog”) doesn’t seem that critical to me, really, but I accept the correction. The difference between the two as he explains it has to do with only two things: where in the Chronicle his writing appears (including that it appears in the print version), and that it is edited by others (including fact-checked). That process, he notes, “almost always” improves the product. It’s true that my blog is not fact-checked except by me, and as it turns out, my attempt to identify just what the process was for his pieces was not thorough enough – I didn’t altogether rely on the statement in the Guardian that identified his pieces as a blog post for the Chronicle, but when I looked around the online version I didn’t see anything that clearly contradicted that description. I guess the Guardian doesn’t fact-check very thoroughly either. In any case, it seems only fair to retract the suggestion of hypocrisy about that example. Now that he’s posted a declared blog post, he has also softened his general stance on blogging: “I mostly don’t read blogs. I’m reading this one right now, and I’m even posting to it.”
But the point of my previous post is not to determine exactly the right label is for Cassuto’s writing (as Cassuto acknowledges, “the world does not turn” on that question). The Chronicle publishes a lot of articles I think are surprisingly poor (many seem like nothing more than link-bait), despite whatever editing they have received, and by far the most valuable resource it offers, in my opinion, is the Profhacker blog. I don’t decide what to read based on the form or label.
There’s more I’d like to say, including about the model of “authority” Cassuto gives (how does “going viral” confer “authority,” for instance?) and the value of “visibility” (an argument which reproduces existing publishing and prestige hierarchies) as well as the assumption that to succeed, graduate students and junior faculty are best advised to continue in the most conservative way possible in their work. As senior, “established,” faculty, we are the ones in a position to encourage alternative models of productivity and scholarship, and if blogging is valuable to me in the ways I described, there would be real hypocrisy in my case if I didn’t consider it valuable work for people at earlier stages of their careers and work to recognize it as such when they do it.
Finally, I’ll note that I disagree with Cassuto’s conclusion that ‘if Dr Maitzen’s blogging is “unofficial,” then it doesn’t deserve the same kind of attention that her “official” publication does.’ I used “scare quotes” around “official” in my earlier comment for a reason: I don’t like that distinction, and one of the points I’ll be making today in my presentation is that I think we, collectively, as a profession, need to broaden our understanding of what counts as real, official, scholarly work. But more important, I think my blogging deserves as much, if not more, attention than my other publications. It’s more interesting and wide-ranging and intellectually curious, and it’s relevant to a wider audience. In many cases it is better written, too. It does indeed “demand a fair amount of attention” to follow blogs and to participate in the conversations that a post can generate. On that note, I think it’s interesting that Cassuto chose to publish his reply as a blog post in the Guardian but never engaged in the discussion that unfolded in the comments after my post went up last month.
I briefly read the original post about this topic. I still believe your site is extremely valuable even if it is edited and fact checked by you. I have learned a great deal about literary theory because you talk in terms I can understand, and I have learned a great deal about literature as well. Hope you are enjoying your conference!
Thanks, both of you! I appreciate the encouragement and votes of confidence. This reprise of the earlier debate was timely, as I was able to refer to it in setting up my presentation.
Professor Cassuto and I have since been in contact by email; our exchange was “off the record” but I think it’s OK for me to say that the conversation probably isn’t over but it is perfectly amicable.