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March 11, 2006


This week marks three years of blogging for me. In past years, I've used the occasion to reflect on my blogging practices in the past and present, and I have two somewhat distinct observations about mycurrent blogging practices. I've been planning a State of the Blog entry ever since Jeff's Inside Higher Ed article a few weeks ago but decided to wait until now to put these ideas together in a blog entry.

First, I've been somewhat surprised by the direction my blogging has taken. When I first started blogging, I intended to use my blog as a way of exploring the intersections between my personal, professional, and political selves. While these categories cannot be seprataed easily, I've found myself increasingly focused on the latter two categories, and in fact, most of my entries have elaborated "professional" investments rather than "perosnal" or "political" ones. Or, at least, that's how it feels. I'll admit that I might not be the best reader of my blog and what it seems to be doing, but in some ways the blog has felt a bit more like work lately. What that means for the future direction of the blog, I don't know. It might actually mean that I should invest more "professional" attention into the blog and to see how this work can inform other kinds of public writing.

Unrelated thing number two: For several reasons, I've been thinking about blogging and place this year. By place, I'm thinking in part about how place affects how and what I write about in the blog. Living in Washington and Atlanta and working in the university cultures where I teach have no doubt affected what I write. To name one example, being here in DC has allowed me much greater access to independent cinema through film festivals and museums, as well as art house theaters.

I've also moved in the last few months and may be moving again soon (I'll just say I'm exploring a number of job opportunities right now), and this sense of rootlessness has been defining or shaping my sense of self quite a bit recently. This kind of rootlessness is certainly not unusual, and for the most part, I've had some choice in when and where I've moved, which is not always the case. As James M. Jasper points out in Restless Nation: Starting Over in America (a book I'm now curious to read when I find some of that mythical spare time), "with advanced technological means at our disposal, we change our residence, on average, once every five years—more often than any other culture except nomadic tribes, although in line with our ancestors. In an average year, almost one out of five Americans moves. More than a third of these move to a different county. Roughly 3 percent of Americans move to a new state." Jasper's argument seems to identify an almost fundamental rootlessness or geographic mobility that is deeply connected with American identity, and this sense of reinvention is an enticing one to me in some ways.

But now that I've lived in four different states since starting my PhD, I'm acutely aware of both the pleasures and difficulties of this type of mobility. While I have enjoyed the opportunity to experiment with slightly different identities when I move to new locations, I do find it frustrating that I haven't been able to establish "permanent" roots in a specific community. And it leaves me to wonder if this rootlessness hasn't shaped what or how I blog in some way. For example, to what extent does this rootlessness shape my investment in local politics? How does it shape my ability to find the stability to conduct the kinds of long-form academic research seen in scholarly essays and monographs? Or, how might this mobility allow me to work through ideas in new ways, to make connections that I might not have otherwise made because of being rooted in a specific discourse community?

I'm not sure I have answers to these questions, but I've been thinking about the concepts of blogging and mobility together quite a bit lately, and I think the concepts can be brought together in some interesting ways.

Posted by chuck at March 11, 2006 7:24 PM

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Not that I'm anyone to give blogging advice, but I do think that taking your blog too seriously leads to burnout, unless you're already making money from it.

That's cool you've been on the same blog all of this time. I started blogging about this time in 2001, but my first blog was wiped out in a hosting mishap, so it looks like I only started blogging when I started grad school.

Posted by: McChris at March 11, 2006 11:07 PM

My first few months are on Blogger, but they've remained remarkably stable, which is a little surprising/lucky.

I think there's an implied question for me about what it would mean to make my blog into something more professional. I have been doing some writing here that feels a bit more like work, and because my name and affiliation are listed on the blog, I do find it difficult to separate what's here from my professional identity. And I am considering the idea of milking the blog for whatever small change I can get.

Posted by: Chuck at March 12, 2006 12:14 AM

!3 years of bloggin'!!! That's awesome. I am sure the blogging habit will yield all kinds of tangible benefits such as material for books & print articles down the road. Adding a donate button may be cool for some $s, and there are several blog ad programs out there. Although I do enjoy the non-commercial/ad free look of this blog & my own blog, but making some extra cash is also very cool.

Oh, another benefit of blogging is getting to meet exciting marginal :) filmmakers like yours truly, isn't it Chuck? :) And of course not so unknown cats like Zahedi. That conversation we had w/him at AFI last year was very cool (i still have it on videotape i think). When Sex Addict plays across America this Spring u can say you hung out w/ the director last year, all thanks (or maybe in part thanks to) your excellent blog.

Congrats on the 3 year anniversary!



Posted by: Los Sujewa at March 12, 2006 12:51 PM

I like the commercial-free look, too, but I'm certainly not above getting compensated, however slightly, for my work here. I'm also wondering, in part, what Blogads or similar services, communicate about the blogger's goals or aims for her or his blog.

I have been able to make some nice connections through the blog both professionally and personally, so that's certainly a major reward.

Posted by: Chuck at March 12, 2006 1:30 PM

I really didn't have a tacit question about how you would professionalize your blog, but the response was nice anyway. What I meant was that I don't have much fun blogging when I try to keep myself on a regular posting schedule. (I was a magazine editor when I started blogging, so I had a particular mindset going in.) I like the format I've going now with daily posts of links from del.icio.us and writing legitimate posts "when the spirit moves me." (Yeah... that's right, I'm bloggin' Quaker style.) One problem I have with this approach is that it tends to weight articles I disagree with more heavily than ones I like. If I just want to point people to an article, I'll publish it with the del.icio.us system, but if I want to raise a point, I'll write out a real entry. My overall tone has always pretty aggro, so maybe it's just the voice of my blog.

Regarding ads, I guess I do have the ad-free button at the bottom of the blog, but I'm not dogmatically anti-ad. I do think there's a tradeoff with ads, though. Rudy Rucker said he was only making $10 a month from Google's AdSense, so he took down the ads. I don't know how your traffic compares with his, but if it's only beer money, it seems to make more sense to exercise more control over the look of your site and be able to make claims about independence.

Posted by: McChris at March 17, 2006 7:15 PM

Shoot, I want to clarify something from my most recent comment. I started to say I was a reporter, and then I backspaced and typed "editor." Both are true, but don't quite get at the heart of what I meant. I was an editor at a computer magazine, but my primary role was managing email newsletters and posting news items to various websites the parent company owned. I was in the habit of working on daily deadlines for Internet publication, and I initially carried that mentality over to my blogs, which led to getting burnt out.

Posted by: McChris at March 17, 2006 7:19 PM

Yeah, I probably don't get enough traffic to make it worth it, so unless something changes, it's probably not worth it. I don't know if blog burnout is an issue so much as end-of-school-year exhaustion. But I've been starting to think that blog writing may be affecting my academic writing in ways that aren't entirely positive, so I may cut back for that reason (or change what I write about here).

Posted by: Chuck at March 18, 2006 12:57 AM

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