Excerpt of an interview Craig Saper conducted with me for his upcoming essay on blogging:
1. How long have you had a blog? When did you start producing it?
My first blog was Dialogic which I started in January of 2004. It is my only personal blog. I have a blog for a film society and one I run for an activist group. I have approximately 10 blogs for various classes. Of course because Dialogic is political and I haven't received tenure yet, it is the only one I do not operate under my birth name--although it is very easy to figure out who I am and many of my students/colleagues know about the site.
2. How did you choose the title of your blog?
I'm frustrated by the monologic tendencies (across the political spectrum) of American culture and was feeling kind of isolated in my conservative environment (I'm in Kentucky, a red state, and was teaching then at the conservative University of Kentucky). I was reading a lot of Bakhtin, Foucault and Habermas when I started Dialogic and was wondering how I could encourage dialogic or polylogic communication/engagement (as opposed to monologic controlling tendencies or cacophonic disorder) in academia, and even more importantly, beyond its limited world. It was my anguished howl into the dark abyss... wondering whether there was anything/anyone who might startle me by looking/talking back from the stygian blackness. My anguish was over the second time I had lost faith in a religion, the first time when I was a teen I had lost my deeply held Christian faith as a result of being exposed to its hypocrisies and illusions, this time, in a similar way, it was the loss of faith in the myths of American democracy (as practiced in a corporate-capitalist state).
3. Do you know many academics who have blogs? Are there any that you read regularly? Any that are of particularly high quality, or provocatively insightful?
At this moment some of my regular stops are Jodi Dean, Ariadne's Labyrinth, Beppeblog, Bitch PHD, Bluegrass Roots (collective), Daimonic Reality, Elenamary, Feral Scholar, Habermasian Reflections, Impetus Green Room, Impetus Java House, Jeffrey Caldwell, Jill/TXT, Lawrence Lessig, Long Sunday (collective), Mahzood (for his links which provide me with amazing intellectual derives--he writes on the blog in a language I can't read--but we email from time to time), Majikthise, Mark Dery, Michael Berube, New Teacher (collective), Progressive Blog Alliance (collective which includes many academics), Pas-au-Dela, Prarie Mary, Prophet or Madman, Red Harvest, Thebewilderness, WhereProject
These are just the ones I "know" (or assume) are in academia ... I'm sure there are more that I have left out, there are also a huge number of former-academics blogging.
4. Do you think blogs represent a supplement to academia?
I'm kind of resistant to this form of classification, or the need for it, because if we do this then blogging will become much more formalized, regulated and restricted for academics. I'm skeptical whether the academy will ever accept "personal" blogging as a form of professional credit (and wonder whether they should?)
5. Do you think blogs have changed academic pursuits?
Yes, they can be very beneficial in extending the range of one's interests, but at the same time they can be distracting and destructive (of one's writing time in particular)
6. Reading some blogs by academics, including yours, I get the sense that blogs could serve something like the progress of knowledge or an alternative to traditional research. Do you think blogs have changed academia?
Very little so far because most academics do not blog--the list I provided is scattered (I don't think any of them are in the same city). What it is doing is making knowledge and learning more public. This is why academia has an anxiety in regards to blogging. They have had a monopoly over knowledge-production/dissemination and this is changing. At the same time I am very skeptical about online learning, my college, like most institutions of higher learning, are seizing upon the Internet as the wave of future-learning... my experience is that online forums, like blogs, are best at exposing people to knew ideas and making connections across spaces. What worries me about these forums is when people solely rely on the Internet for learning and communicating... a simple walk outdoors, a visit to a library, participating in a community/activist/artistic event, is much more powerful and progressive than all the blogging or sifting we do on the Internet. Once again, though, this in no way is a dismissive gesture on my part--we live in a social situation in which the Mainstream Media have been consolidated and censored to a point where we need open, independent voices... the most inexpensive and open place these days in which people can communicate across vast distances and peoples is the Internet.
7. Could one build a curriculum based on a group of blogs by cultural critics (associated with academia)?
Definitely... I use blogs and websites in my courses. Last year I experimented and taught a course that used websites/blogs (the students also created their own blogs). It is very helpful in thinking about "voice" and visual aspects of compositions--and, of course, there is the wonderful diversity of voices online, for instance, check out Global Voices
8. Your blog, in particular, suggests an alternative (at least in its title) to higher learning -- do certain blogs offer an alternative and/or parallel type of academia?
Yes, this is my hope. Increase access to knowledge/information... provide easy access to cultural capital for those outside the confines of academia... strengthen our public culture. Now I realize that it will not do any good to have countless voices shouting out into the cyber-wilderness, but we are seeing positive moves toward collective action and this is but the early days of blogging. This is a vital moment in the development of blogging (and the Internet) will we allow it to remain open to the free distribution of information/knowledge in the hopes that we will reverse the trends towards apathy/silence in our public culture(s) or, are we going to allow the corporate-industrial-academic-military industries to move in and claim these open spaces as private property to be regulated, classified and controlled?
A big question we all should be concerned about...
I'm very interested in hearing what others have to say in regards to these questions, or if you have other questions that you think are important... if you post your own answers (or new questions) please let me know...