Monday, February 27, 2006

Jo(e)'s Pseudonymity Meme

Is your blogging persona more serious than your real life persona?

I don't think that it is, though I suppose it's possible that the tone is... I don't know, more strident on certain posts than I might be in real life.

Do you think the only safe way an academic can write publicly is to write anonymously?

Hmmm. This is an interesting question. I think it depends a lot on one's level in the academic hierarchy, one's discipline, and the topics about which a person chooses to write. Were my blog entirely about my field of specialty, for example, I think it would probably be quite safe to use my "real" name. However, were I using the blog in that way, I think that I would tend to edit myself a lot more than I currently do and I would see the blog as a professional document and treat it as such so as not to embarass myself in front of colleagues by presenting half-formulated ideas about things related to my field. However, if one is going to write about things in a provisional way - in a writing-as-thinking sort of way - I think that the pseudonym is useful as a screen between my professional self and my actual self - you know? I also do think that it's much less safe for the untenured, those still in graduate school, and those who choose to write about things that might be seen as controversial.

Do you think that your blog could ruin your career?

No. But maybe I'm stupid, and it really could. I guess I don't think that it will, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.

What would happen if an administrator at my college discovered my blog?

I can't imagine that any would take the time to read blogs, in truth, but even if they did come across my blog, the reality is that I write very, very little that is about my university specifically.

Do you use a pseudonym out of fear?

Fear, no. Caution, yes. Also, I think that when I took on the pseudonym I was playing with the idea of an overtly constructed academic identity. I wanted to fool around with making an identity that challenged some of the ways that women (and women professors) are described and that dealt with negotiating the personal and the professional. I don't think I'd feel comfortable doing that under my "work" name. Also, I think I liked the idea of the name as emblematic in some way - the first blogs I read were barely tenured and invisible adjunct, and they both used pseudonyms and it seemed both freeing and to make visible identities that are often invisible in academe - somebody trying to get pregnant with in vitro, somebody on the margins because of being a contingent worker, etc. If the writer uses a pseudonym, it's a lot less easy to dismiss the writer as not being relevant to one's own position on the academic food chain. I think that the pseudonym in fact lends authority to those who are marginalized in public academic discourse. If you saw my nametag at MLA, you would immediately move on to talk to somebody more important. If, however, my nametag said "Dr. Crazy," I suspect people would be a lot more interested.

What is the biggest drawback to writing pseudonymously?

Hmmm. I think the biggest drawback is probably that sometimes I feel like I wish I could write about what I do under my own name without it "meaning" something in terms of how I'm seen as a professional. Because I can't, I can't really capitalize on what I do with the blog in terms of my work. That said, the blog does work as a good "free space" for me to work out ideas, and it's been (I think) ultimately good for me professionally.

Has anyone stumbled on your blog and found it accidentally?

Not that I'm aware of.

Have you outed yourself to any other bloggers?

Yep. And now that I'm in my new space, I am very open about things related to my teaching and such, so it would be very easy for anybody who was interested to figure out who I am, even aside from just asking me.

Has your blog allowed you to experiment with writing?

It's definitely allowed me to experiment with tone and voice. I would also say that it's helped me to think through how I organize my thoughts in writing and in how I articulate arguments in writing. Finally, I think that it has helped me to think of "audience" in a way that is much more real and much less abstract. (In my academic writing, I often think of my audience as just a bunch of students who are forced to write papers, and I don't think that's a good thing.)

Why do you use a pseudonym?

Well, it allows me to feel much freer about not revising or not laboring over tiny details in my writing. Also, I like the image that my pseudonym conveys. "Dr. Crazy" is parts of me, but at the same time it's an identity that does to some extent stand on its own now. I suspect that if I met some of my readers, they'd have a hard time thinking of me as anything other than "Dr. Crazy," even if I told them to call me by my "real" name. That's interesting to me, and it's fun.

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