Today, Michael Berube wrote his last post. Berube's blog was one of the first "academic blogs" I encountered, and while I think I only commented maybe once or twice, I was a pretty faithful reader (though I must admit that I didn't get through some of the longer posts). When I heard that he was going to stop blogging, it made me feel a bit sad, and it also made me wonder whether and when a day will come when I, too, no longer want to blog. What purpose do blogs serve? What does it mean when a writer decides to leave the blogosphere? And what are the conditions that one needs in order consistently to write for an audience? Each blogger has to answer those questions for himself or herself. I wish that something I could write here could somehow make Michael keep blogging, though I'm not sure why I feel that way. I think in part it's because I'll really miss the posts about Jamie, such as this most recent one, which made me laugh my head off.
Berube's not the only one re-evaluating this week. Ancrene Wiseass, too, seems to have decided to leave blogging behind - or at least to put it aside for a long while.
On the one hand, we shouldn't be surprised. The medium of blogging is such that most blogs don't last very long. At least I feel like I heard that someplace. But somehow the loss of these two particular blogs from the (relatively) small list of blogs in my little corner of the Blogiverse has caught me by surprise. I always assumed that the prolific Berube would blog into infinity - that I would quit long before he would. And Ancrene Wiseass began blogging almost a year after I started, so it never occurred to me that AW would stop before I did.
So as I sit here writing this post, I'm wondering about the viability of this genre in the long term. Can we keep the community of academic bloggers alive? Is this, ultimately, a passing fad? I know that I still feel like blogging, but what if everybody else decides to stop?
Over at Acephalous, Scott wonders whether " "academic blogging" is strangling the life from "academics who blog." Careerists like myself may unwittingly pressure "academics who blog" into thinking their blogs must be more than mere blogs to justify their existence." I've got to say, I don't think that's happening. I think, at least for me, what's kept me blogging - pseudonymously, and in a more "raw" fashion (per Berube) is 1) that I value this kind of writing about my life and about the profession and 2) I was able to develop a voice that feels consistently comfortable. I think that #2 is the real key to keeping "academics who blog" blogging. I am in no way seduced by the idea of writing a purely "academic blog" that is inextricably linked to my real life professional identity, partly because I don't feel like I could be consistently comfortable with the voice that such a blog would require me to develop - at least not every single day. I think that one of the great things and one of the challenging things about this genre is that it requires one to make the rules of one's expression for oneself. Sure, there are conventions, like linking to those to whom one refers, or putting pictures of one's cats up on Friday or whatever, but ultimately, there is nobody policing one's blog - no peer reviewers, no editors, no publishers. Now, more solidly "academic" blogs do fit more closely within the conventions of academic writing and publishing, but if you take a look at some of those, such as Amardeep Singh's blog, you will still see that the form is looser - that it doesn't strictly adhere to the conventions of academic writing and publishing. So will the push to institutionalize academic blogs suffocate academics who blog - push them out of blogging altogether? I don't think that has to be the case. But I do think that blogs will continue to go defunct in this community of bloggers in part because finding and maintaining a writing voice for an audience is no easy thing to do. And sometimes we outgrow our voices, and it's not always easy to see a way to reinvent ourselves in writing, just as it's not easy to see a way to reinvent ourselves in our lives.
9 years ago