Monday, February 1, 2016

Signing Off

[By Anne Kornhauser]
I write this time  to say what I hope is a temporary "good-bye" as a blogger for the LHB and to thank once again Karen Tani and Dan Ernst for their generosity and patience as I test-piloted the blogging genre. I found it both fascinating and challenging to combine the short form and frequent deadlines of my erstwhile career as a journalist with the presentation of complex and nuanced ideas demanded by my current role as an academic. I also wrestled with tonal issues: how to match the more informal tenor of the blog post with the seriousness of the points I wished to make. I appreciate the indulgence of readers as I explored this new territory. 

The academic blog, I am convinced, is a great way for cloistered scholars to engage with the world, even if that world is still largely the one they already inhabit. Sheer numbers make it increasingly difficult to know of, let alone converse with, those in one's own field, never mind reaching across the disciplinary aisle. (My father once told me that in his day, in the 1950s, graduates students were expected to read everything in their field!) The internet facilitates all this and more by removing intellectual roadblocks and eroding hierarchies of status and significance. There are also dangers for intellectual life lurking in our digital age--of downplaying rigor, both substantive and formal, and of saying what need not be said, unburdened as bloggers are by limitations of space and the review process. But these issues are for another time.

For now, I wish to express my gratitude to those who created and those who have sustained this blog, to readers and tweeters and passers-by for allowing me to engage in a kind of reflexivity I would have never thought possible when I entered graduate school. I will end with a few questions about this evolving form of intellectual life. Do readers of this blog have any thoughts about why academic blogs appear to elicit fewer comments than many other kinds of blogs? Do we have more outlets for expressing our views? Should academic bloggers be more provocative? Are there certain types of posts that elicit more discussion than others? After all, the academic blog, at least those not written by an individual, has already developed some conventions of its own. One is that bloggers not wander too far outside their area of expertise, another is to be reasonable, and a third is that participants secure some sort of invitation or right of the blogger, as it were. I see advantages in all. But, I wonder, where did they come from? How did the academic blog evolve into its current form?