July 12, 2005

Academics vs Blogs

Matt Kirschenbaum points to, and refutes, a foolish essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education that describes ways that some academic bloggers hurt their chances to land a job at Professor Tribble's small, midwestern college.

Tribble (a pseudonym) says that some academic bloggers published things they shouldn't have written, or revealed too much about their interests: in one shocking piece of closed-minded bigotry, he seems to say his department decided not to hire a candidate who seemed to know too much about computers.

It's one thing to be proficient in Microsoft Office applications or HTML, but we can't afford to have our new hire ditching us to hang out in computer science after a few weeks on the job.

Kirschenbaum asks,

Would all academic bloggers reading this consider posting a comment or a trackback entry about some specific professional dividend that their online presence in the blogosphere has garnered for them?

Notice that all of Tribble's arguments are, essentially, arguments against publication. I used to worry about this a lot: what happens if you publish something that turns out to be mistaken? After all those years of people talking about your Permanent Record in school, well, publication really is your permanent record.

We all know how important a low profile can be to a successful career in the humanities. Look at Camille Paglia. Sandy Stone. Umberto Eco -- all those film reviews and political editorials and whatnot sure hurt him, didn't they?