First, before I forget: National Punctuation Day is coming up on Saturday. I confess, I was initially confused by this announcement because I was sure I had already mentioned this on the blog (and this blog didn’t exist last September). But I soon realized that I was confusing National Punctuation Day with National Grammar Day. Two totally different days. This blog probably isn’t the place to discuss how funny the ‘National [fill in the blank] Day’ phenomenon is, but I can’t resist. August 15th, for instance, is both National Relaxation Day and National Failure Day, a combination that sounds weird but actually makes sense in a mean, puritanical sort of way. It is also National Lemon Meringue Pie Day. Again, there is a certain logic: if you’ve ever made such a pie, you probably needed to relax afterwards and you may very well have failed. Here is a list of more of these special days (I was tired after reading just the month of January) and some discussion of the procedure for getting such a day recognized (just kidding, there is absolutely no procedure). But even though there are national days of many inconsequential things, this does not lessen the importance—the 365-days-a-year importance—of punctuation. I urge you to click here to learn more about its special day.
Now, on to today’s post. Since I have encountered a range of thought-provoking blogposts on academic blogging recently, I thought I would devote this post to that topic.
Here is a blogpost on the darker side of blogging by Jeffrey Cohen from the In the Middle blog. Cohen reflects on the challenges of maintaining an online presence; in particular, he does a good job articulating some of the hazards that arise when exposure exceeds accountability. Ultimately, he intends to continue to engage social media as part of his academic life, but he is clearly concerned that online negativity could eventually overwhelm the tremendous promise of online communities.
Here is a discussion in The Scholarly Kitchen on the state of blogging and how it is perceived. In this post, Kent Anderson discusses the lack of respect accorded to blogging. He provides a vigorous defense, concluding that the purported weaknesses of blogging may actually be strengths: “Like many disruptive technologies, a blog’s ‘weaknesses’—the quick-hit writing with links substituting for wordiness, the ability to generate content quickly, the ability to interact with an audience, the ability to write long or short, the embedded ability to link to and host multimedia, the participation of unexpected experts—are really its strengths.”
Finally, here is something on blogging from The Thesis Whisperer in which a guest author, Andy Coverdale, talks directly about the role of blogging in the life of a PhD student. In particular, Coverdale considers how blogging affects both his writing process and the potential professional reception of his work. This post is essential reading for any graduate students trying to evaluate the benefits and complications of adding blogging into their professional lives.
P.S. I just learned that today is National Pecan Cookie Day. Do with that information what you will—I know what I’m going to do!
Thanks for these links, especially to the post at Scholarly Kitchen, where the comments show how contentious this question remains. Of related interest would be my response to a comment by Leonard Cassuto in the Guardian ), his reply, and my further reply to him.
I really like the term “disruptive technologies.”
Thanks for those links, Rohan–that was such an interesting exchange.
thanks a bunch for these links. i really connected with the darker side of blogging piece. it really nailed the kind of “fauna” (brilliant metaphor the writer uses”) we see either in blogs or, more likely, the snarktastic comment section. and the use of civility was so germane.
for what it’s worth, i also enjoyed how well you summarized these various links. i wonder, if it isnt too much trouble, what’s your method for “doing”a summary. i ask this also as a writing teacher who tries to help students write summaries on the articles the read.
My first thought upon reading your question was that I am not actually summarizing. My goal is just to highlight some point of connection (I hope) between the topics of these links and the topics central to this blog. It seems important to me that this curatorial role is spread around; if I read a blog regularly, I value that blogger’s perspective on the abundance of writing out there. We all need some help deciding what to read! But while I’m not summarizing in the sense that students are asked to do–i.e., I don’t feel responsible for fully articulating and explaining the author’s overarching point and key evidence–I do think there is one area of overlap. Any process of summary, be it a standalone summary assignment or the broader task of compiling a lit review, requires some perspective. By approaching these links with a question–what about this article might be of interest to someone who has chosen to read my blog?–I am guided toward a particular set of observations. I think students are often aided by remembering that the author’s purpose in writing something might be different that their purpose in writing about it. This perspective can help deal with the implicit or explicit ambivalence about summary: why am I bothering to repeat what someone else has already said better? We all need to be able to answer that question in order to even attempt a summary.
this is so helpful. so many deeper and larger issues here that i think will really help me make “real” the Summary Assignment. …i mean, it’s REAL for me. i think writing a strong summary–in the best of worlds–encourages reflection, which is the first step toward deep understanding (perhaps?).
Oh, here is a link (speaking of) I think you might find interesting. I am torn on the issue. (you’ll see what i mean soon enough.) when it comes to teaching the genres of expository writing–and the hallmark traits therein–i believe in it. but only so far. it’s all in how you flick your wrist, yes? a rote teacher who, say, doesn’t have the sort of poetry-in-the-soul-and-there-is-nothing-more-i love-than-a-well-turned-phrase persona can turn a lesson on topic sentences or diction or whatever into a “meh”-inducing form of rule following. but for people who are writers FIRST (and teachers by virtue of their content-area skill/love) these type of devices, labels, “tools,” patterns of development, et al., are GENUINE and a huge part of what gives our very own writing shape and heft and clarity. (it’s the reason i look forward to reading your blog.) i mean, the recursive nature of writing is not something i teach because i must hold forth on the “process.” i help students write recursively because that’s how i write and (blanket statement) all people (wittingly or otherwise) write.
that said, the author does have a point. but i am with it only so far. the author is correct that we have a problem. i am just not willing to accept her solution.
my own way of dealing with “bad writing” (meta comment: which is most likely in evidence in this sloppy reply to your reply) is to encourage what i call a “fierce commitment to radical clarity” in my students’ writings. i don’t care if they break grammar rules, as long these are choices in service of clarity.
(my approach isn’t the answer for everyone–teacher or students–but i get results. for now.)
Thanks, Ari. Thanks for the link–I think you make a great point about that article. A writing ‘formula’ is, at root, an attempt to anticipate what the reader will need. If that formula is then taught as an end in itself, the student may well experience writing as a dry and disengaging task. But those of us who teach writing out a genuine enthusiasm for the potential of writing instruction are still likely to touch on the same points/employ the same strategies. Topic sentences, for instance, need to be taught, but they need to taught in such a way that students can see the promise of constructing paragraphs with clear topics and thematic unity (and not just as an empty requirement). When I talk about topic sentences with graduate students, some will express a concern that such sentences may be insufficiently sophisticated for writing at this level. I think that reaction may come from the fact that their early writing instruction seemed to them like a series of empty exercises rather than the grounding for ever more sophisticated writing challenges.