Posted by: Dominic | November 10, 2010

On Wasting Time

A fellow SAS November blogger posted an article by Kieran Healy called “On Wasting One’s Time” as well as her own response. Both are well worth reading.

Mr. Healy’s article contrasts the cruelty of academic careerism that attempts to obliterate all personal obligations and interests with the so-called self-absorption of blogging. In the end, he concludes that writing a blog can be an effective way of learning how to communicate to a more general audience.

That’s a good skill. Perhaps especially for academics. Graduate students are expected to be able to talk about their dissertation in about four minutes. To people in their field. Imagine trying to explain the complexities of a book-length scholarly project to a less-specialized audience. That four minutes is suddenly a lot shorter. But in the challenge lays an opportunity to think differently about one’s work. One day you may find yourself a cadet tenure-track English professor at a cocktail party in the faculty club talking to That Very Important Biology Professor Dean Who Controls Lots of Funding. How are you going to explain that impressive book you’re writing on the ambiguities of gender in the all-male cast of Moby-Dick?

More than that, the internet represents a possibility that is only partially available in print: dialogue. I can publish this note and others, from anywhere else in the world, can reply instantaneously. (For the record, I doubt that this will ever become an actuality for my own scribblings here; I must stress the possibility aspect). This is more of a direct and involved conversation than a book or magazine. And that advantage should be exploited to have more intelligent discussions with a wider variety of interlocutors.

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