(… this is very informal…)
Why do I blog?
When you work outside academia and you’re not actively researching you still want to write, you still want to talk to anthropologists and share something of yourself, your experiences and your insights. I like blogging because I can write about everyday practices, ‘fun’ blogging and also comment seriously on what’s happening in my workplace. Of late I like writing about how I fit into an interdisciplinary space.
How does my blogging contribute to the production and dissemination of anthropological knowledge?
Well, in writing about everyday issues I bring an anthropological perspective to new audiences, especially when I write about buying second hand clothes, or women in the workplace, or participating in Enjo parties. I like to think broadly and around everyday practices and I also like to see what they look like from an anthropological perspective. In saying that though, I still hope to appeal to an anthropological audience, an audience who understand and appreciate the take that I have on viewing and participating in the world. So that’s how I see how my blogging adds to the body of anthropological work. It’s a bit like seed funding, so let’s see what it looks like and then decide whether we can grow it.
Does my blogging about anthropology affect anthropological practice?
Well, that’s hard to say and hard to know about. Anthropological practice has some core praxes but these occur in such diverse contexts it’s sometimes really hard to have an anthropological sensibility about it all. We’re so spread out among sub-disciplinary knowledge and praxis, among geographical, specialty – even virtual areas – and even spread between the arts and sciences, so who really knows? If blogging is about sharing an anthropologically inspired viewpoint on an issue, on a practice, on something that involves people who are working on some project together, then yes, I do think that what I write about affects our practice. I can show people both outside of and within the academy something about how I think and work, and hey, if you’re getting more than 10,000 hits for a blog, you must be making people think about something that they’re doing…
Who reads my anthropology blog?
Well, I really hope that anthropologists read it. And those interested in anthropology. But WordPress lets you tag your posts so you can use this to reach broader audiences, which is really important if you’re wanting to show that you’re ‘thinking outside the box’, and this is important for some audiences, not necessarily anthropologists, but other audiences who are looking to break with standard practices, standard ways of thinking about how people work together, how they provide services and how they move materials, services, people and objects around the globe. But the analytics that come with the host site don’t necessarily tell you exactly where people come from, only what city and country. You really have to guess at the rest.
Who is my target audience?
Well, if I had my preference I would want to write for an anthropological audience firstly, and because I have an interest in interdisciplinarity I also try to write for a broader, educated audience. I can’t be too specific about my exact area of expertise and enterprise because I’d probably get the sack from work if they figured out that I was writing about work, work practices and work issues without official permission. But that said, my target audience is both anthros and non-anthros. It really depends on the post, on the topic and the issues though. These change and this affects the audience. One of the most pleasant experiences that I had recently was when other anthro blog sites picked up my posts, shared links and commented on them. That’s blogging peer review as far as I’m concerned!
How do I separate out the personal from the professional?
Well, my first response to this question would be: do you have to? If we write from a situated standpoint, a situated space and perspective, then the line between personal and professional becomes blurred doesn’t it? Look at what’s happened since Writing Culture; we’re in every page we write, aren’t we? And in the blogosphere, we aren’t restricted so much by the rules around writing that exist in publishing, in academic texts, in conference presentations and colloquia, are we? This is a freer form that is still becoming, that isn’t set in concrete yet and never can be simply by definition. So I don’t need to separate myself out from my work, from my perspective, from my comments and insights. However, I don’t blog about my homelife, my family or my friends (if I can help it).
How do I know when I’ve been successful in blogging?
This is hard to know about too. If you pay attention to the bloggers, the big bloggers then you’re always going to feel like a failure. They have hits in the millions. Me? I’m lucky to get into five figures occasionally. I know that there are emerging rock star anthropologists and I believe that they serve a role in getting the anthropological message out there. We need all sorts of writers, all sorts of anthropological practitioners, all sorts of social analysis going on so I’m not going to criticise anyone for their success outside of the academy. If anything, I’m all for it. We all get dragged up this way, all get caught in the upflow.
Does success matter?
Well, we all write for an audience so success is relative. If you develop a readership, then you’re successful. If no one reads what you write, you’re writing garbage. I have garbage posts that hardly anyone has read. I should dump these now. If they’ve been sitting on the website for nearly a year and no one’s read them, then they’re not successful. So it does matter. Having said that, there are some excellent cooperative, academic anthropological blogs that mimic the production of texts in standard publishing, but are available on the web. Peer review, calls for papers, high end production – and then you have the single bloggers like me, who are sometimes hard pressed to keep coming up with content. This is a production issue for anyone publishing anything. It’s not new here.
Is it all about the stats?
Well, we naturally tend towards wanting to find out how much, how many, how often and then to doing some number crunching to make ‘sense’ out the data…. Even if you’re not particularly inclined towards number crunching, the medium – like much of social media – really lends itself to number crunching, so you can’t help yourself. There are sites that can help you though…
But there aren’t always a lot of likes or comments, so how do I know if my blog is having any effect anywhere?
This is true. While some blogs may have thousands of hits which translate as reads/downloads/views, you don’t always get a translation into discourse, into comments, or even into likes. Occasionally people will comment, or even like a post, but that’s not often the case. And I’ve noticed this with larger anthropological blogging sites too. The issue for me here is: what do people really make of what’s written here? How do they read/consume what’s said? Who do they talk to about the content? Who do they pass the blogs on to? I find that you get people wanting to comment who are typically mildly upset about what’s said, or seeking further clarification, evidence, or research into assertions that may be made. But overall, there’s little interaction, which is a shame.
Why don’t I use references?
I have a crisis of legitimacy occasionally and insert references, even though other bloggers tell me I don’t need them. You don’t need them in this format, but it depends on the blog post and the audience. If you anticipate that your work may be taken up and translated (this has happened), or posted on a Learning Management System for a course (this too has happened), or disseminated on other anthropological websites that have an academic turn, then, as is the custom and the norm, we too as anthropological bloggers follow this norm. If I’m not quoting anything knowingly, I won’t bother using references and my preference is for opinion pieces that don’t necessarily rely on the interpretation and translation of bodies of knowledge. I save that kind of writing for academic discourse within the pages of academic journals. To my way of thinking, you write for a specific audience, and in blogging I don’t think that everyone’s looking for reference materials. By all means publish your essays online, and these will include references. And after all, why demonise references? References are an acknowledgement of your joining in conversations that have already occurred as you position your own views against these voices. Always better to acknowledge them and join in.
Am I just writing for other anthropology bloggers, and even if I am, is that such a bad thing?
I write for anyone that happens to land on my blog from a search engine, or has happily signed up to receive updates from my website. If its other bloggers, then that’s great too. I read their blogs with great interest as bloggers often get opinion pieces out there long before academic articles have even hit peer review. I support both old forms of writing in academic presses, especially when I manage to get an article in print, as well as new forms of publication through weblogs. The evolving medium, it’s growing acceptance and the democratisation that blogging allows I watch with relish and interest. Like all processes, the wheat will be sorted from the chaff…
Why am I hiding my identity behind a pseudonym?
A workplace Code of Conduct prevents me from revealing my identity. Writing behind a pseudonym is an old and valued practice that has allowed voices that would not otherwise be heard a platform to publish their views. I see that writing as the Anxious Anthropologist allows me to participate in the same freedoms, paradoxically because of restrictions to publicising my voice, that my writerly ancestors had to contend with. Elsewhere I use my name and identify myself as coming from a particular space and place, a discipline, a specialty, even a sub-speciality. But there is a challenge in writing like this that takes you out of your comfort zone, out of the familiar terminology, the same arguments and the usual webs of significance that you weave around your worlds. And this is fun.
Wouldn’t it be better to blog honestly?
I would love to write under my own name, but as with many things to do so means that you have to be brave, knowledgeable and up to the personal critique that attaches to so many in the blogosphere. It’s sometimes easier, and more freeing to write as I do. And that doesn’t mean that I write dishonestly. Anthropological endeavours can sometimes have the tendency of reporting back, reporting on and reporting about that shares something with the tools of the subterfuge. Who hasn’t left the tape recorder run on sometimes without consent? I’ve heard that this happens…
Where do I see blogs and blogging in future?
I see that anthropological blogging, like blogging in many professional endeavours will become the norm, rather than the unusual. Progressing through courses, moving into postgraduate studies and then into research and/or work will in future include the production of knowledge within spaces not evident now, in group blogs, personal blogs and workplace blogs. We will all curate our knowledges in this way and make them available to anyone interested in our views, our analyses and our growing bodies of knowledge and practice. I can’t imagine what blogs will look like, but it is such an accessible, powerful medium for communicating and sharing, I just know that it’s not if we should, but when we will.
Acknowledgements (and respect to): https://thegeekanthropologist.com/
Photo credit: http://vayzo.com/images/stories/designer-glass-frames-for-women-.jpg