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On Pseudonymity

25 February, 2006

On Pseudonymity

Yeah, it’s all over the place again. And you know what? I did tell one of the people on the hiring committee at SLAC I had a blog, and she didn’t care. But I’m not going to be advertising it, and I expect I’ll still be blogging under this nom de plume. Because, you know, my pseudonym isn’t all about hiding from the world. It’s a persona that tends to reveal certain parts of me much more than others. One of those parts is the academic me, but it is not the professional me. By that, I mean that I cannot really separate myself as a person from myself as a teacher and wannabe- successful-and-respected-by-my-peers (or at least someone not considered an idiot) academic. I’m never going to be a super-scholar, and that’s not what motivates me. I’m motivated by the facts that I love History — especially my period — and I love the business of teaching students to think like historians. I think that’s the me that is ADM — along with lots of professional insecurities I’m not afraid to put out there. But there is a lot more that I don’t write about, because, well, this is public, people. The personal things I choose to write about are things that are very much connected to how I deal with being ADM. They’re things I don’t mind sharing with people I consider colleagues and friends.

But there is sometimes a false intimacy created by the internets. I’ve tried hard in my blogging not to cross that line, something that is very difficult for the RL, whole ADM, because I tend to divulge more than might be wise. So there is a lot I don’t blog. And there’s a lot I don’t think is appropriate for me to blog, because it doesn’t fit my ideas of professional or ethical behavior. A lot of self-censorship happens here.

Still, blogging has been great for me. Blogging pseudonymously has been better. This is why: Often in the RL world of academia, we are judged by the kind of jobs we have, and the kinds of work we do. And, of course, how much of it we do. I’m a medievalist — hierarchies work for me. But I’ve also been around long enough to know that there are lots of idiots who have great name recognition and publication lists that are miles long, and some really smart and nice people who will never be on the academics’ “A-list.” Blogging as ADM has allowed me to interact with colleagues in my own field and in other disciplines as an equal. Lots of these people I might never have met otherwise, because the connections one makes as an adjunct mostly at CCs are vastly different than those one makes if one is a productive scholar at a reputable college or university. That’s how it is. The system cuts out the people considered ‘unworthy’ (which, if you’ve ever taught at a good CC or met a lot of people scraping by as adjuncts, you know is just bullshit in at least 2/3 of the cases). Blogging let me beat the system.

OK — I should also say that it wasn’t just blogging. I happen to be very fortunate in that the Late Antique/Early Medieval community seems to be one of the warmest and most friendly academic circles around. Going to their conferences did wonders for making me feel like I was still a member of a larger community of really smart and cool people, as well as making me feel guilty for not being more productive! But those conferences are rare. Blogging helps me to feel that I am a member of the larger academic community on a daily basis. It keeps me accountable to myself. It makes me want to push myself to do well, rather than settling into low gear and just getting by with my RL colleagues and students knowing I’m a kick-ass teacher and colleague. Yep — that’s me — motivated by peer pressure. I’m joining a very small department. I really like the people. But in many ways, SLAC will be more of a challenge. I’ll have to be more actively productive with equally minimal library facilities, and no one else on the campus who has much of a clue as to what I do. i therefore anticipate that I’ll be blogging as ADM for a good long while.

But in the meantime, and this is why I started this post, at Kzoo I will be outing myself to other bloggers who are willing to keep my not-all-that-secret identity on the down-low. I’ll be meeting a bunch of my blogfriends IRL anyway, and there’s a blogger panel where I know many of the panelists IRL or beyond the blog world. It kinda makes sense, since most of the people I know there are people I “know” from blogging or haven’t seen in close to 20 years! So if you’re a blogger, feel free to ask. See you there. Right now, I’m going to wait for the migraine that just hit to go away, and work on the Kzoo paper, so I don’t embarrass myself in front of y’all!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 26 February, 2006 12:59 am

    Good post.There are plenty of good research projects that don’t require daily or even weekly access to a great library.Be strategic.

  2. 26 February, 2006 1:02 am

    Thanks! And you know, if this means I have an excuse to go stay in London during part of the summer to research …

  3. 26 February, 2006 4:47 am

    I have to say: the issues regarding blogging and pseudonymity are even more intense for untenured tenure-track faculty than they are for adjuncts, I think. Yeah, being on the job market is a vulnerable position, but if you tick someone off, you just never hear from them again; once you’re a member of a faculty you have a relatively small circle of people whom you’re going to be very tempted to blog about and whom you’re going to have to work with for a long time. (I’m sure you, ADM, have already thought about these things; this is just something I feel the need to say). I rarely blog about my near colleagues, except very carefully (usually vaguely) and — almost always — when I have something positive to say. It’s a little bit like the disciplinary community, except that the stakes are actually higher….

  4. 26 February, 2006 5:46 am

    Yeah — I think when I blog about colleagues, it’s pretty much always in their capacity as friends. Or to say nice things. But I think I would do that anyway — I have certainly been guilty of gossipping, but I try very hard to make sure it’s never malicious or harmful. On rare occasions, I slip — and it’s almost always regarding someone who has been nasty to me. And as a rule, if I know something is private, I keep it that way. I am pretty open about myself (although there are certainly levels of what I let people know, and some things I keep pretty private that others would be open about — and vice versa) But deliberately blogging things that aren’t my business to blog about, or that I just consider inappropriate? i do try to make sure that I don’t go there. And part of it may well be because I don’t want others to think ill of me — which I have to say is one of the reasons I’m not all that nasty IRL — I’ll say something truly bitchy to someone’s face, but I dont’ want people to see me behave in ways that would make me feel ashamed of myself.

  5. 26 February, 2006 5:34 pm

    I know this should be in the comments below, but I wanted to just say, YYYYAAAAYYYYY for you getting a “real” job! I’ve been following your struggles for ages and you deserve it. It’s different, but a real relief to have a tt job, and w/ databases, ILL and the internets, don’t worry about the research part. I’m so happy for you! And definitely do a little negotiating w/ your other job possibilities. If this place wants you they’ll come through. This is excellent. Enjoy!

  6. 26 February, 2006 6:44 pm

    welcome! and thanks! It’s been really neat to see all the people who have said nice things.

  7. 27 February, 2006 9:27 pm

    congrats on the tt job. that is really great news.looking forward to kzoo this year. i always wonder if i am speaking to someone i already “know” through blogging.

  8. 27 February, 2006 10:39 pm

    See you at Kalamazoo. ;)Warm congrats, again, on the job!

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