Thursday, July 21, 2011

Academic Thoughts

I don't have a lot of rules on this blog. This is largely because I am pretty much the only person who posts here, and I prefer to keep what rules I have unstated, so that if I do break them, at least I'm the only one who knows about it. But of the small set of rules I unofficially have, one of the firmest is "don't blog about your work." I'm not going to break that rule, but I am going to twist it around until it makes the Gordian knot look like a straight edge.

It's hardly a secret that I've been a little dissatisfied with videogame scholarship as of late. But until now, I haven't really had a target to aim at. It started when I realized it was time to get serious about my academic career. Well, actually, I realized that about a year ago was the time I should have started getting serious about my academic career. But more immediately, it was when I decided to address the familiar academic maxim "publish or perish." Aside from a co-authorship from my undergraduate math RA days, I don't have a published credit to my name. To avoid the perish then, I must embrace the publish, posthaste.

But that's easier stated pithily than done. There's a number of considerations to take into account before even attempting to publish an academic paper. First and foremost, it's not enough just to be published; you have to be published in the right place, and to a certain extent, at the right time. I've been publishing this blog for years now, and while it's not always the highest-minded piece of scholarship, the traffic that my Stiegler series brings in suggests that it's pulling its own weight in the circuits of academic discourse. And yet, it would not by any means be considered a serious academic pursuit.

Part of that is my own choice; I could very easily have constructed this as a pure academic blog, and it would, perhaps, have stood a chance of being useful for my career in the future. I also could have devoted it to a less academic discussion to videogames, and leveraged that into an entry point in that community. Or comic books, or television, or some other pop culture area. But I didn't. I chose to keep it a blog of all trades, including my own personal experiences. And I don't regret that; I believe very strongly in not artificially partitioning work and the rest of your life; I have had the rare opportunity to pursue what I enjoy in life through my work, and I think I'd be turning my back on what that means to me if I started closing things off. But while that ideal fills me with a warm and fuzzy glow, it doesn't really help fill a CV.

The other side of academic blogging, which I perhaps should have started with before I delved into a course on extreme navel gazing, is that, bluntly, no one cares. Or rather, it's significantly unimpressive to create something and publish it on your own, especially when the same self-publishing resources are available to any teenager with a gmail account and some angst to burn. In this way, the world of humanities academic discourse is like any other fandom (all right, it's not exactly the same as a fandom, but the similarities are in the field of what ): your opinion only matters if other people are talking about it. And that is the way to do it--participate in other people's online discussions, make catchy, pithy comments on other people's twitter feeds, and ask intelligent questions in email follow-ups and blog replies.

All of these activities are important, and perhaps even necessary, in cultivating good connections and word of mouth in the modern academic sphere. But at the end of the day, there's still one crucial problem: it still doesn't fill the CV.

As for what actually does fill a CV, um... tune in tomorrow! Guess what: my rant is now a series! Hurrah!

Later Days.

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