At the recent MLA convention in Boston—as recent as last week—I was following some very interesting conversations that were going on. I was not physically there. I was following the hashtag #mla13 and the various live tweets posted by some people I like to read on Twitter but whom I’ve never met. In particular, I was following discussions about “alt-ac,” or alternatives to academic careers. For example, here’s one presentation. The remarkable thing to me is that I didn’t have to be in Boston or in that room to get access to that presentation; the author posted a link to it on Twitter. Thank you Katina Rogers.
I’m interested in the alt-ac topic because of my admin role as Associate Dean of Graduate studies and knowing that we are taking in way more PhD students in Arts than are going to get full-time tenure-track jobs. We are working on developing their professional skills, skills that are transferable to a whole lot of other careers. This is an urgent need.
On Facebook I often post links to articles I’ve read that I think my FB friends—all of whom I do know in RL, by the way—might also find interesting, provocative, or funny. Facebook for me is more personal; Twitter is really a way of researching and disseminating information, networking, hooking up with ideas and groups that are generating them.
I said Happy Holidays to all of you in my last blog post of 2012. I know some of you who read my blog, but certainly not all of you. Who are you? How did you find me? Why are you reading my blog? It doesn’t matter, in a way. I’m glad to have you here. Blogging as Lady English Professor is both a delight and a challenge. It’s a delight because I like creating this public persona. I like thinking about my readers. I like sharing. But it’s also a challenge because of the same issues. What is this persona I am creating and how careful do I have to be about what I write? Who are my readers and what do they want and expect from me? When is sharing over sharing?
I am more and more convinced that social media—Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and whatever else we’ll come up with—are essential to my life not just as a human being but as an academic. I’m also pretty convinced that our graduate students need to be taking much more advantage of social media in preparing themselves for a variety of careers. I know many academics who are integrating digital assignments of all kinds into their courses. Fantastic! For me, blogging has become part of my professional life, but in a limited way. Other initiatives—such as the MLA Commons—are making it possible to disseminate research papers online. This mode might not replace traditional publication in peer-reviewed venues, but it sure helps speed up the process and connect authors and readers in tangible and meaningful ways.
So yes, I will keep writing this blog. People ask me: how do you think of topics to blog about? Well, often when I’m on the bus I’m thinking about something and realize it might make a good blog post. Then I roll topics, phrases, words, and images around in my head. When I’ve got a few minutes I write them down for the blog post. People seem to think that writing a blog is a big time commitment. It isn’t, or at least not for me. And it’s a remarkably freeing kind of writing.
By the way, if you didn’t already know this, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is tweeting images and sounds from the International Space Station. Tweets. From. Space. Here’s a pic of my hometown tweeted by Commander Hadfield early in the year.
Now that’s cool!