Over at Tenured Radical, Katrina Gulliver has a guest post reflecting on the nature of history blogging. Gulliver writes:
I have been blogging in various venues for over ten years. Aside from some early experiments, it has been under my own name. In that time, the history blog world has changed plenty.
The chorus used to be: “Not if you’re on the market!”, “Be careful if you’re untenured.”Some departments are toxic, and people are right to be afraid of some things. But to fear having a life online is merely to perpetuate the paranoia. Academics seem more paranoid than others about being unveiled online, and yet seem compelled to create such forms, tempting fate that they are discovered. Perhaps the solo lifestyle of academic research (particularly in the humanities) lends itself to this outcome. The panel on blogging at the 2006 AHA meeting featured audience members who were willing to stand up and be counted as bloggers, but unwilling to name their sites. Since then, the prospect of being “outed” has over the years led some to shutter their blogs, and others to self-reveal (as Tenured Radical herself did.)
Now, in this post-Facebook age, attitudes to online privacy have changed rapidly. The idea that googling job candidates is unethical or nosy (yes, people thought this) is fading away. Among blog authors there is a greater willingness to own their online identity, and see blogging as a useful adjunct to their professional, public lives (rather than a private hobby or potentially embarrassing secret). As Jennifer Ho has suggested, the blog process may not be a distraction or detraction from academic work, but assist with the drafting process. By the same token, a blog is not a private space you have a right to feel invaded if it is found by your boss, a hiring committee, or anyone else.
I can relate to the risks involved when academics decide to blog. I have weighed the risks and concluded that the benefits of blogging outweigh the negatives. It helps that I work at an institution where the administration not only reads my blog, but encourages me in my blogging. (Though I am not sure they would count it toward tenure or promotion).
Of course, by putting my thoughts out there on a regular basis, especially my identity as a Christian, I realize that I am taking a risk. Unfortunately, there are still many history departments who would not hire me because I try to think about the world and the discipline from a Christian understanding. (Trust me–these places do exist–I have had interviews at them). So much for a liberal, pluralistic academy. I think that a homosexual who comes “out of the closet” has a better chance of landing a job at a research university than a Christian who “comes out of the closet.” So I am sure I am limiting myself by blogging so openly about certain subjects. But that is OK. I like the kind of place where I am currently teaching and if I ever left it would probably be for a place that is similar.
But not all history bloggers have to be so open about things. Historians, both at the pre-tenure and post-tenure stages of their careers, should be able to feel comfortable blogging about their research or current trends in the field. A blog can be a place to try out new ideas or connect with other scholars doing similar research. It can also enable scholars to develop a public profile that might actually help, rather than hurt their careers.
Thanks for the mention. The situation you describe for Christian scholars might be paralleled (and some people are probably both) by those who espouse conservative or right-wing politics.