I’m still gathering notes and digesting a selection from L. Winner’s book The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for limits in an Age of High Technology (1986), and I plan to blog about it soon, but I need a break, and as I perused some of the blogs from my 516 classmates, I was drawn into some of the ideas Jessica Winck contemplated here.
What struck about the writing is something I’d thought about since our reading of Mueller and Kennedy’s forthcoming chapter discussing the nature of blogging and public writing as a graduate student. Like Jessica, I’ somewhat reticent to lay it all out, so to say, either in a blog or in a classroom or even at a cocktail party for fear of my own naiveté or my susceptibility to sticking-foot-firmly-in-mouth disease.
In addition to the insights Jessica shared, I also thought about the other, non-academic kinds of public writing that I do. In the past, I wrote template-driven sports articles on subscription-based websites. I did a fair amount of writing for a college newspaper, too.
But it’s my writing as a food critic that has gotten me thinking more and more about how my public writing might follow me as I grow as an academic professional. I recently wrote a pretty unflattering review (not the first) of a restaurant that has been in business since the 1920’s, and it was not well received in some quarters. My writing (or was it me?) has been described as crass and ruthless. On the other hand, I’ve been commended for the writing as well. Either way, I sometimes wonder how such writing will look to myself and to colleagues 10, 15, or 20 years from now.
At the end of the day, when I write publically for a newspaper, regardless of the voice I use or, I work to apply journalistic principles. The writing may come off the page as crass to someone, but I hope it is never described as unprofessional.
So I suppose that’s how I’m coming to view this whole blogging thing. I may be naieve about a subject, or I may get some things totally wrong, but as long as I rigorously maintain a professional identity/demeanor (which isn’t to say I can’t have fun or talk about less discipline-specific issues), I’m not so sure I care much how other people see me. Sounds glib when I read that sentence a second time, but I have a lot of respect for people who are not afraid to fail.
I think Oscar Wilde said something relevant to my thoughts above, so, through the power of Google, I just now searched for that quote, but I couldn’t find it. Instead, I found this one, apparently from The Importance of Being Earnest: “Everything is dangerous, my dear fellow. If it wasn’t so, life wouldn’t be worth living.”
Also, self-published public writing like this also carries the danger of embarrassing grammatical or other, less technical typos like accidentally adding an extra, profanity-producing letter to an otherwise innocent word. Not cool.