Last December I gave a lecture on Oprah’s Book Club, and based on my emphatically positive spin on the Oprah Effect, I was recruited by an eager colleague to assist in starting a faculty and staff blog: a public space for our rapidly growing institution to remind each other who we are and what we do.
We’ve been active for a few months now: our small blog task force has reached out to those faculty and staff members who we think might have something interesting to write about (and who might actually want to take time out of their busy daily lives to do so).
Based on the blog stats, people are reading these postings (with truly novel takes on subjects such as post- modernity, social networking, soap and chemistry, and “generation me”). One faculty member “outed” herself as an anonymous blogger of mostly mother and teaching related reflections when she agreed to cross post on our college blog. Another faculty member who posted is also a blogger, but not an anonymous one: she links to both blogs on Facebook, and enjoys the cross pollination of the various public forums.
This week, for the college blog, we are encouraging faculty and staff to submit their summer reading lists. I am getting some interesting titles, but not as many as I’d hoped.
Despite a slow start, it’s been rewarding starting this new blog—which has yet to really find its footing. Is the college blog a public relations tool of sorts (not that the PR folks are selling it in any way), or is it just another form of a “Water Cooler” that we have on our internal e-mail system? Right now, it seems to be the latter, but what is most interesting is that because I am one of the public faces of this new blog, I am often confused as the writer of many of the postings—folks stop by on campus to thank me for my interesting posts about Facebook or teaching, and I have to stop and remember that they mean my colleagues’ posts on the college blog (not Annie Em’s posts on those same subjects).
It’s a little unnerving.
This blog, too, is still trying to find its niche: partly educational, partly self reflection, partly a pastiche of links that amuse me. But that’s ok. I’ll keep writing and see where it goes. While I don’t have the talent to write stories like TK, or the charm to blog on life like Inky, or the wit of Acadamnit, I enjoy the process of writing a blog posting. Tenured Radical (a rather well-known blogger) has a thoughtful recent 400th posting where she reflects upon her rather satisfying “career” as a blogger, a public intellectual of the 21st century.
That’s a marvelous goal, to be a public intellectual.
One of my students this term came to chat with me about that: he wants to be a public intellectual when he grows up (he’s 22) and asked me what he should major in! I was truly at a loss. What would you have said?
Since he was sitting there in my soon to be small, old office, waiting for me to give him advice, I ultimately said something, though it probably sounded like a rambling list to the poor guy: I said that it didn’t matter what he majored in, as long as he took a variety of classes, challenging classes, too. I said it was probably more important that he write and participate in conversations as often as possible. That he travel and become involved in the world around him. I gave him a list of titles of books by writers I consider to be public intellectuals, and encouraged him to take classes with professors on campus who I think would be possible mentors for him.
And then I said I hoped we could chat again someday after spring term when my brain was not quite as mushy.
I hope he does stop by to chat next week after he hands in his research paper (an approach on a topic that is, of course, original and challenging). Maybe I’ll tell him to start a blog.