When I am talking to colleagues at a conference, conversations tend to focus on books and ideas, on teaching and writing. It's pretty common for me to jump into a discussion by saying something like, "Have you read what Bill McKibben says in the book Enough about germline genetic engineering?" It's a long-established standard that scholars talk about books. And when a group of us start talking about a book we've all read, it feels like some kind of common bond.
At the conference last week, I was talking to a colleague and he mentioned that he read political blogs. When I said that I read blogs every day as part of my normal routine, he asked which ones. I gave Bitch Ph.D. as an example. He nodded. "Oh, of course, I read Bitch." We talked about her blog for a few minutes and then moved onto something else, but that was the moment when it occurred to me: blog writers have begun to achieve the same legitimacy as other types of writers.
Talking about Bitch - her ideas, her opinions, her style of writing - was no different than talking about Adrienne Rich or bell hooks or any other person whose writing I admire.
I have been watching with interest the development of blogging as a genre. It seems to me that it's only been in the last few years that composition teachers and literature teachers have recognized blogging as a legitimate activity for their students. I think many resisted at first. But more and more, panels on blogging have crept into conferences. Often now, faculty will refer to their course blogs.
Yes, of course, blogs are different than books. The nature of blogging is interactive and instantaneous. When I write a poem for a literary journal, it gets published more than a year after I wrote it. Blog posts are published within seconds of when they are written. I like the way a blog written by one person can be a text with multiple voices - sometimes personal, sometimes academic, sometimes political. And of course, anyone can post to a blog. You don't have to wait to get noticed by a publisher. I wonder, as publishers increasingly get taken over and ruled by big corporate interests, as small independent presses go out of business just as many independent bookstores have, if blogging is replacing the free exchange of ideas that writers could once do in books.
During several conversations at this conference, it became apparent to me that scholars are beginning to accept blogging as a legitimate activity. But I can think of two last places where blogging is still kept secret, still a taboo subject: hiring committees and P&T committees. I don't yet know anyone who uses their blog as proof of scholarship. But surely that time is coming.