The Slow Academic turns two today. It’s difficult to sum up two years of blogging without resorting to metrics. Readily available figures include number of readers, most popular posts, the date of the best (most) views ever, numbers of followers and likes, average word length of posts, most popular day and hour for reading, and more. These figures can be viewed by day, week, month, year and all time. I’ll spare you. Writing a post about this data runs counter to the ethos of slow academia, which in this case would be something like: share what matters.
Academic blogging constitutes, in part, a community of practice which functions as both a ‘gift economy’ as well as a ‘virtual staff room’ … There is the table for those who are worried about increasing workloads. Another table sits over in the corner for those discussing how their research is going. Unlike actual staff rooms, blogging is of course asynchronous, global and not confined to one location, and also available 24 hours a day. The virtual staff room might thus lead to reduced feelings of isolation for those using it … and/or paradoxically add to the intensification of academic work and its continued intrusion on home life.
I’m not sure which table I am sitting at (perhaps I’m making small talk near the tea and coffee). I started blogging following an organisational change process which saw many colleagues leave the university (and the loss of a shared staff room). Not coincidentally, I started blogging once I had secure work, when I had time and space and energy to write. I had been an avid blog reader for many years, and was searching for a blog that explored difficult questions about slow academia in relation to the politics of higher education, university governance, academic roles and identities, and academic activism. I couldn’t find this in the one place, so I decided to start here.
I have thoroughly enjoyed blogging over the last two years.
It has provided an opportunity to think through writing. Thomson and Kamler (2010) call it ‘writing along the way’—“writing that is intended to sort out what we think, why, and what the implications of a line of thought might be” (p 149). Blogging is incredibly freeing for an academic writer, constrained by the conventions, requirements and expectations of research and publishing. (All too often, I have to delete a sentence to appease a reviewer; I’ve learnt to hold words loosely, and let them go without regret). Here, words follow my whims, and I can write about dystopian fiction, porridge, trees, and family outings. The pleasures of writing the quotidian run deep.
I also write about complex ideas: the contagion of anxiety, undercare, mortality, and privilege, without the need for a neat conclusion. I write about what matters to me in higher education (activism, politics, casualisation, care), about what matters more (my daughter’s epilepsy has prompted many posts) and about what these things look like together (strategies for working during tough times).
In many ways, though more easily quantified, writing is the lesser part of blogging. This blog has also offered a point of connection with others. I have met new people (online, through their writing and in person). I have added to my never-ending reading list. I have had wonderful conversations. Thank you for reading. If the stats are accurate, you will probably be reading this at 11am on a Thursday. Enjoy your elevenses.