As part of this class, you will be required to maintain a blog where you will post short (500 words)1 weekly responses to the reading we’re doing, and where you will be expected2 to comment on the posts of your peers.
The benefits of this process will be, I hope, many. For one thing, I believe interacting regularly in writing will deepen our intellectual engagement with the material we study and (at risk of sounding saccharine) with one another. Beginning our discussions online will enrich our discussions in class.
Such public writing also invites the possibility of comments from the world outside, from people not in the class. All classrooms are always implicitly engaged with the world beyond their walls. The material we read, the assumptions we make, and the arguments we have are all made with at least implicit reference to standards, norms, and realities which have their origin elsewhere. By blogging, in public, the implicit engagement of the seminar classroom can, at least in a minor way, become explicit; that world outside can, at least potentially, talk back.3
In addition to the benefits I hope the blog will bring to the class, there is another, more pragmatic benefit (for you) which is less tied to this class. By asking you to develop an online presence, and to build that presence with (some really excellent) writing, you will be well on your way to creating an online professional identity which has at least the possibility of benefiting you later. Indeed, the reason I am asking everyone to start their own blog (to which this blog will link) is so that the work you do has the possibility of benefiting you.4 For some additional reflections on the value of creating an professional presence online (and some practical tips), this article is excellent and collects some fantastic links.
If you already have a weblog (that archaic origin of the term "blog" may inspire a snicker) that you’d feel comfortable using, great5 If not, you will need to set one up. How you do this is up to you. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to host your own blog.6 The easier route is to create a free, hosted blog on a service like WordPress.com or Blogger (a once independent blog publishing service, now owned by Google). Looking into this sooner, rather than later, is strongly advised. We will discuss the logistics of posting and commenting for class at our first meeting; but your blog should be up and running by our second class meeting (i.e. Thursday, January 24).
This doesn’t seem like the sort of post likely to elicit comments or discussion… but feel free to do so. Also don’t hesitate to send me an email about course blogging or any other aspect of the class.
- I will try to enforce this limit as a protection of everyone’s time. [↩]
- Ahem, required. [↩]
- Note: If you are profoundly uncomfortable writing in public in this way, speak to me and we will try to set up something which will you allow you to meet the requirements of the class; I think, though, you will most benefit from the class if you give it a try. [↩]
- Call this "not alienating you from your labor" if you’re a Marxist; call it allowing you to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" if you’re of another persuasion. [↩]
- You might carefully consider whether you want to use an existing blog for this class; your identity online is a complex and multiform thing, and it might make sense to preserve that diversity in some way; if you have a “personal” blog, it might make sense to separate it from a “professional” blog. [↩]
- This would entail purchasing a domain and web hosting—I’m happy to talk with you about this sort of minutiae if you’re interested [↩]