Vervous Blogging

I have been preoccupied lately with wrapping my head around the question of
"professional ethos" concerning graduate students who blog (e.g.,
Questions: Does the blogging graduate student assume risks that the non-blogging
graduate student avoids? Are there greater risks or rewards in either
choice? What, then, are the payoffs? And are they immediate and tangible,
delayed and abstract?

The puzzler has been, "Why should a professional ethos for blogging graduate
students be any different than it is for non-blogging graduate students?" This
is a puzzler because every response I can come up with demands qualification:
whether A.) it’s no different or B.) it’s the blog.

Take the first response: "It’s not all that different." Professional
ethos is, after all, performed.
It is performed in the more long-lasting snapshot of the CV and in the fleeting
here-now moments when we, say, utter something in a class we are teaching or
taking (any venue, really, where we have a chance to say something insightful
and smart or irrevocable and humiliating). Professional ethos for graduate
students leaks into all of these activities; it is performed at nearly every
turn. Graduate students who perform their professional ethos well
in all its aspects will not be harmed by blogging; graduate students who perform
their professional ethos egregiously
(which is almost to say unethically or unawares in this regard) may find that
blogging makes the quality all the more conspicuous, that it makes ethical
recklessness, to say nothing of the lessons learned from mistakes, somewhat more
transparent and lasting. Already I can see that this tentative response is
beginning to buckle under the possibility that a blog may serve as a record of
the messy lessons where professional decorum gets tested (see Tribble).
Then again, that’s what I’m trying to get at: testing professional decorum,
whether blogger or not, bears consequences, and how we anticipate those
consequences and work through them when we’ve messed up seems thickly entangled
with the very idea of professional ethos, whatever the stage of the game.

At least that much is settled.

To reiterate and to put it more plainly, many aspects of professional ethos
(as performance) pertain to blogging graduate students and to non-blogging
graduate students alike. And yet, as a blogging graduate student (as one, that
is, who has blogged through a near-complete program of study), my own practices
rather tip my hand
(a Euchre reference, not Go Fish) and give away my clear preference. Keeping
mind that many aspects of professional ethos are shared by bloggers and non-bloggers,
what about blogging makes it different? How does blogging add dimension to
what it is we are trying to do while we are in graduate school? I’m not
all that keen on the fast switch to personal, anecdotal experience as evidence,
but maybe I can frame this as a series of professional-ethical convictions or
(as performed ethics) that have loosely guided
Earth Wide Moth since its first entry, just a few months before I moved from
Kansas City to Syracuse in 2004.

1. An ethics of experimentation. Participating in the RSA panel last May on
the ethics of amateuring greatly pushed my thinking in this area (I even read
Booth’s For The Love of It on Jenny’s recommendation). The blog
understood as an experimental space does not always need to explain itself in
terms of "professional efficiency" or productivity drive. This does not make it
unprofessional. Instead it (re)establishes the necessary and delicate
orchestration of "for pay" and "for love": professional and amateur.
Experimentation, like inquiry, favors the side of wonderment, mystery, and
intrigue, the side of "I do not know, but I can’t resist the delight in finding
out, the delight in toying around with possibilities, with unknowns." Now,
this commitment to experimentation does not always come off well. Often,
it fails or rather is about failure, interruption, digression. Yet, in a blog,
it plays out in the midst of others and in such a way that it lays a skein of
re-discoverable pathways for the future. Re: professional ethos, this principle
seems to underscore the vitality in networked experimentation.

2. A second principle involves an ethics of engagement, stale commonplace
though it risks seeming. This is, rather, a point about the outward blog ethos
as one that conveys investment, conviction, and panache for a professional
trajectory, in a disciplinary orientation, in a research specialization, in a
body of work: I am going to make my living doing this, and, thus, I am going to
put my greatest possible effort into it. So: in the blog (as a collection) and
in specific entries, I have sought all along to be genuinely engaged. It
has not always worked this way, and this principle, perhaps like all principles,
grows weaker as I describe it in more idealistic terms. Nevertheless,
where professional ethos is concerned, blogging affords graduate students a
venue for engagement appropriate (arguably) to the rhythms of graduate

3. An ethics of lifework harmony. When I started blogging, I was a
professional, but I wasn’t a graduate student. Thus, when I became a graduate
student, I didn’t experience any remarkable change in how I thought about myself
as a professional or as a professional-in-becoming. Sure, I was leaving
behind a livable salary, a private office, home ownership, and certain daytime
schedule constraints to become a "student." But I had already trampled on
the faux-dyad of work and home or personal and professional for seven years, and
I find in blogging (granting that this is a privilege) a healthy and rewarding
breach in the hemispheric division that would separate life from work.

More to come…


Here is a piece of mail that arrived today: a postcard from a thoughtful, support-for-when-you-really-need-it company
called Academic Ladder. The absence of a bona fide postage stamp makes me think this
came to me via
bulk mailing, but in case it was sent to me alone, I share it here for posterity’s sake. 
Also, these are some of the design elements that might powerfully reach out to
other late-stage dissertators:

  • "STRUGGLING", all caps and in a blood-curdling font you probably don’t
    have installed on your home computer (my guess: TrueType Chainsaw
    Massacre Smear Italics 48).
  • Why don’t you have the font installed on your home computer? 
    Apparently, you are writing the dissertation using a steno notebook and No. 2
    pencil.  Getting started involves tearing off and crumpling whole
    sheets of paper that you keep on the desk as you work–the origami of
    unshakeable frustration.
  • The offer: A "free" toolkit with everything a late-stage dissertator
    needs to know about "How Academia Messes with your Mind (and what to do
    about it)" and "Find out if you have Ph.D. Imposter Syndrome!"

What’s that? No, in fact, it’s nobody’s business whether I
ordered a toolkit. That’s not what this entry is about. Anyway, it’s my CCCC
presentation I’m struggling to complete today.

Call: CCCarnival

 First posted July 14, 2008.

Related entries:
Splitting Images
Kopelson’s “Sp(l)itting Images”
more thoughts on rhet/comp disciplinary futures
Response to Karen Kopelson’s “Sp(l)itting Images; or, Back to the Future of (Rhetoric and?) Composition”
New Echo, New Narcissus
Pedagogy of Rhet/Comp Job Market Imperatives
Carnival on Kopelson: The Pedagogical Imperative and Borrowing Theory
Spitting Images
Joining the CCCarnival: Kopelson’s “Sp(l)itting Images”

Kopelson’s Back to the Wall: Resisting Responsibility
Inversion and Dissolution
Theory and Interdisciplinarity: Kopelson Part Two
Kopelson carnival – my first take
CCC Carnival: Sp(l)itting Images
Kopelson (1): Stuck on paragraph 4
The Pedagogical Imperative: Kopelson Part I

Anyone interested in a carnival? After glancing the latest CCC
(59.4) at a coffee shop Saturday morning, I had the distinctive and lasting impression that
"Sp(l)itting Images; or, Back to the Future of (Rhetoric and?) Composition"
would be a good choice for a swarm of late July entries.  Kopelson’s
article covers a lot of ground, from a survey of grad students and faculty at
two institutions, to three of the chasms in the field (pedagogical imperative,
theory/practice split, and the brambles of identifying by varying ratios among
those two terms, rhetoric and composition), to a call for concerning ourselves
less with ourselves.  Ripe! because I endured a great range of responses
while reading it.

Here’s what I’m thinking: If you’re in, do what you can to post some sort of
response by one week from today–the 21st. I’ll try to keep tabs on all of
the links, but feel free to send a trackback. Then we can kick around
spin-offs, interjections, and retractions through the end of the month.

Also, here is how I will measure the success of the carnival:

12-15 participants: Wow.  There really is living comp/rhet blogosphere.
9-12 participants: Terrific.  Something told me the article was carnival
6-8 participants: Just great.  There is a value in reading what others
think (esp. while out to sea with the diss).
2-5 participants: Um, it’s late July.  What are you, on vacation?
0-1 participant: Witness spikes in traffic at E.W.M.


Kopelson, Karen. “Sp(l)itting
Images; or, Back to the Future of (Rhetoric and?) Composition.” CCC 59.4
(2008): 750-780. [Carnival]

Program Investment

With the weekend after my graduate program’s visiting days trailing to
a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about program ownership and investment.
Wednesday night through Saturday morning, we hosted a group of prospective
students, much like we do every year in late February or early March.
Because I was on the graduate committee last year, I was heavily involved in the
process, and two years ago, as a first-year student, I made every effort I could
to welcome the prospective students, to spend time with them, answer their
questions, and chat about the culture of our program, the styles of various
faculty members, the challenges that come along with teaching undergraduates at
SU, and so on. This year, however, I missed meeting any of the students on the
first day because they were scheduled for various meetings throughout the day
and the more casual evening events conflicted with an indoor soccer match on
Ph.’s schedule. The second day, Friday, was loaded up with my preparations for
the pre-CCCC talk. Finally, at the evening get-together and again at a
breakfast on Saturday morning, I had the chance to get to know each of them a
bit better. A terrific group, really. We’d be fortunate to have them

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