Sunday, February 12, 2006

Is This an Academic Blog or the Personal Blog of an Academic?

The Flag of Blogistan
Is This an Academc Blog or the Personal Blog of an Academic?

Scott asks here.

I answer: The latter.

I'm not ashamed to admit it. Just as I am humble and realistic enough to know that my chance of getting into a post-graduate law program where of the 10-15 slots, only 2-5 are reserved for aspiring American academics (not foreigners) are slim at best, I have the wherewithal to recognize that this blog is as much a venue for my personal demon-chasing as it is for my Serious and Considered Thoughts about The Nature of The Law.

I've blogged previously on why I choose to remain pseudonymous, but it's worth clarifying the nature and purpose of this blog.

I write for myself, my friends, the short-attention span of strangers, my slightly voyeuristic desire to share things of personal nature with strangers (without repercussion), my self-aggrandizing interest in declaring my opinions on politics and legal matters, and my academic interest in fleshing out a few ideas about say, free speech, and the relationship between hate speech and torts in an informal manner before I commit them to paper. Along the way, for myself, my non-law friends (and the strangers), I'll blog about something intensely personal--if only for the release it gives me, and also for the strangely enjoyable feeling of sharing too much. One of the joys in blogging is saying things that you probably wouldn't say in public (like G.I. Mohammed Jihad Action Figure--even though I used it to make fun of the culturally insensitive and their probable toys), or in polite conversation, or at a cocktail party. Needless to say, I don't want to be judged professionally for these types of remarks.
So for freedom of speech type reasons (I do not wish to self-censor, make this blog less than its intended purposes, be boring), I enjoy the freedom of anonymity. It's the best of both worlds so far. I can write about damn near anything I want. If I wanted to operate a purely "academic blog" or "blawg" (as law blogs are called), I could--but I'm not at the stage in my career where I have the expertise, doctrinal training, and well, status to do so. Thus, at some point, my ideas and analysis would be shown to be naive, inarticulate, shallow--and I don't want to be judged for that either. So let's wait until I'm at the dissertation stage of my Doctor of Juridical Science or PhD program before I use an academic blog to sound off my arguments. Even at that stage, I'd be wary. Ideas can be poached, and you can be judged for the early stages of your thinking/writing by search committees. I'd rather them read me as close to a final draft/published version as possible, especially in the legal field.
Thus, since it's not likely I'm going to write a purely academic blog any time soon (I guess I'll wait for tenure, see you in 10 years when I have or ), I may as well write whatever I want, be it personal or academic. I don't receive credit for what I write here, but I don't want to. If I want credit, I write "serious, scholarly articles" under my own name, or I comment/post/suggest tips on the dozens of other law professor blogs out there. Here I can just be a writer--I write for myself, hash out incomplete thoughts, personal opinions, and experiment with paper ideas. Everywhere else I am Future Academic Girl, making cautious remarks on federalism, the political psychology of African American voters, and employment discrimination. You tell me which is more fun to read if you're not a lawyer or writing exclusively for lawyers.
I've been open for business for a little over 2 weeks (since Jan. 27th), and this blog has reached it's 230th hit with an average of 17 a day, most from states/countries/IP addresses unfamiliar to me (and I blocked my own). I'm only on two blogrolls, so I'm wondering where all this traffic is from (most of the times, the entry page/referral is just my URL). I'm finding that my audience is wider than just the 6 friends I let in on it, the two blogfriends I've discovered (who also know Secret Identity)--I know this can't all be lawyers reading. Nor people who know my intimate history. Suffice it to say, they must be Strangers, who can't always be interested in the law, or in me--which is why I try to maintain a 50-50 balance between personal and academic. I don't know if it's the "woman" in me that makes me so confessional, intimate, personal--maybe it is. Maybe it's also that I'm a sharer, a decent storyteller, good at spinning yarn. I have weird enough stories, but I pride myself in the ability to turn a long story into a catchy line "So 5 years ago, the Feds busted up family monopoy night and arrested my brother for mail and wire fraud..."; "So one time, my father was so mad over how I kept leaving stray socks in the dryer, showing what a non-traditional Asian woman I was, he threatened to take all of my clothes and spread them out on the street for the garbage truck to run over...."--I figure, why not tell them? If I can remain anonymous and no one will never know who I am (well, except the two blogfriends). My real friends know that they're true, strangers can't tell if I'm making it up or not, and I like that feeling of uncertain authenticity. Best of all, my family and future employers will never know about it.
I wrote for about a year on Xanga (with a 5 month hiatus when I TA'd two classes), and there I got about 2-5 hits a day (so sad). I definitely toiled in obscurity. Unfortunately, some of my best posts are now lost to obscurity, but that's the casualty of moving. But it was my cheapness (I didn't want to pay $4 a month anymore for premium) and my desire to start a blog tabula rasa that led me to blogger. Whereas I was pretty much just writing a diary on Xanga, I wanted to make it more law-related and academic on my new blog. When I spent a week writing academic posts on free speech, I found that I missed being able to let off some steam, be silly, be personal, think about my non-law self. I think this blog is a balance between Legal Academic Belle and the more complete, faceted, complex Belle at least 6 other people reading this blog know, so I'll always try to maintain that balance.
Without the law, I'm nothing--no title, no credentials, no intellectual authority--but without the rest, I'm boring. I need to write about the law, becuase it's who I am, and it's what I do 16 hours a day--but it's not all I am. Lawyers are a dime a dozen. Law professors, a quarter or so. You want just another law blog by a lawyer or a legal academic? Or do you want one by a lawyer/legal academic who can tell you a story about how in her third year of law school she flew across the country for a vacation in Washington D.C. with her best friend without her Nazi, anti-fun, puritanical parents finding out? How when the plane shook with turbulence she thought that maybe the God that she didn't believe in was punishing her for filial inpiety for daring to have a vacation instead of studying 24/7?
The second, of course.