Back to the Blog, Quitting Everything Else


And I’m back. The time away for me has been enlightening, and has led me to think a bit about how the shift more generally from personal blogs to other platforms (like Facebook and Instagram) has changed our social media discourse. I’ll write more on that soon, but this is a more personal post about changing my practices on social media and in life.

I find myself as always at a crossroads. I like being a professor–sure, more some days than others, but generally I like the autonomy it provides. And receiving tenure should have provided me with even more of an ability to do the kinds of things I really like doing without having to worry much about what a promotion and tenure board would really like to see. The funny thing is that–sometimes to the consternation of my colleagues–I didn’t care much about that pre-tenure. Now, it seems like I am paralyzed by often doing things I think I should be doing instead of just doing the fun stuff I went into academia for in the first place. In other words, I’ve started caring way too much about what other people think, I suspect.


Along the way, I’ve also been joined by two young sons, who have their own demands on my time, and doing fun stuff more and more often means doing fun stuff with them. I am in some ways in awe of other researchers who are able to do it all–spend time with their family and remain focussed enough to produce influential bodies of research. I’ve decided I need to give up.

So, I’m going into semi-retirement, or taking a semi-sabbatical, or something. I’m kind of blowing up my “to do” list. I have a few things I’m going to write up, and turn to writing a new edition of my search engines book and some other stuff–but no more deadlines or timelines. I’ll finish stuff, and I’ll look to publish it.

And I’ll teach and worry a lot less about programs and departments and administration generally. I’m happily handing over my duties as interim grad director for our new MA in Social Technologies program to the amazing Greg Wise. I have stepped down as lead for the undergrad sociology and political science programs. After IR16, I am leaving the executive committee of the Association of Internet Researchers for the first time in more than a dozen years. While I haven’t done a spectacular job at any of those things, I like to think the contributions mattered. But they also took a lot of time.

While I am open to going up for full professor at some point, I’m going to be trying an experiment. First, I’m only going to do projects that I am really in love with and that I can foresee remaining relatively in love with until completed. That means saying “no” to a lot of projects that sound exciting, or that I am flattered to be asked to do, but that will ultimately feel like a chore. It also means I’m going to step back a bit from conferences. While I enjoy them, they are too often a large bite of time and money that seem to have limited returns. I’ve already been tapering these off, and often only attend one or two a year. I will certainly make exceptions, particularly for small meetings and workshops that seem like they have a real impact, or to give larger talks about my work.

Second, I’m going to chart my time, and limit myself to actually working 40 hour weeks, with very rare exceptions. That’s a bit crazy, but I want to prioritize spending time with my sons while they still want to spend time with me. I also want to make sure that work is actually productive. I will do a bit of cross-over–especially bits on learning with technology and the like will benefit from my unwilling test subjects. So there will be a bit of bleed-over. But I hope to really limit myself to those 40 hours for all of the things that are not “leisure.” Of course, this is cheating a bit, since I’ve just noted that a large portion of those 40 hours will be doing things I’m actually excited about: so not so much “work.”

I also hope that some part of that will be moving toward knowledge in areas where I am a novice. I’ve had free tuition to take courses at three universities over the last fifteen years, and haven’t really taken advantage of that. Nor have I taken the time to seriously engage in self-study toward new skills. I want to do that.

I’m also going to return to blogging and Twitter, and try to do a lot more in the open. That means previewing a lot of my writing here at the blog, and getting back to Twitter. I think it was awesome when Liz and I wrote a (sadly, unsuccessful) NSF proposal in public. I fully recognize that blogging is now dead–and as I said, I’ll be writing a bit about that. But it seems somehow appropriate that I blogged before it was cool, and now get to when it feels somehow anachronistic.

I thought about doing a redesign here at the blog. The theme isn’t really to my liking–it was never intended to actually be my theme. But I think at this stage that is yak-shaving. Instead, I’m just going to make sure that some part of those 40 hours each week is dedicated to putting words on screen here. Welcome to Web 4.0, which looks a lot like Web 2.0.

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One Comment

  1. Thom Gillespie
    Posted 6/14/2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    When blogging was new and big I rarely read blogs but as they became as you make-believe _anachronistic_ I seem to be reading more blogs regularly, but I think this has to do with blogs becoming more real and more personal, less about look_at_me and what I can do. What I seem to be doing is saving blogs that interest me with a single letter identifier in my favorites bar. You of course got saved as A. See if you can live up to your designation. Remember, you also have an ‘x’ in your name. 8-)

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