Taxonomies of the unblogable

The department has invited several people to give job talks this week and next. No, I won’t say how many. No, I won’t say who. No, I won’t say where they are from. But I can tell you that there were job talks, and there will be more of them.

It’s not as though this is really private information. In fact, we have been desperately trying to get as many grad students in the department as possible to attend so that they can give us their impressions. So, there are fliers that I printed up and posted all over the department saying who’s coming and when. All of the candidates therefore know who is visiting, at least in this round.

And I so want to write about today’s talk. The person is looking at some interesting things, and seems like he (ah, a single bit of information–or more if you see gender as more than binary) would be a good fit to the department. Too early to say where he stands, but certainly he was worth inviting out. His presentation is online, and I could tell you the URL, but I won’t.

Why not? I suppose I could ask him if it was OK, and he might say yes (though, naturally, there is a potential power dynamic there that might compel him to respond this way). Increasing the information flow can work to the disadvantage of either party, or sometimes both. If everyone was frank about their interest in a candidate, it would provide that candidate with a nice bargaining position. On the other hand, though none of the candidates we talked to asked specifically for us to keep their applications quiet, I suspect that some might prefer it that way.

Folks seem so interested in what people blog. I find perhaps more interesting what they won’t. Liz’s recent post about not blogging personal family events describes one part of her taxonomy of the unblogable. Others might find such stories fair game if they wrote them in a way that was not personally identifiable. Very little seems unblogable to livejournalers.

This entry has no clean ending. I am wondering, at this point, whether I consider tired, unedited ramblings blogable. I guess I do.

Update: Just after posting this, I find a related item on Invisible’s blog. He (I can’t remember why, right now, but I think I ran into something that would suggest it is a he) warns those who send email about the academic market that, unless otherwise indicated, he will consider the stories fit for public consumption.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted 4/26/2003 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Pretty sure IA is a she, not a he.

  2. Alex
    Posted 4/26/2003 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Hm. I don’t know why I thought otherwise. I should have just stuck with my default pronouns (she and her).

    These defaults bug some people, because they read far more into my choice than I think I load them with. This really comes out on exams.

    The last time I taught media law, I included a homework question that had a male attorney and female judge. Several students complained when they didn’t do well that the question was ambiguous and difficult. Upon re-reading, I found that the only thing that was “confusing” was that the judge was a woman. Just as the “surgeon’s kid” puzzle is a kind of Garfinkling, I think a consistent use of her and she when the gender is ambiguous or universal, is a far more useful tactic than s/he or “his or her,” and similar constructions.

    This semester, I faced grading exams in which a number of (male) students objected to my use of “if an editor has knowledge of the event, must she…” (or similar), and answered “He or she”–often with the “he” underlined. Turnabout is not fair play, apparently.

  3. Posted 4/27/2003 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    You’re not the only blogger to have referred to me as a “he.” Not sure why this is. But Liz is right: I’m a “she.” No big deal, though.

  4. Posted 4/27/2003 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I thought IA has referred to her husband before which doesn’t rule out being a he in some places and for some people, but that word is rarely used for a partner if IA was really a he so I figured she was a she. If IA now tells us she’s not married then I’ll be confused.:)

    As for the unblogable, I think you covered something similar earlier. I noted back then, I think, that I don’t blog much about other people before asking because that should be their call. I respect others’ privacy. I also think that I’d quickly lose people’s trust re pretty much _anything_ if suddenly I started blogging random bits of their lives b/c they could never be sure whether what they tell me next will be blogged.. and it would become tedious to have to add a disclaimer to every interaction.

  5. Posted 4/27/2003 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    As for making public who’s interviewing at your school, I don’t think you should. I haven’t thought this through fully, but I do think there are some privacy considerations. I interviewed at a school this past job market which did post publicly on its Web site all the speakers without asking us about it. I thought it was a bit weird. Not only does everyone know you’re interviewing there, people also know who they’re up against. I think it gets tricky b/c if you don’t end up there then people will guess that you either didn’t get the offer or you decided not to go for some reason and that leads to all sorts of second-guessing.

    That said, I think the process should be less cryptic. I wish depts would be more open about _when_ they have started calling people in so candidates know a bit more about where they stand. We were pretty lucky about this in my dept with my friends this past fall b/c 1. four of us communicated about the whole thing and were very friendly about it; 2. between the four of us we heard from enough places that we had a fairly good sense of how the market was progressing. But in complete isolation, I think it’s pretty stressful (well, it’s stressful regardless, it’s just more stressful that way).

  6. Posted 4/27/2003 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    All part of my dastardly plan to uncover the hidden identity of IA one bit at a time (kidding…).

    In this case, I was responsible for letting the candidates know who else was speaking. We had job talks every morning for a week solid (we are hiring for 2 or 3 positions, on pretty short notice), so in order to let the grad students know who was coming, I put them all on the same flier, which was posted in the halls.

    I know this might be intimidating, in some ways, but on the other hand, chances are you know at least some of the people in your field doing similar work and also on the market. You also know how ambiguous the idea of the “best” candidate can be. So it seems like knowledge of who else is interviewing might not be all that harrowing.

    More harrowing, perhaps, is the public rejection. Given that rejection is by far the most normal outcome of this process, it seems silly to be ashamed of it, but I know I didn’t want to advertise which jobs sent me the form rejection letter.

  7. Posted 4/27/2003 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    I think that LiveJournal has a bit of a different tilt than most stand-alone blogs, which is why you see a different type of blogging.

    (time for full disclosure, I myself use LiveJournal for my “blog”, so I’m not without bias. Then again, nobody is)

    LiveJournal seems to lean more towards being a daily log of events than a way to publish news tidbits or other issues of substance to people other than the blogger themselves. Their own tagline would seem to support this as well – “Let the world know the story of your life, as it happens! (Whether they want to or not!)”

    Many of their features also allow this more personal angle, such as a “Friends’ Journals” page where all the entries of people who you mark as friends are collected. I realize that this can easily be done using an XML/RDF aggregator, however its easier when the feature is built into the site itself.

    More significant ( and touching on the part of what’s bloggable ) is the security features which LiveJournal offers. I can specify an entry be viewable to the public, to only people I mark as ‘friends’, and even to specific groups of friends. As far as I know, this kind of security isn’t available with stand-alone blog software, unless you grafted a kind of login system on top of it.

    Finally, there’s going to be a larger cross section of people using LiveJournal than people who setup their own blogging software. As LiveJournal is easier to use, you’re more apt to find idiots there. There really is the whole range of people who blog with LiveJournal – from those who can barely manage coherent english, to those who write somewhat well about their daily lives, to those who comment coherently on a variety of different things.

  8. Posted 4/27/2003 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m a she with a husband who is a he, and a 22-month old son who is also a he. That should help narrow the field for you, Alex :)

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