Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Publicity and Privacy

Many of us first-time bloggers have been much exercised by the issue of how much information we should be willing to disclose about ourselves on a publicly-accessible blog. Some of the others in the Tuesday group may recall that I quickly had second thoughts about the name I had chosen for my blog, once I realized how transparent it was and how readily I could be identified as its author. When I looked into the possibility of changing the name, though, it turned out to be more complicated than I’d expected, largely because so many of you had generously linked to my blog one way or another. It looked as if, even if I changed the name on my own site, the original name would leave traces elsewhere. This made the change seem pointless.

So I’ve kept the name, in all its transparency, and have since come to the conclusion that having a readily identifiable name is not necessarily a bad thing. The fact that I know that a reasonably knowledgeable reader could work out my identity very quickly means that I have an extra incentive to be quite circumspect in what I say here. If I thought my blog was safely anonymous, I might be much more indiscreet, which might then prove to be embarrassing if my identity were decoded by the wrong person.

The rule of thumb I have developed is that I should be willing to divulge on my blog anything I would be prepared to say to a well-informed student who’d expressed an interest. One of the things I find most attractive about blogs is the opportunity they provide for you to ruminate in (semi) public, thinking over the issues and – if you’re lucky – stimulating comments from others with similar interests. I am not interested in writing a blog which is just a dull stream of facts. The introspective aspect of the form is one of its chief advantages, in my view. But this, for me, has to be an introspection within limits.

Which is why I am prepared to say on my blog (but to say no more than this) that the reason I have not blogged for over a week is that I have been having family difficulties. I have been trying not to let these difficulties get in the way of my work, and the blogging, I’m afraid, has been the first casualty. I still see it as expendable – something I do for fun. It has not yet become central either to my teaching or my research.

Note that I say ‘yet’.


  1. I had exactly the same thoughts when I started blogging. Especially as I initially started out with an all-purpose blog where I wanted to chart my progress during my research leave (which didn't happen in the end...). But now that my 'other' blog is more dedicated to factual posts, I thought I'd need to make more explicit who I am. If you read a contribution to your field, you will only trust it if you can see an individual behind it.

    Just imagine, would you take seriously a journal article written by somebody calling themselves 'cool_dude764'?

  2. No. I'd think it was a student. A not very mature student, too.

  3. That 'yet' is very nice. I'm REALLY interested to see how your feelings have changed (or not) in, say, six months or a year. :-)