I erased a post this morning, for the first time. I didn’t get rid of it altogether, because it’s OK. I just removed it from the schedule and saved it. I took it out of this blog because I realized it didn’t ‘fit. It probably wouldn’t, I guessed, interest many of the people who I think are patter readers. It answers back to a current policy and that’s not what I do here.
This gave me cause to think about the ‘I’ that writes this blog, and why. What’s the text work/identity work that’s accomplished here? [What and who is patter?]
The scholarly literatures on social media practice suggest public and private persona become blurred on-line. By private, they usually mean our ‘personal’ life and the things that we talk about in non-professional settings. By public, they generally mean an occupational association – academic, public intellectual, scientist, artist and so on. So it seems that people happily tweet about their cat and about the politics of academic life, about the weather and their research, about what they are eating for dinner and a new network they are setting up.
Of course, most of us have multiple private and multiple professional identities, it’s not a simple public/private binary. That’s where my decision to delete came from. Patter is a particular professional identity, and the deleted post came from another part of me – the academic concerned with what’s happening in English schools.
I do however have a strong sense that writing this blog brings some of my private professional work into a public arena.
First, it is a way of de-privatising the conversations I have in tutorials, in lecture rooms when teaching writing and research methods, in vivas and in corridors. This talk generally occurs behind closed doors out of sight of most other peers, and is always confined to who is physically present. So I try here to do a pedagogical kind of writing – but without some of the immediacy of comments and questions – although there are those, and lots more than on any other kinds of scholarly writing I do.
Second, it’s often about the kinds of things that I think ought to be more public than they are at present – this ranges from the hidden rules of getting a book proposal accepted, to the less-spoken-about conventions of academic writing.
But teaching is a big part of who I think I am. So the blog is also a way of recording and passing on some bits and pieces that I’ve developed as a teacher – because that’s what teachers do, develop bits and pieces, whether in schools or universities – to help doctoral researchers get on top of some of the tricky stuff.
Now these could go in a methods text. Indeed, some of them do. But the difference is that blogs can address mess and tensions and difficulties in a far more relaxed way than a book. The book writing ‘voice’ that I use when writing about writing or research methods is less friendly, more like a formal lecture than a chat in my office or at the supermarket.
The blog attempts to capture that level of informality. The blog feels much more a manifestation of the teacherly aspect of ‘me’ than any methods text I’ve been involved in.
Featured in The Guardian last weekend discussing creative writing courses, Rachel Cusk suggested
The desire to be a published author is perhaps no more than a desire to be “there” permanently, all the time. What the student gets out of a writing workshop is a feeling of being “there” for a couple of hours, the beginning of a process by which “there” – writing – can become a more concrete aspect of identity.
Her words are pretty relevant to my reasons for blogging. Teaching conversations are transitory, here one moment, gone the next. They are confined to an institutional setting, a set place/time. Patter blog is a way of making this fleeting talk into a ‘there’, congealing at least enough of the way I approach the pedagogies of scholarship to allow me to think that it is a fair representation of me – I hope it’s as a pedagogically inclined academic colleague, and one who is accessible all day/all night in ways that I physically can’t manage.
So that’s why I had to delete my rant to Michael Gove. It just wasn’t the ‘me’ of this blog.
But what about other bloggers – are there things you just wouldn’t write about, and if so, what and why?