Sunday, February 26, 2006

Jo(e)'s Pseudonymous Meme

Jo(e) over at Writing as Jo(e), responding to a series of posts about pseudonymous blogging by academics, started a meme. It's fascinating to read people's responses, which are being collected by K8 on this post.

Some of the answers I've been reading, especially those by New Kid on the Hallway, (also in the comments to Dr. Crazy's post about pseudonymous blogging). I'm also especially interested in Dr. Crazy's response, since she started a new blog in order to rethink her blogging persona (which she talked about in her final post on the old blog.) There, she talks about being "hemmed in" by the name and persona she's created in that space, which seems to simultaneously free and limit her expression. The old persona blogged about personal stuff in a way that then limited how she could use her academic authority, making it difficult for her to blog about her academic work in more specific ways.

I haven't theorized my practice nearly as well as New Kid, or Bitch PhD have. Nonetheless, I'm going to have a go at it.

Is your blogging persona more serious than your real life persona? I think perhaps my humor comes off a little better in person, at least I hope it does. When I started to blog, I had an idea of what a good blog was that was more narrative than my own blogging turned out to be. I still don't feel that I have a real focus to my blogging, and that sometimes bothers me. Is this a teaching blog, a Shakespeare/early modern blog (not so much these days, for sure), a professional issues blog, a feminist blog?

The one thing it's really not so far, is a personal blog. I think I've gone in the opposite direction from the original Dr. Crazy blog; I don't feel comfortable putting much personal information up. I'm ambivalent about those who do put up very personal information, at once admiring the openness, and at once wondering why one would share personal stuff with whoever stopped by through the internet.

My line at this point is weirdly that should family members ever discover the blog, while they might easily identify me in it, they wouldn't be hurt by anything they read. I try to hold a similar line with colleagues and students. It's not that hurting people with words is necessarily unfair, but if I'm going to use others in my words, I need to be up front about it with them so they can respond. The furthest I've pushed this line were references to the Deanling the other day; I think that's about as far as I'll go in that direction. The saving grace there, if any, is that the Deanling is in a position of relative power compared to me, so it's not like he wouldn't be able to respond, and doesn't have power to represent himself within the system.

One place I have real trouble with my Bardiac persona is in responding to other blogs. I think I sometimes sound more aggressive or strident than I intend, but then I question my own reading as gendered there. I've hesitated more and more often to respond on some blogs of late. I'm not sure most bloggers I respond to imagine Bardiac as a female persona, or care one way or another. I'm not sure what people who think of Bardiac as male think of my responses.

I find the creation of gendered personae in virtual venues pretty fascinating, anyway.

Do you think the only safe way an academic can write publicly is to write anonymously? Not at all. I think PZ Myers and Michael Berube are great examples of really superb academic blogs, more powerful because they're not pseudonymous. They're also both focused in really tight ways on one or a few issues. And of course, both have tenure. I don't think it's at all coincidental that both are male bloggers, either. Were I to write a blog under my own name, I'd focus much more tightly on my academic interests, and keep all mention of personal interactions out.

Do you think that your blog could ruin your career? Nope, not at this point, and not given what I tend to blog about. I can imagine my chair or a dean reading and realizing Bardiac was me, but I can't imagine the blog I write being held against me by those people. I don't think the higher up administrators would identify it as by me, though it's thinly veiled. And I don't think they'd much care about the things I blog about.

Do you use a pseudonym out of fear? Nope. Bardiac is a word I've used with students in Shakespeare classes, playing off the "Bard" image of Shakespeare people as idolators of a sort, and working against that with the "iac" of maniac. I think of it as a playful recognition and resistance toward the popular image of Shakespeareans; most of us, though, aren't idolators, but are much more interested in critical understanding than in oohing or aaahing at his works. There are times, though, when I ooh or aaah at stuff, because really, he's just danged good.

What is the biggest drawback to writing pseudonymously? That I can't use the more academic bits professionally, I suppose.

Has anyone stumbled on your blog and found it accidentally? Not that I know of. The separation of the Bardiac persona from my real name means that a quick and dirty Google search, the kind family members occasionally do, or students, won't hit my blog.

Have you outed yourself to any other bloggers? Yes, a couple.

Has your blog allowed you to experiment with writing? I don't think of my writing as very experimental. It has allowed me to brainstorm "out loud" with a wider group, which is wonderfully helpful.

Why do you use a pseudonym? The Google search thing, for one thing. And pseudonyms and creating personae is challenging, fun, interesting, all that. I've had different virtual personae, and it's completely fascinating to see how one communicates, and what people take away in impressions. And all the cool kids were doing it.

Jo(e)'s really astute comment that pseudonymous blogging pretty much limits our audience to other bloggers really resonates with me. I wouldn't have thought of that myself. I'm not sure that it's absolutely true, because I have a sense that the people who respond within a particular blogging community may generally be other bloggers, but that lots of people read blogs who aren't bloggers. Because most of them don't respond, maybe we don't "see" them as part of the community somehow?


  1. I find that I have a keen awareness of those unknown readers because some of them do pop up from time to time -- either through links from blogs I don't read, personal emails, or comments on "lurkers come out" type posts. It's weird not being able to see the whole audience and having a clear sense of the inner circle of the community (those who are "regulars"

  2. Hi Bardiac. I'm popping in from my self-imposed hiatus because I just *had* to respond to your version of this meme in particular. Why? Well, because I have to admit I thought you were male at first, at least when I read your comments elsewhere. But I don't think it had to do with your writing voice but with the gender-neutral name, which *I* assumed was male (which says more about me than you -- and really bugs me about myself, too). (I'm going to have to e-mail you about why this is a very funny, if annoying, mistake.)

    And I also wanted to respond to the "anon bloggers are only read by other bloggers thing." When I first started reading blogs regularly, I was mostly reading anon. blogs, long before I started my own blog. Was I already a blogger in the making? Perhaps. But I know that I've sucked in a few of the family and friends who read my blog, and now they're all reading a numbeer of the anon. blogs, too.

    But it may be that bloggers are the most likely regular commenters on most blogs.

  3. Anonymous4:39 AM

    count me among those who thought you were a male, too--a sensitive male, of course!

  4. Profgrrrrl, I really like it when lurkers come out, because I don't have much of a sense of who reads except for those who respond. I wish I did, though.

    Ooo, Dr. V! I'm going to have to rush off and read my other email!

    Anonymous, it's okay :) I'm just glad you thought I was a sensitive male!