Self-consciously following the example of PEA Soup, our friends at Brains ("a group blog on topics in the philosophy and science of mind") have announced a redesigned website as well as "beginning next month, Brains will begin hosting three symposia each year on selected articles from Mind & Language." (Full disclosure: among the first round of commentators is our very own Mohan.) Brains is also introducing a series of Featured Scholars--an idea generously borrowed from the folk at Flickers of Freedom ("an intellectual web community animated by a
shared intrigue regarding the fundamental questions of action, agency,
and free will.")
The Guardian on a roll this week (and there's one more coming!). Here is an interesting article on internet trolling. Short summary: "When people upset us online, it's too easy to label them trolls. We're all still learning the right ways to act in this space." In other words: apply the principle of charity generously, and be parsimonious with accusations of trolling.
It would be great to see some discussion on this here in comments, but keep it nice! No trolling and no premature trolling accusations, please.
Those who endorse and practice the Gendered Conference Campaign are often asked: why focus on gender instead of other under-represented groups, such as people of color, disabled or GLBTQ philosophers? This question comes up so often that I thought it might be worth trying to formulate an answer to it.
First of all, let me submit that we should worry about under-represented groups in philosophy specifically and predominantly with respect to groups that have been historically oppressed. A friend half-jokingly asked me why I do not worry about the under-representation of skate-boarders at philosophy conferences; without having to resort to essentialism, I suppose we can all agree that there is an important difference in historical background here. That women, members of certain ethnic groups, disabled people, GLBTQ people, and specific other groups have a long and complex history of systematic oppression and social injustice, in particular with respect to education and academia, is (I suppose) beyond doubt. So no, it is not any random, gerrymandered under-represented group that deserves the same focus; there are long histories of inequalities for specific groups that we are trying to catch up with.
Nigel Thrift is a very important researcher in geography, as well as being Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick. Here he comments on the link of blogs and SR:
For one thing that I have found really interesting about the turn to speculative realism is that is has clearly been fuelled by online communities which have turned above all to blogs as an important means of swapping material, revealing first thoughts, and making revisions. I doubt that the growth of speculative realism would have been so insistent without these communities scattered all over the world, or so rapid. Why?
He then offers five blog-related reasons for the quick SR spread. His conclusion about SR:
So did these blogs have an effect? I think that they did. In the case of speculative realism, they allowed the field to agglomerate more quickly than it otherwise would and to gain momentum faster than it otherwise would have. Get enough people to feel that they are in on something and they will want to diffuse it outwards. I think that they have also produced a field which is more heterodox than might otherwise have been the case, more willing to draw on traditions which were not avowedly philosophical: they contributed to an interdisciplinary formation which has one foot in philosophy but another in all manner of intellectual communities.
But his overall conclusion should also be of interest to us in light of the history of philosophy discussions we have had here (most recently this one on Beiser's NDPR review):
In other words, this chapter in intellectual history shows how a new variant of communication can have formative effects, and in fascinating ways. As a result of it and similar episodes in other fields, I am now quite sure that archiving the Internet is a worthwhile activity for intellectual historians of the future because, when the problem is reasonably well-specified, blogs can show communities worrying away at the issues in all but real time.
When should young philosophers (or young people in the humanities in general) have their own webpage? And what should they put on it? In this post on anonymity and pseudonymity I thought it at least possible that good blog comments could add to one’s brand name, or, in old-fashioned, less marketized terms, one’s reputation.
But when and how should one use the net for positive name-branding / reputation-building? When? I’d say the earlier the better. How? Or, in other words, what should go on a personal website?
Basically everything you would put in an application packet, and more: your CV, a statement on research, a statement on teaching, research papers, conference papers and Power Points (be sure you save them in PDF with reduced file size), syllabi for courses you have taught or would like to / are qualified to teach, course materials (outlines, study questions, exercises), even a videotape of your teaching.
Of course you have to beware spending so much time on a nice website that it distracts from the work of producing good stuff to put on there! Links to examples of good graduate student personal websites would be very helpful. Don't be shy; it kind of defeats the purpose...
At New APPS, although we encourage the use of real names,* we also allow anonymous and pseudonymous commenters. Most of the time there are no problems, but sometimes anonymity or pseudonymity allows for, (or even encourages?) trolling** or just plain jerkitude. (It's not that people can't be trolls or jerks with their own name; it's just been my experience that most trolls -- if not jerks -- take advantage of the cover of anonymity or pseudonymity.)
But even beyond the trollishness or jerkitude there's something annoying about anonymous or pseudonymous trolls / jerks: it's insulting to the named interlocutor, as if that person would try to exact some meatspace revenge on someone for a blog spat! Even if someone could (but how? Write a letter to their department chair or dissertation advisor?), that's a terribly insulting thing to say to someone that they are so petty that they would.
* when I entered the US university political economy of teaching, which I did as soon as I became a TA (for me, immediately post-BA), there was no blogosphere. (I didn't wear an onion on my belt, though.) So I never had to face the question of using my real name when commenting on blogs. Now this has probably been discussed at length among current graduate students, so forgive me if it's obvious or clueless or insensitive, but it's at least possible that commenting with your real name can help your brand name: write smart, serious / witty comments and you may, albeit very, very marginally, help your job prospects. But maybe I'm not sufficiently attuned to the relevant risk-reward calculations?
** The problem with most trolls is their mediocrity. A good troll is an artist, and I would be thrilled beyond words were the Prince of Trolls, Floyd Alvis Cooper, or the Dark Lord Himself, Venus_Montgomery, to visit New APPS.