My Own Personal Writer’s Strike…

Hi gang! I’m back after a somewhat longer hiatus from blogging than I had initially anticipated. I haven’t posted new content on the blog in almost a month. I’ve been joking to people that I declared my own personal writer’s strike.

In reality, my absence has been caused by several factors: for one thing, we’ve been transferring the blog to a new server and setting up some new systems which should allow us to post comments more promptly and should result in less frustration all around. But secondly, I have needed to focus my energy on catching up on some other writing projects including some significant revisions of Convergence Culture as NYU Press gets ready to issue the paperback edition of the book. And finally, I’ve spent the last week or so in Shanghai attending a conference on games and education. You will be seeing a burst of posts about my China experiences over the next week or so.

Now for the sad news: I’ve struggled for some time trying to figure out how I maintain the pace of this blog, given increased demands on my time on other fronts. The past few years have been transformative in my career, with each week opening up new opportunities. I have a bad habbit of saying yes when confronted with an interesting invitation or when given a chance to do something I’ve never done before. I am on the road someplace almost every week and I am trying to manage an expanding portfolio of research projects back at MIT.

When I first started the blog, the advice I got was that the only way to sustain such an activity was to take deadlines seriously. You should figure out how many times a week you want to post, set a schedule for yourself, and stick with it. Naively, I figured I could put out content five days a week and I promised myself that I would do my best to hold to that schedule for the first full year. I succeeded. In that first year, I didn’t miss a single day and I think the richness and diversity of my output speaks for itself. By last summer, I was finding it harder and harder to sustain that pace, but the Gender and Fan Culture series helped to reign in my panic because it meant that I needed to produce content for only three days a week. By the end of last term, I was having trouble doing that and so I missed some days there near the end of the year, which made me unhappy with life.

My new year’s resolution, thus, is to lower the pressure on myself a bit more by stating outright that I am going to be producing content three days a week. Some weeks I may be able to do better than that, but let me lower expectations a bit. I doubt that there are very many readers out there who fully read everything I post now.

Cutting back will have some impact on the diversity of what I can cover clearly and as it was, there were topics that I wanted to write about – J.K. Rowling’s outing of Dumbledore, the Writers’ Strike being two examples – which I just couldn’t find time to catch up on. So, this will still be a source of tension for me, but I think life will be better if I scale back just a little bit.

I have no desire to stop blogging, altogether. Have no fear. Doing this blogging has been an enormously rewarding experience for me. Almost everywhere I go these days, I meet people who are reading the blog and I love the chance to talk with them and get their perspectives about what I’ve written. I confess to being totally addicted to the various blog search engines especially with seeing what other bloggers have to add to the discussions we’ve started here. When I first graduated from college, my goal had been to become a professional journalist but I wasn’t able to find full time employment. In some ways, blogging has allowed me to merge the career I thought I wanted (as a journalist) with the career I have pursued (as a college professor). Writing in the blog has forced me to find ways to be even clearer and more accessible in my prose as I have been able to build up a readership here which is overwhelmingly composed of people who are not academics.

Through the interviews and guest blog posts, I have been able to expand public awareness of the work of many other media scholars and in the process, have helped to mentor them about what is involving in expanding the readership for their work. I have been able to use this blog to host important conversations in our field, such as the marathon series of exchanges on gender and fan culture we ran starting in the summer. I hope to hold other such conversations in the future. Hosting the blog has allowed me to share some of the outstanding work of my students and colleagues to a larger public and has given me a chance to collaborate with some alums of our program as they share their interests with this community.

The blog has had a huge impact on the admissions for our graduate program. More and more of the students applying understand what is unique about our program. As a result, we are getting students who are more motivated to take advantage of the opportunities we offer. They become regular readers of the blog once they are accepted and thus come to campus already feeling a part of the CMS community.

The blog has also helped our alums to feel more attachment to the program and maintain greater awareness of what we are trying to accomplish. The blog has helped to bridge between a range of different conversations about media change including those involving fans and gamers, within the brand and entertainment industries, among media literacy advocates, and among academic media researchers.

Having a regular channel through which to share my insights to the world has increased my professional visibility, calling my work to the attention of researchers in a range of different fields and dramatically increased speaking invitations. It has also allowed me to help set the agenda for how media gets covered in the press with a growing number of reporters using the topics we discuss here as a spring board for stories.

Convergence Culture has probably sold more copies than my other eleven books combined and I am certain a large portion of those sales can be traced back to the ways that this blog has increased public awareness of my work. In this case, as in many others, giving away a daily sample of my content for free has increased public interest and resulted in more book sales, not fewer. So, for these and countless other reasons. I am finding the time I pt into this blog as intensely rewarding. But I do need to cut back just a little on the time I put into this project if I am going to do justice to all of the other things people want me to do.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I see this blog as an experiment in how academics might use emerging technologies to expand their role as public intellectuals. For too long, academics were dependent on old media channels to get their ideas out to a larger public. One of my early blog posts centered on my concern that academic publishing had become a kind of ghetto which was cut off from the larger conversations which impacted our culture. I had hoped that blogging might provide an alternative means of circulating ideas and engaging in conversations.

In doing so, though, I did not want to give up on those things I value about academic writing — the ability to connect local or topical issues to much larger, more abstract concerns; the ability to dig into substantive issues in a deeper way than would be possible through a mass media channel; the ability to provide a historical context for contemporary developments or to deal comparatively with developments in different national contexts or within different media sectors. All of this requires depth and doesn’t result in the short posts which have typically characterized other forms of blogging.

The length of my posts remain one of the most controversial aspects of this blog. Some people bust me for writing too much, saying that what I do isn’t really blogging. For me, what makes blogging exciting is that when we step outside of commercial contexts, space limits become relatively arbitrary and people are free to do their own things using the new media platforms. In general, I find that my longer posts get more discussion, not less, despite those who insist that if I wrote shorter, I would have greater impact. I am finding blog posts are getting cited in academic papers because they gain some element of scholarly respectability even as they are being used as springboard for casual conversations among my regular readers because they maintain timeliness. I am going to try this year for some posts that are shorter but I don’t think I can or want to move away from the longer posts which have been an aspect of this site from the start. If you want shorter posts, there are many other very good blogs out there to read. And in any case, I try to write even my longer posts in modular units which make it easy for people to duck in, read as much as they want, skim through the rest.

We are still working on finalize the new comments mechanism for the site. Be patient a little longer and we hope to improve a situation which has long frustrated me and many of you.