Friday, 8 December 2006

A Very Public Sociologist

Marx once noted that beginnings in science are always difficult. He ought to have tried blogging. Pioneering a whole new continent of social science is child’s play compared to the dilemmas aspiring bloggers face. First there is the question of what platform to use. For tech-neanderthals like me always whingeing about my precious time it had to be something simple. So I’ve gone with good old Blogger. My wife tells me the blogging community aren’t too keen on it. Being an avid photo blogger herself and techie whiz kid she recommended all this really fancy software. But the thing is technology scares me. I’ve only just mastered Yahoo Groups and that’s after moderating a successful forum there for nearly seven years. But who really gives a monkey’s about the “blogging community”? It reminds me of the internet in the late 90s when someone could look down on you for having an AOL account. Well I'm not about setting the blogging world alight with fancy bells and whistles so they’re welcome to their snobbery – my Bourdieusian game operates with entirely different stakes.

Which brings me to the next dilemma: what to call it? Should a blog name reflect your personality, your politics, your hobbies? Should it be broodingly serious, pretentious even? Of course it should. Contrived zaniness just isn’t me, but then neither is super seriousness. With this in mind two names popped into my head. The first was Workers’ Dreadnought after the best-named paper ever to have come out of Britain’s revolutionary movement. But at the same time it could suggest this blog be limited to socialist “issues”. If I wanted to have a moan about the vagaries of academic life then doing so on a blog purporting to be the vessel of working class aspirations would be inappropriate to say the least. I need my self-indulgences. The other was Activist/Scholar as it’s an upcoming term in sociological activisty academe, but come on, it is simply hideous. A blog that makes its author want to puke every time they log in can't be the best idea.

So why plump for ‘A Very Public Sociologist’? The title came to me while I was reading the debates erupting from within American sociology this last couple of years for my PhD. I won’t bore you with the details of the latter, well not just yet. Anyway this debate centred on then American Sociological Association president Michael Burawoy calling on sociologists to re-engage with non-academic publics with a view to raising the quality of debates in civil society. That and a call for sociologists to climb out their ivory towers and get stuck into (leftist) activism, and write about it. Well I’m a sociologist, a baby-eating communist active with the Socialist Party, and working on a thesis on far left activists. By Burawoy’s definition I’m already a public sociologist. And now I’ve elected to enter the blogosphere I guess I’m ‘very public’.

Perhaps I could have come up with something better but it will do.

What about the template? Well I'm not even going to go there for the moment.

The final decision to vex any intrepid blogger is what to write for their first post. Well as you can see it wasn't much of an issue for me. I can draw on that fine sociological tradition of saying a great deal about very little, which combined with the British left's equally cherished verbosity should mean that yours truly is a veritable word machine. But I do promise to write about interesting things from time to time. Honestly.


Darren said...

Good luck with the blog, Phil.

The third post is always the hardest. ;-)

Phil said...

Thanks! I've had to do some chrimbo shopping today but rest assured something will be appearing in the next 24 hours!

Anonymous said...

yo pbc

hows it going?!

just had a weekend in camden polemicising, then went to a nuneaton peoples protest group gig, hundreds at it, top bands, loving it.

drove back with the griffmeister, will reply your email soon, v soon.

all the best

l cain

Scott said...

Darren said
"The third post is always the hardest. ;-)"
nar, the hardest thing is to post stuff when you haven't really got the time to. Because if you don't then you will find that it becomes easyer and easyer to 'not get round to it' and then you give up.
Anyway good luck