Oso Raro’s essay at Slaves of Academe develops an interesting perspective on the nature and functions of academic blogging, and it has brought me back to thinking about why I wantyed to start a blog in the first place and what this blog will do for me.

When I began to think about creating a blog, the decisions about the blog’s identity and my own identity had to be made together. The way I looked at it, I could blog under my own name and limit the blog’s content to the same things I’d be happy talking about in a lecture room. I would not discuss my family, problems with co-workers, religion, etc. I think I would have even felt a bit awkward about discussing things like TV shows and hobbies. In short, I think if I was blogging under my own name then my blog’s content and identity would be oriented purely around my professional identity.

On the other hand, adopting a pseudonym – or perhaps, having an anonymous blog (since I realise I haven’t adopted a decent pseudonym yet) allows me to write about things that I would never discuss in any other public forum. Part of this is about avoiding real risks that I can see – the reality is that my workplace has been a difficult one to navigate in recent years, and I could not openly speak about those issues as myself without putting my livelihood in danger. But there is also a level of comfort associated with the anonymity of this form of blogging that does not relate to direct consequences. Even if it did not risk direct consequences for my job or any other aspect of my life, I would still be less comfortable writing openly about many issues if I knew that I was identifiable.

I suspect part of my reason for feeling this way is the same social anxiety that affects my ordinary life. I don’t like to be the focus of attention. When I participate in a discussion, to some extent I always worry about how others are evaluating me based on what I say or don’t say. When I write on a blog, without my personal identity available to the reader, you can only evaluate the content and I feel safer.

Of course, given that I work in a career path where megalomania and self-promotion can be useful tools for success, I am aware that I need to overcome these issues in my everyday life. But I still think blogging, and in particular adopting a “blog identity”, is (and will continute to be) a useful way to develop and share ideas that could not be replaced by other types of communication.