Why so serious?

Oct 09 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

The great thing about blogging is that you never know what each day is going to bring. A few days ago I wrote a post about a discussion among English profs highlighted in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Apparently my treatment was terribly unjust, as more than one commenter had their feelings hurt.


But out of no where came @tressieMCphd. Apparently, I took things too far when I said that adding "gate" (yes, even if it was meant tongue in cheek) to even the most boring and untimely discussions was stupid. I mean, clearly a lot of thought went into it. I said the same thing when the ecology community called their spat with Claira Jones "Ecolgate". It's jumped the shark that was jumping another shark, people, get over it. In any case, I had no idea who Tressie was until she jumped on me over twitter based on my "gate" comments and post hoc justified the hash.


However, Tressie wrote a post attacking everyone she perceived as not serious enough to participate in the discussion. Turns out that discussing anything on a blog that Tressie deems less important than things ending in "gate" is a valid reason to dismiss what you have to say. If you're not serious enough, you don't have a point*. I didn't follow the twitter discussion at the time because I was not suffering from insomnia, but the fact that it briefly delved into issues of privilege does not change my point: You. Can't. Control. Communication. Not by banning twitter at meetings and not by removing blog comments that disagree with you. We could have a discussion about controlling the ocean and it would be just as useful. Despite what you may find rude or insensitive, conversations will happen despite the medium. As has been acknowledged, this can open that process.

This is the heart of why a discussion of making social media policies** for conferences is so ridiculous. The information shared over twitter is information you can see. If you want to go all paranoid and worry about being scooped or judged, that isn't happening via twitter and it'll happen no matter what policies are in place if that's how your field rolls. The benefits of social media include wide dissemination and a public process. Those who fear having their talk tweeted need to ask themselves why. Like I've already said, if you're leaving yourself open to being scooped in your talk, twitter is not the problem. You are.

I tried to respond on Tressie's blog, but mysteriously, my comment never made it through moderation. I even posed "serious" questions. Of course, if it is normal in Tressie's field for people to make personal attacks and then refuse to acknowledge the response to those attacks, then maybe she has good reason to be wary of social media.

*This, BTW, seems to be a theme. Whereas that community seems to have made it to 2009, where social media and conferences is an issue, they have yet to make it to 2010 where "tone" really got discussed in depth.

**Yes, I realize GRCs and other "important" conferences have such policies, but to think the information isn't shared via alternative networks is naive.

5 responses so far

  • becca says:

    I think she's taking the conversation too seriously, although I am sympathetic to the notion that there might actually be a Digital Humanities Elite that gives a flying fig about the tone of the conversation. I can certainly buy the argument that she (as a woman of color, as an early career academic, perhaps as a humanist, perhaps as someone engaging under their real name) has more to loose by being seen as "unserious" than you do (as a man of unknown privilege status, a more established academic, perhaps as a scientist, perhaps as someone engaging psudeononymously).

    But on the substance, she's more right than you, now that you've taking your argument out to lalaland.
    She's not complaining that tweeting is always rude, she's noting a *specific* incidence where it can be.

    Your argument seems to be that it doesn't matter if it's rude, it will always happen, everywhere.
    Uh huh. Oh! of course, a couple out on a dinner date CANNOT set aside their cell phones because COMMUNICATION WILL HAPPEN on the internets! On the twitters! IT IS INEVITABLE! The Twitter is UNSTOPPABLE!

    Saying that perhaps everyone could agree to refrain from tweeting during a panel discussion in which they are a panelist, is simply not the same as Trying to Control Teh Internetz!!1!1!11!! You've exaggerated her positions to the point it wouldn't be worth it to engage with you, even aside from stylistic differences and differences as to what you have at stake.

  • Why don't all of you gibbering dumshittes put down the fucken twitter machine once in a while and actually pay fucken attention to what is happening in front of you, instead of twittering frantically trying to be the first to induce a pack of other gibbering dumshittes to read the goddamn gibberish you blithered?

  • Marko Snidovich says:

    Hey, where have you been the last 200 years of naval history? The ocean is under control, my friend. (Military historian speaking here.)

  • zb says:

    I have no idea what you're talking about, but am wondering what "meh" means. What does it mean, in this article, specifically, and more generally over the internets? Is it the same as "Whatever" (with the eye roll)?

  • Hermitage says:

    The hysteria induced by the snarky addition of "-gate" to a discussion solidly confirms that there is no CPP analogue amongst the bloggy humanities. If you're more worried than some yahoo from cyberspace is more likely the snipe your work than the actual fucking people at the same conference, who are presumably your peers, I think you have bigger problems (i.e. is my work that fucking boring?).

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