Online Publishing and the Tenure Question


(cross-posted from MediaCommons blog – feel free to comment here or there)

A number of recent blog posts on MediaCommons have been discussing the issue of what blogging and other forms of online publishing “count” for in the academic system of rewards. I’m personally quite invested in these questions, as I am under review for tenure this fall – as an active blogger and member of the MediaCommons community, how will such online work matter in my tenure review?  Of course, such decisions are not easy to parcel out by portion – I’ve published a book, numerous print essays in journals & anthologies, and have another book under contract, all of which provide evidence of traditional scholarly productivity that (hopefully!) warrants promotion & tenure.

But I do want to foreground my digital publication record and make a case for its legitimacy, if not for my own case then to help establish precedents for future candidates. So I’ve excerpted below the portions from my self-evaluation where I discuss these matters – in the spirit of peer-to-peer review, what do readers think about these statements? Any recommendations for revising before submitting my portfolio? And if any readers have been in similar situations of characterizing your digital publication record for hiring or tenure committees, share your stories!

While I am certainly invested in traditional scholarship published as monographs, book chapters, and refereed journal essays, I believe strongly in writing for a variety of audiences using multiple modes of address…. I am committed to publishing online through a range of venues. I have published a refereed article for the online journal Particip@tions, and was a columnist for the influential and widely cited media studies website I believe strongly that scholarship should be made accessible to a wide audience via online dissemination, and that scholarly writing about topics of broad interest like contemporary television should be written to invite readers into sophisticated arguments, not alienate them through overly-obscure language or barriers in accessing hard-to-find scholarly publications. Since November 2006, I have been writing a blog called Just TV , which features commentary about contemporary developments in media, as well as drafts and works-in-progress for my more formal writing. The blog has been a great avenue to network with a broader community of readers, averaging almost 100 pageviews a day and generating links from a number of prominent academic bloggers—this mode of engagement is certainly not meant to replace traditional scholarly publishing, but to supplement it as a way to develop a network of readers and generate feedback and investment in my research and ideas.

My scholarly work has led to a number of editorial opportunities… Last year I was invited to be a founding member of the editorial board of MediaCommons, an emerging scholarly network and publishing venue supported by the Institute for the Future of the Book and the MacArthur Foundation—through MediaCommons we are trying to envision how scholars can publish and communicate via “digital native” techniques, taking advantage of online media to rethink the processes of peer review, interactive commentary, alternative forms of rhetoric, and the temporal nature of scholarly publishing. I am also serving as the co-editor of a MediaCommons project developing a series of Casefiles as digitally published “serialized anthologies” focused on single popular culture series, including television series, comic books, genre fiction, and film franchises—in the coming year, I plan on proposing to edit a Casefile focused on an ongoing television series, as well as pursuing pre-publishing my narrative project through MediaCommons. I believe that as scholarship develops to adapt to the practices of online publishing, scholars will find that nontraditional models of academic presentation will become more valued and central to our profession—I am hoping to be an active participant in helping to shape these developments, providing a model of how to engage with a broad range of scholarly practices.

3 Responses to “Online Publishing and the Tenure Question”

  1. I like this statement–I was trying to say some similar things in my promotion cover letter but this puts it better. There are still some puzzles to resolve, such as how to give a listing of discrete publications or works that fit under the rubrics of the first paragraph on a c.v. or similar document. The asymmetry in this sense between “writing a blog” or “writing a column at Flow” and an article in a peer-reviewed journal is important to acknowledge. On the other hand, some of what I write in online contexts, though relatively spontaneous and broadly communicative, is “scholarly”, and I’d like to guide my colleagues to appreciating the difference between the kinds of publication I’m doing in these settings. I don’t want them to go to the blog on a day where I’m offering a more personal, casually political, or linking entry and mistake that for work that I want to claim as “scholarly”. On the other hand, the entire reason that a lot of online writing works to widen audiences as you describe is that it doesn’t always conform to the formalities of scholarly writing.

  2. 2 MichaelRoberts

    I agree with Timothy, if I’m reading him right. I think that my blogging, while at times as ‘scholarly’ as anything I’ll submit to a journal, is also full of kvetching about enough issues in my life, that I think there’s no way to actually point to my blog as an alternate source of “published work’
    I could make a discrete, alternate blog that solely contains my ‘work’.
    However, both the formal and informal bounce off each other w in my blog, in a way that aids the idea creating process and self-interrogatyes my worl……I don’t thinking splitting those sides up would benefit anyone, least of all myself…

  1. 1 Thoughts on Blogging for Tenure « Just TV

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