sbenthall's scrap blog
The behaviours that make us human are not professional. Honesty, frankness, humour, emotionality, embracing the moment, speaking up for what you believe, affection, sincerity. Quoting extremely offensive trolls. These are all things that will make some people love you and others hate you. When you get more attention, these aspects of your personality fuel the inevitable backlash. As your audience grows, the chance of any given action triggering criticism asymptotically approaches 100%.
“If you want to get better at what you do, and you want to make better things, you are going to have to make your peace with the fact that it’s going to be out there. People are going to think what they think of it, and you have to decide what their response to it has to do with what you decide to do next. I would hope that strangers not liking what you do is not going to stop you from doing things you want in the way that you want.”
- Merlin Mann, Back to Work #149
I’m not entirely in love with the reblog (and the quote post) at the moment - hence a slight lull in Tumblr activity. They feel… noisy and a bit pointless: everyone shouting and shouting about how we ought to go and read some other article, somewhere over there. Shouldn’t we be trying to write the thing worth reading, not just the signpost toward it?
But of course sometimes there are ideas we want to share. In order to make them Minimum Viable Blog Post, there’s one question the blogger can answer, and that’s “Why did I want to share this with you?”
Why did I want to share this with you?
Well, clearly something resonated. It’s a few days after I saved the draft above on Tumblr, and I ended up talking about this on Twitter tonight. This was why I wanted to share this with you - I don’t know what to call it exactly, perhaps -
On Tweeting In Public
U know when you write something weird/speculative & u just wanna caveat yr tweet, “This is for this group of ppl. Rest of you just ignore” 
Even the txtspeak in my last tweet says (to me, at least) that I am addressing a certain community & this isn’t aimed at all. 
Because you can’t address 2400 people in the same way. Cannot be done. Anything interesting you say will inevitably alienate/annoy someone 
My more political followers may call me up on it, this has happened. The marketers just stay hush but the professional consequences worry me 
I don’t want Google+ circles though - or even custom FB friends settings. There’s value to speaking in public that means we take these risks 
But really it’s a desire to be read but not necessarily judged - impossible! 
“I have experimented with @replying people I reasonably suspect will be a mutual follow for the right group.”
This is a good idea - @justinpickard or @jessedarling have 100+ mutual followers to me, but the intersection selects for a much more specific group.
“Context. “This is not the content you’re looking for, but you’re welcome as a guest; know that this is a foreign country of me..”’
No, not not-judged, just judged within the context it’s intended to be read in. But twitter collapses contexts, superlatively.”
Ella got it: you wanna be “judged within the context it’s intended to be read in.” My Tumblr piece used Derrida as a “here be dragons”… ..a lil bit of theory-dropping as if to signal “If this isn’t familiar, realise that what I’m writing isn’t for you.” Theory to alienate :\ [8, 9]
But also for legitimacy, to make it ok (literary) to say the word “phallic” in public. Cos nice marketers probably shouldn’t…
I studied social anthropology. We had lectures on “the deep psychological identification of Balinese men with their cocks” (Clifford Geertz, 1973 p.417) and endonecrophagy (go on, Google it). As a result, there is very little I regard as outside the realm of polite discourse. But I gather YMMV.
Ok, so why do this? Why talk about interesting weird things in public that you’re not sure will always be received quite right? 
- As mentioned, a value to speaking in public - namely that of weak links and serendipity 
- The Network Shall Provide. The guiding logic of my digital peer group. You get further by entertaining it than by placating institutions.
- Unprofessionalism, or People Build Relationships With People (not Marketing Week Retweeting Bots). cc Allen Pike:
"Unprofessionalism: taking my humanity just as seriously as I take my profession. It generates a lot more feedback. I encourage you to try." [14, 15]
- Sometimes you’ve gotta experiment in public. Release early, release often. You learn much, much faster. 
- Because it might provoke an interesting response 
The principle of idealist aesthetics, purposiveness without purpose, reverses the schema socially adopted by bourgeois art: purposelessness for purposes dictated by the market. In the demand for entertainment and relaxation, purpose has finally consumed the realm of the purposeless. But as the demand for the martketability of art has become total, a shift in the inner economic composition of cultural commodities is becoming apparent. For the use which is made of the work of art in antagonistic society is largely that of confirming the very existence of the useless, which art’s total subsumption under usefulness has abolished. In adapting itself entirely to need, the work of art defrauds human beings in advance of the liberation from the principle of utility which it is supposed to bring about. What might be called use value in the reception of cultural assets is being replaced by exchange value; enjoyment is giving way to being there and being in the know, connoisseurship by enhanced prestige. The consumer becomes the ideology of the amusement industry, whose institutions he or she cannot escape. One has to have seen Mrs. Miniver, just as one must subscribe to Life and Time. Everything is perceived only from the point of view that it can serve as something else, however vaguely that other thing might be envisaged. Everything has value only in so far as it can be exchanged, not in so far as it is something in itself. For consumers the use value of art, its essence, is a fetish, and the fetish—the social valuation which they mistake for the merit of works of art—becomes its only use value, the only quality they enjoy. In this way the commodity character of art disintegrates just as it is fully realized. Art becomes a species of commodity, worked up and adapted to industrial production, saleable and exchangeable; but art as the species of commodity which exists in order to be sold yet not for sale becomes something hypocritically unsaleable as soon as the business transaction is no longer merely its intention but its sole principle. The Toscanini performance on the radio is, in a sense, unsaleable. One listens to it for nothing, and each note of the symphony is accompanied, as it were, by the sublime advertisement that the symphony is not being interrupted by advertisements—“This concert is brought to you as a public service.” The deception takes places indirectly via the profit of all the united automobile and soap manufacturers, on whose payments the stations survive, and, of course, via the increased sales of the electrical industry as the producer of receiver sets.
Horkheimer and Adorno, The Dialectic of Enlightenment
Louis Menand on academia and public culture
Still, as is the case with every potential reform in academic life, there are perils. The world of knowledge production is a marketplace, but it is a very special marketplace, with its own practices, its own values, and its own rules. A lot has changed in higher education in the last 50 years. What has not changed is the delicate and somewhat paradoxical relation in which the university stands to the general culture. It is important for research and teaching to be relevant, for the university to engage with the public culture and to design its investigative paradigms with actual social and cultural life in view. That is, in fact, what most professors try to do—even when they feel inhibited from saying so by the taboo against instrumentalist and presentist talk. Professors teach what they teach because they believe that it makes a difference. To continue to do this, academic inquiry, at least in some fields, may need to become less exclusionary and more holistic. That may be the road down which the debates I have been describing are taking higher education.
But at the end of this road there is a danger, which is that the culture of the university will become just an echo of the public culture. That would be a catastrophe. It is the academic’s job in a free society to serve the public culture by asking questions the public doesn’t want to ask, investigating subjects it cannot or will not investigate, and accommodating voices it fails or refuses to accommodate. Academics need to look to the world to see what kind of teaching and research needs to be done, and how they might better train and organize themselves to do it. But they need to ignore the world’s demand that they reproduce its self-image.
Louis Menand, The PhD Problem