Today I’m reflecting on the faculty listserv. Not to worry – I won’t re-hash an internal controversy in a public space, but the juxtaposition of the old-fashioned listserv and the new digital forms of engagement that we are thinking through in this forum is making a few things apparent to me.
- Old fashioned thinkers use old fashioned media and I don’t want to be one of them. We are having a conversation about gender equity on twitter. It feels like its been going on forever – years at least. Words like “mansplaining” and “himterrupt” are commonplace and understood, even though they are not in Webster’s Dictionary. I’m on twitter, and I honestly thought everyone in the whole world was familiar with these ideas – even though the same people that think climate change, reproductive justice, and gun laws are a-ok also think the behavior is fine and in some sort of service to the cosmic order of things. Turns out, no. On the listserv people say really well-intentioned things that make it obvious that none of these ideas had ever even occurred to them. Not a single time. SMH.
- The public is as big as the technology allows it to be. Twitter has been around for 10 years and has 974 million members. The listserv has probably been active for at least twice that long in some form or another, and has exactly 226 members (I just looked). Writing on both is considered “being in public.” I am thinking this through metaphorically. If my public is 1/8 of the world’s population, and your public is 226 people who live and work in the same place as you do, we have very different ideas of what constitutes engagement. And our scholarship is probably very different. But really, its the way we see the world that is different. If I have a digital presence, then my ideas must past muster with the world’s conversation. If I don’t, I have the listserv.
- Someone who I know on twitter and on the listserv impressed me on the listserv. This is an ally. On twitter. I don’t always know that that transfers to real life. I can’t particularly think of examples in which people that seemed like allies in the cyberworld were enemies in the real one – but sometimes people’s avatars are more opinionated than they themselves are. But the listserv feels like this in between place. And when this person made a listserv point that completely mirrored the point they would have made on twitter, I was super pleased. And I felt like having the digital presence cemented the ally identity so that it was more likely to appear on the listserv. But what of people that only have the listserv?
Anyway, I’m really glad I was in this class. Because none of the things above would have been visible to me if I wasn’t reflecting on the relationship between digital and real life at the same time.