Posted by Jay Livingston
“People say they don’t want to read about your cat,” said Jeremy Freese, “but in fact the posts about your cat are the ones that get the most response.” (Or words to that effect.)
As Jeremy has pointed out, I got it all wrong. I’m starting over.
At the beginning of the Bloggers session, there was some light banter about blogging trivial, personal subjects – what you had for lunch, your cat, the sort of thing we don’t really want to be thought of as the core of our calling.
The ASA session was Blogs as a Forum for Public Sociology (in “the coveted 8:30 a.m. Tuesday slot” as Kieran Healy put it – or maybe Kieran was quoting someone else).
And that’s the catch: we want our blogs to be public sociology – the sort of thing MainStream Media people turn to when they need a spot analysis of some socially relevant topic. But the audience doesn’t seem to be MSM, at least not right now, and it does seem to have people who want our cat. Or as Jeremy says, “It turns out that, indeed, some people are interested in what you had for lunch, and might even be more interested in that than some serious post you spent a lot of time on.”
Chris Uggen made a similar point. His own blog is sometimes personal (kids, music, marathons) and sometimes public – accessible reporting and data on prisoners and former prisoners. Excellent stuff. So Chris, along with Michelle Inderbitzin, created a separate blog, Public Criminology, for these more public issues. “And nobody reads it.”
Chris was exaggerating I’m sure. “Nobody” is relative. Relative to Daily Kos (represented on the panel by Laura Clawson), PubCrim’s audience looks like nobody. But that audience may be larger than the readership of, say, this blog. (Yes, reader, you are among a select few – I sometimes think of this website as the unheard tree that falls in the blogosphere – and I wish I could figure out a way to increase that to an audience that is still select, but far more numerous. Unfortunately, I don’t have a cat. I can say, however, that my lunch of Buffalo chicken salad at the Heartland Brewery on 51st St. was truly awful.)
Maybe the best route to a widely heard, public sociology is the collective blog, like Crooked Timber (Eszter and Kieran) or Balkinization, the law blog represented on the panel by Kim Scheppele. That, and a lot of work at linking it to other places so that potential readers might find it.