Gedi Week 1: The Ethos is Strong with This One

When I teach Ethos to my composition classrooms I always ask my students for examples of people, publications or things with strong ethos, and people, publications, or things with a weak ethos. Blogs are always brought up as examples of a publication that possesses a weak ethos. From there we unpack that statement and eventually determine that blogs gain their ethos from the authors that write them. For example, Dr. Peter Cochran’s blog, which is almost universally respected as a great resource for those studying Lord Byron, possesses a strong ethos as it is written by a great scholar on Lord Byron. In contrast, the blog written by kittykat92834784391234897234891 probably isn’t the most reliable source regardless of the quality of content they produce.

With this in mind, I wonder where we fall on the blogging credibility scale. I’m sure it varies widely even within this class. Would the third year PhD candidate’s blog be more credible than my being a second year MA credentials? Probably. Would either of our blogs be accepted as a resource in a college research paper as a reliable source? Probably not. If our blogs are not considered a reliable academic source what worth do they hold in the realms of “facilitating academic collaboration, teaching and public engagement”?  The people Tim Hitchcock uses as examples already have academic credibility. They have that strong ethos I talk about in my classroom, and would then do a much better job at “facilitating academic collaboration…” etc.

Seth Godwin might argue that our credibility or our readership is not what is important, but I can’t buy into that completely. Maybe I could justify blogging about my research as practice for when I do have the credibility. At the moment, however, it seems that I would need to publish my work for it to be viewed as legitimate, and I think legitimacy is needed to accomplish Hitchcock’s goals.

If you are already a well respected scholar, I think that publishing work openly is awesome. It’s academic work in an easy to view, easy to read format that is comfortable for people who are not academics. Personally, I’ve benefited greatly from blogs such as Peter Cochran’s, and even been able to share posts with people who would never actually read a scholarly article I sent their way.

5 Replies to “Gedi Week 1: The Ethos is Strong with This One”

  1. Good questions here. I guess I don’t see the value of my blog just in terms of what other people think about it. I do have an audience in mind for most of what I write — most of the time when I post I’m either writing mainly for myself (to work through a particular issue or reflect on an experience) or in response to an encounter with a text, idea, group of learners, etc. The blog gives me the opportunity to extend a discussion or delve more deeply into something that came up in another context. I’m involved in several learning communities and the blog doesn’t engage all of them. If I had more time there might be multiple blogs, but I’ve chosen to be realistic about how much time I have and what I get out of blogging.
    On the topic of “credibility” — I think this is something you build as well. The blog you reference sounds very focused and specialized. It has a “strong ethos” and is much admired in certain circles. But there are lots of different kinds of circles — and blogs can be wonderful vehicles to develop networks and find nodes of professional interaction. Your blog won’t start out as the premiere authority on Byron, but it will be the premiere authority on where you are on a particular issue at a particular time. Thanks for this — I enjoyed reading it!

    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful response to my post. I think writing with yourself as an audience is great. I think it’s a wonderful way to work through ideas, and can lead you to conclusions that might surprise you. I don’t know if I see the benefit of using a blog for this type of writing though. I feel like a journal would serve the same purpose. Maybe it’s a matter of experience. All of my blogs have been required for classes and it feels like a chore, and many of the comments that get left come in just before the deadline for comments and the read like it was a chore to write them.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Jonathan. You bring up a great deal of thought behind what to do and what not to do…I wonder if you think there is value to you or me sharing our thoughts about the subjects we teach, for our students to be able to read it … for them to be able to figure out how passionate I am about helping others or what you think about the importance of ethos in composition…..?! Just wondering.

    1. You bring up a good point about our students being the audience. To them our ethos is probably pretty strong since we are designated as their teachers. I think that may change the ethos dynamic for them specifically, though it may not change it too much for students taking a similar course with a different instructor. I think ethos is very important in composition. If the author is unreliable, how reliable is the content of their writing?

  3. This raises some interesting issues for me, because it’s such a teleological idea you’re presenting–what is the end product of a study of ethics? Is it credibility? Is there some sort of sliding scale of credibility? I think that individual reputation is in some ways the victim of the compartmentalization of research. We all aspire to be well-known in our subfields, but the generalists are gone–there is no room for them in big science (or even in the humanities, for that matter). We even have to encourage our students to specialize, and in doing so, they are attaching themselves to a field and its ethos without perhaps considering the larger picture of what makes them credible and what their contributions can be.

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