June 16th, 2004

Fishy Circumstances

Choosing an audience

Who is your intended audience for your weblog? Yourself? Friends? A select group of friends for whom you lock your entries? Family? Professional colleagues? To what degree do you consider audience when you write your posts? How do you tell if you've reached the right audience? Do you ever think or even care about audience when it comes to writing online posts?

When I started writing this one, my intended audience was my family. It's evolved greatly along the way, and now my intended audience is much more inclusive. I write the most for my friends, but I also consider my family and colleagues in my posts. At the back of my mind I always think before making a public post: would I be willing to have a search committee twenty years from now read this post?

(I've been thinking a great deal about the social structures which work with writing this week. I haven't played with the poll function on LiveJournal before, but I'm slowly mentally designing one on the subject of writing and audience which I won't figure out or post until I'm no longer paying by the minute for almost-local dialup.)
Fishy Circumstances

The Fate of Dissertations

In the US and Canada, recent PhD graduates are strongly encouraged to turn their dissertation into a book. The process generally involves a substantial effort. Post-doctoral fellowships are often devoted to the process. It can take years. Publishing a book from the research which comprises the dissertation is useful for a number of reasons. The dissertation is original research and to publish it means that that knowledge is shared, more easily available to a broad audience than it would be just through the Proquest Dissertation service. For those contemplating or pursuing an academic career, the publication of a scholarly book is generally required in order to acquire tenure.

In Sweden, in contrast, publishing the dissertation as a book is part and parcel of the process of submission. All dissertations are published - as is - as a book, a proper publication with a buyable edition run. There is, therefore, a tendency to write the dissertation with a book in mind from the beginning, as it will achieve that form like it or not. Obscure dissertations on less popular topics with no additional grants to fund their publication might be published in a run of 200 by the university press. Enough grants, however, and the results can be beautiful, lavishly illustrated coffee table-type books in larger runs. The one I looked through earlier today was printed in a run of 1500, but also has a larger built-in audience. I don't know if the dissertation/book therefore has less status or employment merit in Sweden than the dissertation-revised-into-book does in North America, but some truly lovely books can result as a consequence - and the information is that much more accessible to a wider audience.

I know that in the UK, books are not so important for getting university jobs, although publications in general are still important.