The first anniversary of the launch of this blog passed quietly a couple of weeks ago. (The blog space existed as far back as May of 2008, but I didn’t put up my first substantive post until last December.) Since it’s coming around to the end of December and I’m about to take a holiday for a couple of weeks (though I might try to round up a guest blog or two), I thought it appropriate to provide some reflections on the first year of this blog, accompanied by some statistics about its growth and a thought or two about its future.
1) Blogging is enjoyable
So much should be obvious… Blogging provides the cheap and quick satisfaction of seeing one’s thinking materialized as an object out there in the public world of internet space. It’s a bit like having your own op-ed column, but with no restrictions on length, style, format, etc. And unlike other forms of publishing, there’s no need to send queries out to editors, wait days or months for feedback, revisions, and all the rest.
It also allows one’s thinking to take on multiple forms — textual and visual/graphic, conventional and experimental. It provides an easy forum for artistic expression, which can be as simple as the appearance of the blog, the choice of fonts, imagery, etc. Philosopher Graham Harman has kindly referred to this blog as “that visually soothing elvish forest of the blogosphere.” Providing a soothing elvish forest to anyone visiting is one of the best things I can hope to have done here. (Thanks for the kind words, Graham.)
2) Blogging helps thinking
A question most academics would ask themselves is whether, or to what extent, blogging takes away from one’s time for the scholarly work that gets counted in one’s workload and in the tenure review process. There’s been a fair bit of discussion (easy to find online) about the virtues and pitfalls of academic blogs, but I’m convinced that the benefits outweigh the risks — as long as you realize that the ease of blog posting does not get you off the hook for ill-considered and irresponsible speech. Blogging is public speech, and it can be used against you. But the more people are doing it, the less sense it makes to worry about it.
No one considers a blog post to be “research,” but it can constitute a form of public communication and outreach (which my school and program both claim to value, so I’m taking them up on that claim — something I’d be less confident about it if I didn’t have tenure). Blogging allows one to reach out to different audiences and connect with conversations that may or may not be connected already. The number of readers, subscribers, and active participants and commenters this blog has attracted over the past year convinces me that blogs can reach readers one couldn’t possibly reach by other means, and that this can contribute to rewarding interdisciplinary and cross-audience conversations.
For instance, several prospective graduate students have contacted me after following the blog for a while. Editors of a couple of journals have invited me to write or edit something based on a blog post I had written or a cross-blog conversation I had been part of. A few of these are somewhere in the process of moving towards publication. An interview on another blog (Paul Ennis’s) is supposed to come out as a chapter in a book of interviews with online philosophers. I probably wouldn’t even be aware of the “speculative realists” (philosophers like Harman, Bryant, Bogost, and others) if it weren’t for their blogs, and it’s doubtful that they would be a “movement” if not for the internet; my being included among them in Ennis’s project is something I couldn’t have anticipated. If, as a result, Continental philosophy takes an extra step or two towards some form of ecological realism, or vice versa, that’s a good thing.
The conversations that develop between blogs and, in the process, between ideas, can be very generative. Blogging speeds up the communal process of thinking — which is what academe is supposed to be about. And it breaks down the barriers between the ivory tower and its surrounding world — which is its greatest strength.
3) But it’s no substitute for living (cyberspace is a sandbox)
It’s not that there aren’t boundaries, though — blogging is still limited by the extent of the internet, which doesn’t reach everywhere, and never will. And speeding up is not an uncontestable virtue. When we push beyond outdated speed limits, we can lose some of the depth and character of our thinking, and of our relations with others. We can lose a sense of the texture of life around us — the texture of flesh, bones, breath, gestures and glances, cheeks in the wind, sneakers on the playground, arms and legs in the river, smiles and sunsets that have never had a camera pointed at them.
Blogging, really, is no big deal: anyone with an e-mail address can do it. The vast majority of blogs reach few people and contribute little to public discussions. And one of the big risks of blogs, like other forms of electronic communication, is that they can mislead you into thinking that you’re having an impact — because a smattering of people agree with you — when the only thing that’s happened is that you’ve found that smattering of people, spread around the world, who agree with you. But so has everyone else, including those who would disagree with you violently — and their opinions are probably multiplying at the same speed as yours.
Blogging and on-line conversation are no substitute for engaging with your neighbors and the other folks you share a town, a city, a region, state, or province, and a country with. But as a way of engaging with some of those you share a planet with, it can help.
And like web surfing and e-mail or Facebook or blog-feed reading, blogging can be addictive. One should resist that, if only by keeping it in perspective. Which raises the question: Should this (so far) one-year experiment continue?
4) Immanence: Some statistics
In its first year, Immanence featured around 140 posts, many of them short, some of them little more than a photo and a paragraph or two, but some of them long. The record for the longest was my review of Graham Harman’s book The Prince of Networks, part two of a series, which was also the post that first began the blog’s accruing of a (marginally) respectable number of comments. A couple of hundred comments have now been published, with perhaps four times as many (most of them blog spam) coming in but left unpublished.
Readership has climbed steadily over the course of the year. Thanks to SiteMeter, which I just started using several days ago, I now know that the number of unique visitors to the site (however they detect that) ranges from about 40 on a slow day, such as last Wednesday, when it had been over a week since my last post, to close to 200 on an active blogging day (like yesterday). The majority of visitors come from the U.S., but many come from Canada, the U.K., and around the world. Just in the last few days, visitors have come from Italy, Ireland, Turkey, France, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, Finland, Romania, Korea, Greece, Spain, Israel, Iceland, South Africa, Venezuela, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Slovenia, Belgium, China, Sri Lanka, Serbia, India, and places unknown.
I have general statistics from StatCounter on visits to the main blog page — not to individual blog posts or category pages — going back to the beginning of July. Over a five-month period, the blog’s main page went from weekly figures of 222 pageloads (including my own), 157 unique visitors, and 133 first time visitors in early July, to well over 300 pageloads — no longer including my own — and 200+ unique visitors and 175+ first time visitors in the last week of November (not a particularly active week). The highest activity weeks came in mid and late September, reaching around 500 pageloads and 270 unique visitors per week. Site Meter tells me that more than two-thirds of visits to the blog are not to the main page but to other pages (usually individual posts, but sometimes to one of the eight category pages), so the figures in the last paragraph should be roughly tripled to get a conservative estimate of total blog visitors. Cross-checked against the recent SiteMeter figures, this works out to several hundred visitors and some 1500 page loads a week.
Then there are the numbers for readers who get the blog feed in a feed reader. GoogleReader tells me that I now have 62 subscribers there. It’s humbling to compare this with the big environmental and cultural blogs: WorldChanging has 13,273 subscribers (!), Grist and Andy Revkin’s New York Times Dot Earth both have around 10,000, and anthropology megablog Savage Minds has 4,500. Among the top individual scholar-bloggers that I follow, Steven Shaviro’s Pinocchio Theory has 856 subscribers, Levi Bryant’s Larval Subjects has 530, Jodi Dean’s i cite has 344, and Graham Harman’s Object-Oriented Philosophy has 264.
Immanence, by comparison, is somewhere in the middle range of the blogs I subscribe to, but this makes it more widely subscribed than any eco-cultural theory blog I’m aware of, with the possible exceptions of Space & Culture (affiliated with the journal of that name, which is more about “social space” than “eco-cultural” theory), Tim Morton’s Ecology Without Nature (which has 65), and a couple of critical animal studies blogs, Critical Animal (87) and Inhumanities (93), if you include them in this category. And Immanence gets a moderately respectable 33% from SEOmoz’s Trifecta for its main page strength, and 25% for its overall blog strength — which, for an individual and non-professional blog that’s only a year old, seems pretty good.
As for who visits Immanence, I don’t keep those kinds of details (and I’m not sure how I could or why I should), but I do know how most of the visitors get here. Some arrive directly from Google, after either searching for one thing or another, or sometimes from typing in “immanence” or my name or something related in the search box. Many come from one of the numerous other blogs that kindly link to this one, such as Frames/Sing, Another Heidegger Blog, Critical Animal, Pagan Metaphysics, Indications (where I occasionally post), Ian Bogost’s Speculative Realism blog aggregator, Inhumanities, Side-Effects, Perverse Egalitarianism, Deontologistics, The Wild Hunt, Ecology Without Nature, Speculative Heresy, Best Green Blogs, The Whim, Total Assault on Culture, Violent Signs, and others — many thanks to all of them for linking to Immanence. (See the blogroll in the right column of the Immanence main page for links to all of these lovely sites.) And some come from Facebook, Twitter, or other places in the deep dark void of cyberspace.
5) The future of Immanence
There’s a tension here between being just a personal blog, one individual’s (an academic’s) window to the world, and being an active node for thinking, reflecting, and commenting on the world through a certain constellation of theoretical perspectives and concerns.
The latter is a more ambitious task, and I fear I won’t be able to keep up with it, especially as I take some research trips in the spring and then go back to my regular teaching load next fall. There’s a good case to be made that blogging is more effective, and easier, when people work together on group blogs (as I have done by contributing occasionally to Indications). If it grows, I would consider turning this into a group blog — and if any budding-prospective bloggers whose ideas resonate with this one would like to write for it, please let me know. Alternatively, collapsing it into something else is also a possibility.
But I think there’s good reason to retain the shape and vision of this blog as it is: it now has a history, an identity, and a growing niche that doesn’t duplicate anything else out there. That identity is captured reasonably well in the blog’s subtitle, “ecoculture, geophilosophy, media politics,” where ecoculture refers to the prospect of generating a more ecologically sustainable culture, but also the process of building a critical understanding of the ecological underpinnings of culture as it exists today — the “ecological” being not only the biophysical, but also the social, relational, intersubjective and interperceptual relations and dynamics that make up the world in its manifold (material, organic, semiotic, industrial, cybernetic) forms; where geophilosophy alludes to the task of (re)thinking our relationship in and with the earth, i.e., those multiple ecologies that make us up, underpin us, give us life and take it away in the end, feeding it back into the churning productivity of the disjointed and fractal whole; and where media politics is a clunky combination of individual terms (politics, media) and compound relations: the politics of media, especially new media, and the mediation of politics, including ecopolitics, biopolitics, and the play of power (and desire) in all their forms.
So I’ll continue with it, and see what happens. (At some point I will likely transition to WordPress, since MovableType is no longer actively supported by my university server.) But otherwise, without any grandiose plans, just becoming… immanent.
With the help, of course, of all the interlocutors who contribute to this blog with their comments, or react or link to it on their own blogs. You know who you are — thanks very much to all of you for a wonderful year.