The Bill Cronon-Wisconsin Republican party tangle is making me — and many others, judging by the responses I’ve seen on academic listservs — think a little more deeply about how we use our e-mail addresses. Like many, I’m troubled by the possibility that someone could ask to see my e-mail correspondence on any old topic. But I also recognize that they have that right, or something like it, and that the same Freedom of Information laws allow me to ask for others’ e-mails — not everyone’s, but anyone’s who works for a publicly funded institution, like a university. That’s part of the price we pay for a public culture, which keeps us from the Hobbesian state of everyone’s liberty (with guns) against everyone else’s. It’s also what makes that culture vulnerable, but that makes it all the more important to use our public profiles in ways that enhance that culture’s viability.

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