On Sharing


Children “share” during “sharing time” at school: my mouse, mom, yo-yo trick. Academic bloggers share details about what is behind-the-scenes: my lunch, boss, anxieties. Sharing as inclusion of personal experience into public spaces where such information has been deemed inappropriate, off-limits, non-academic. Sharing at its juvenile and narcissistic best and worst. The risks are both obvious and gendered: an embarrassing myopia, a gross mis-step in propriety, a female fall into feelings. No professional wants to be treated like a child (or a woman). The risks are in vetting; the rewards come by way of expanded expression.

I have written in the I-voice as an academic from the beginning of my career, a conscious decision founded in feminist critiques of objectivity and authority, and a commitment to what has been called stand-point epistemology. The sharing of self as an overt attack on impartiality, expertise, “the God-trick.” My I-voice always incorporates aspects of my lived identity (including being an academic); where, when and why I am writing; and overt indications of my beliefs and commitments. This sharing of the self and the personal is both theoretical and political. It imagines an academic writing that is important to social justice movements and their communities of readers.

Unlike in academia-proper, when we write online as academics we enters a domain where the I-voice is the vernacular. I write in the I-voice here not to shatter but to share norms. By sharing the sharing vernacular of the place, my intention is to model, in form and within the Internet, the kind of complex and feeding culture I want it to be. Of course, when I “share” online, this is always a performance. This is sharing as style and even as a form. I only show as much as I’m ready to expose.

In Learning from YouTube, I also shared via this word’s feminist, collaborative connotations: the dispersing of authority, the distribution of authoring, a circulation of voice between myself and every-day YouTubers and my own students. This is an ethics of sharing. The risks are again in vetting (who wrote that?; what if parts of it aren’t “good”?) and legality (how do you write a contractfor a piece of writing much of which is not your own?) Rewards are self-evident: the joy of collaboration, the ability to expand your possibilities beyond your own knowledge and skills, the promise of political and personal connection.

Image on front page by London Art and available on Flickr. 


While I have thought a great deal about teaching online and teaching with technology, I have not thought about it from this feminist perspective. I do think of classrooms as closed, safe spaces, especially as a grad student who has taught her fair share of introductory composition courses. What a student would compose for YouTube would need to be different than what is turned in to a professor in text form.

Your video example of the posturing needed to balance the personal and the public shows the need to remain approachable online. I will defintely check out Learning from YouTube as I think more about teaching in online spaces. 


After being so public for so long on and around YouTube, I left the corporate behind and began thinking and working within/about "safe spaces" that looked more like the feminist classrooms I make with my students. You might be interested in that place: www.feministonlinespaces.com.

It is my belief that corporate Internet culture can not provide us with those types of safeties.

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