Last Saturday, I spoke at the 3rd Annual Minnesota Blogger Conference (MBC12). It was a wonderful experience, and one I will treasure. I spoke on building credibility through writing. I had an engaged and fun audience, I had a wonderful space in which to present, I received awesome questions about rhetoric, writing, and online discourse, and I had tweeps actively tweeting about my talk via #MNBlogCon.
I’ve been fortunate to present at both academic and non-academic conferences. MBC12 definitely falls into the latter category, though there were a few academics present. The conference is truly one to which academics should pay attention.
There is a divide between academic and professional discourses. Many who know me know I value practicality equally with theory. However, this isn’t always the case with those employed in academic fields. Many of the issues with which my audience was concerned focused on how and why to do something. Understanding writing equals action seemed of paramount importance to my audience, and I was thankful for it.
Bloggers, or at least the ones in my audience, use their blogs to do something. They want actionable discourse and are satisfied with the writing process when it leads to an action. This action can be minute to grand. For example: just returning to one’s blog (minute) or planting a tree to help the environment (grand). Either way, action occurs.
Every academic should learn how to speak to audiences of varying cultural, societal, and economic contexts. This was, perhaps, the most rewarding aspect of my engagement with my audience: I got to talk with people of various interests about how to do things with writing. As a rhetorician and writing teacher, this is my joy.
I am grateful for such an engrossed, inquisitive, and comfortable audience. We soon found ourselves laughing and speaking candidly about writing in online environments and how to do things with blogging discourse. A relaxed atmosphere soon settled in, and like most of my talks, I danced around the front of the room with the giddy excitement of a child with his first lollipop. Speaking with such a wonderful audience about writing is a sweet tonic for me.
Even more so, I felt immense value as those in my audience focused intently on one aspect or another of my talk. My room filled up to the point where members of my audience were sitting cross-legged on the ground steadying their laptops on their knees as they took notes or tweeted.
I want to be clear: I am not suggesting my audience wasn’t academic or being a non-academic audience is something lower than an academic one. In many ways, my MBC12 audience was academic in the loveliest sense of the word: They were concerned with knowledge of writing and implementation of writing in concrete contexts. I firmly believe higher education should be concerned with the marriage of the academic and the practical. Academics without practicality lacks action, and practicality without academics lacks a knowledgeable base on which to build action.
My experience with MBC12 has reinforced my conviction to continue working on bridging the academic and professional worlds. Both worlds can benefit from mutual consultation and collaboration. I look forward to next year’s conference, and I can only hope for the privilege to present again.
For those interested, here are the slides from my talk: