"Maven" is a Yiddish word from the Hebrew "mevin," meaning "one who knows." Synonyms for the word are "expert," "gatherer of knowledge" and "geek." I always thought of the word as being somehow feminine in nature, suggesting a woman who is well-dressed, perhaps, and hovering above the crowds, but not separate from them. A blogging college professor, perhaps?
This week Caroline Grant, one of the original writers/editors for the Mama, Phd book and blog, sent around an article from The Guardian (UK) on the academic blogosphere. The writer, Lee Skallerup Bessette, who blogs for the University of Venus—also on Inside Higher Ed—assesses all of the different ways that academic bloggers use the online column format: as op-ed pieces, journals, information sources or reflections. Bessette references Mama, Phd as an example of a blog that “humanizes” academics but also contains “lots of more traditional, argument-essay style posts.” After Mama, Phd was ridiculed by the Wall Street Journal a few years ago, it is helpful to have a writer acknowledge our blog’s critical side.
The economic and ethical implications of mom blogs and advertising dollars have been acknowledged, but the political ones are yet to be sketched out. Shannon asserted that mom blogs have provided political pressure in a few cases so far; for instance, by questioning certain pharmaceutical products for children in ways that have forced change. For instance, Oxycontin was targeted by Marianne Skolek, a mother who lost her daughter to heart failure from the addictive drug. Her online critique of Purdue Pharma’s marketing made its way to an actual courtroom (after passing through the digital one).
What kind of information do Mom blogs gather? Are they a worthwhile object of academic study? Mom blogs are certainly a sign of the impact of the new information age, if not a "social epidemic," as Malcolm Gladwell suggests. Gladwell discusses these "epidemics" in his top-selling book The Tipping Point which asserts the growing importance of "mavens"--gatherers of information--to social change. I personally find Gladwell's mavens to be the most provocative interpretation of mom blogs. Mom blogs may be the twenty-first century mavens who are just starting to stretch their political wings.
Let me know if you have any other examples of mom blogs wielding their media pressure. Or ideas for how Mama, Phd should...