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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: What Shall We Call Ourselves?
August 6, 2009 - 9:13pm

I guess we made the “big time” when this blog was criticized by the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago. It said that the topic of “work-life” balance was silly, and that the conversations taking place here are better suited to women sharing coffee over a kitchen table. Now that we have gained the attention of the “Diary of the American Dream”, I want to make a small suggestion. I propose that we, collectively, arrive at a better word to describe ourselves besides “blog”.

The word “blog” was coined as a combination of the words “web” and “log”. Blogs were web logs, on-line diaries that allowed people to share the events of their life with people far away, without ever actually meeting each other face to face. A friend who recently traveled to Europe kept such a blog, including in it pictures of her travels and of her family. However, I propose that we have gone beyond this name. What appears in this column and in similar venues is more like grass-roots journalism, and perhaps we need a way to better describe ourselves and what we do.

We are not journalists, and that is what makes these columns so interesting. Rather than interviewing women who are both professors and mothers, Mama, Ph.D. allows us to hear from them in the first person. While we are not as educated as formal journalists, we bring a perspective that could not be found elsewhere. And, while we are not professional writers in the traditional sense, many of us actually write for a living, as long as you are willing to call the dry stuff filled with equations and statistical output that I write “writing”.

I know someone who writes for at least two political blogs. He also holds a regular job and watches his young daughter several days a week, but he takes his role as a blogger very seriously. Whenever there is a political event in his town, a town meeting or a zoning commission hearing, he is there with his camera and video recorder, recording what happens and often playing the role of “watchdog” to not just the politicians of his town but also to the other media. His blogs were so successful that he is now linked to the web site of the local newspaper, as people seem to want to want to see what he has to say. Certainly, this is more than a simple on-line diary. And so, I propose that we begin the conversation of what it is that we want to call this new form of media.

I am reminded of the groups that have been formed lately called “C.E.R.T.”s, Community Emergency Response Teams. They are groups of ordinary citizens who want to assist the fire and police in case of an emergency. They do not intend to replace the traditional first responders, but to supplement their work by bringing preparedness to the grass roots and assisting fellow citizens in the event of a disaster in ways that only fellow citizens can do. In some ways, these forums are similar to C.E.R.T.s, in that we are ordinary citizens supplementing the work of professional journalists and bringing a unique perspective to the conversation.

Does “blog” still capture what we do? Or, like C.E.R.T.s, is there a better way to describe what happens when ordinary citizens add their voice to the voices of reporters and traditional columnists? I just wanted to throw that out for discussion.


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