A blog before the internet

Mon 30 Mar 2009 01:58 PM

We have been rearranging our department lounge. Previous efforts have made it less of a cluttered dump, and efforts are now directed at making it less clinical.* Today we got new chairs from university surplus, green relics which were probably purchased for an administrative office in the 1970s.

While shuffling around furniture, I happened to pick up a bound volume in the department store room. It contains issues of Phib, the Philosophy Information Bulletin, from 1972-1974. It was a department newsletter, filled with trivia like contact information, records of faculty meetings, announcements of events, and descriptions of what various faculty had done on vacation.

Phib was editted by "WHL." I surmise from internal references that this was William Leue, who was part of the department at the time. Each issue consisted of a few typewritten, mimeographed pages. But the series is numbered as two volumes, with continuous page numbering within each volume.

There is a long, multi-part history of the department which I may comment on later. For now let me quote something that WHL wrote at the end of the academic year in 1973:

I guess I'm not really in a position to judge whether doing this thing was worth it. I'm not sure what the criteria should be. It certainly isn't a project I would urge upon a young man trying to forge an academic career for himself, but then I'm not a young man. It fits no recognized category - it isn't "research," it isn't "teaching." It isn't even a "publication" - it is probably "infra-professional" - too casual, too episodic, too "journalistic." I guess it isn't even good journalism - irresponsible mixing of the reporting and the editorializing, with snide innuendoes and private jokes at which only I can snicker. But then that's probably part of the reward for me - getting my own anomic kicks - and the price that you, poor (but quick-scanning) readers have to pay.**
Phib was essentially his blog, and almost the same paragraph might be written today by any blogging academic. The only sentence out of place would be the warning to career-minded young men, since blogging has been predominantly a young philosophers' game.

If I were just starting to blog now, I might have settled on Phib as a name rather than FoE.

* Most of the recent work has been done by my colleague Lisa Fuller, who has been watching the university surplus website for better lounge furniture.

** 'A Year of Phibbing.' Phib. v 1, n 31. p 148.