This blog post on Sweetland’s Digital Rhetoric Collaborative by Melanie Yergeau, “Accessing Digital Rhetoric: Sh*t Academics Say” is an incredible read (and view — there’s a video chronicling the shit academics say about access). I highly recommend.
Dr. Yergeau makes a few points in here that really rang true to me; I only have time to discuss one here. She points out that “niceness” is often valued in academia, sometimes at the expense of access. When my husband recently returned from a conference, he told me about an interaction between a post-doc and a tenured professor in which niceness was not a priority, and we discussed how particular questions/words/phrases that are actually aggressive get “nice-ified” for public academic fora — like conferences. Usually, I’m all for the niceness. Not-niceness makes me uncomfortable. But this post challenges me to think about niceness/politeness in the work we do a bit differently. She writes:
I’m hesitant about how to respond to assessments vis-a-vis niceness and its role in educating the (usually) well-meaning. I’ve said and done my share of well-meaning-but-ignorant things; we all have. Nonetheless, in my experience, good intentions is often code for the feelings of the offender matter more than the realities of the marginalized. Is it better to spare feelings than it is to call attention to the weird, hurtful shit that bears material consequences for the shat upon? (her emphasis)
This is not to say that we should run around being rude to one another, but it does point out that we can’t all hide behind our good intentions when we do things that potentially oppress others or make our ideas inaccessible to others. And that perhaps pointing this out once in a while, as Dr. Yergeau does here, while not “nice,” is very necessary.
Alright, I’d say more, but gotta go get ready for my first day of statistics and social network summer courses. *Deep breath* here goes.