119 Comments

Thanks for including me in this round-up! There's a reason so many academics are congregating here.

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My Substack is just a little over a year old, but I've been able to build a solid community of academics and former academics who now work in industry.

See The Recovering Academic: https://joshuadolezal.substack.com/

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Glad you chimed in! I wanted to be sure that they heard about your post-academic work, since it’s a reality for untold numbers and itself a decent testament to what else the platform does.

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Keep up the solid work Josh 👍👍

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I've found that teaching in my articles like I might in a classroom is highly effective here on Substack. I hadn't really thought about it being an "online classroom" but that's a pretty good way to describe it.

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I have multiple sections in my newsletter, “moviewise: Life Lessons From Movies” that serve as mini-lectures for an “online classroom” for readers who are interested in the various themes found in movies.

https://moviewise.substack.com/

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One downside to the "life lesson" approach is that it can feel a little preachy and didactic. Do you find that?

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I find the "life lesson" approach also helpful to how I approach my stack. I focus on one theme which is pretty spacious in American literature - how writers approach the ups and downs and aspirations of "united states."

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This interests me as well. I like to imagine that ways of reaching wider publics with educative content are only going to increase.

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I've been gussying up and republishing some old lecturettes from some defunct online courses of yore, and it's been super fun to give them a second life here.

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Thank you for including Beyond Bloomsbury in this round-up of academic Substacks. Not only have you given me a platform to focus my research and writing, but I’ve been introduced to some wonderful fellow academics and historians. Thank you!

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I'm a big fan of the idea of "working with the garage door open". And I'm a big fan of collections of essays such as Gaiman's _View From the Cheap Seats_ or Gibson's _Distrust That Particular Flavor_. I'm not yet convinced, however, that there is an easy and direct path from blogging to publishing those musings as a book of essays. I would be cautious of overpromising, if I was writing marketing for Substack.

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I've noticed, as I attempt to shop out my memoir, that agents and publishers want one to have a robust online following. I feel like (naively maybe) being able to show good engagement here is only a positive for any traditional outlet looking to publish one's work.

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I don’t disagree, Jenn. I am a bit suspicious of the implication in the article (if there is one there and I’m not overreacting) that the process is entirely organic and the path widely open. OTOH, although I got the Yale Press to publish my “tenure book”, I self-publish most of my stuff including textbooks in the Open Textbook Library.

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Well yeah of course nothing happens through wide open doors and with no effort, true.

How have you found your self-publishing world to be? I haven't looked into that, myself (unless you count my newsletter here to be self-publishing).

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Not money I could retire on. But I have made more on Amazon than I got in Royalties from Yale.

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Jillian at Noted is such a JOY!!!! One of my favorite newsletters to read!!!!

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Awe, thanks!

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Thank you for the shout-out - much appreciated. @substack has been great for me to play with new ideas. I've found a comfortable strategy for keeping up with the literature is simply to select a paper or theme of broad general interest that I want to read about/need to read about, and write it up as a 'stack. This way I can be sure I understand it, and get feedback on what people think of it.

My most recent pieces were on stress, trauma and how fear and pain rewire the brain - and what might be done about it.

The trick I have found is to commit - that builds the habit of writing, and it has all sorts of spillover effects into other areas of your work.

Notes provides another outlet - I use it for different purposes - and I've started putting out some of the flash fiction I write on Notes - fits very well there!

Last thought: a substack builds something consequential - a serious body of writing. It is not some evanescent, with a half-life measured in seconds, driven by an algorithm determined to maximise rage and eyeballs (you know what I mean!). It's something to be proud of.

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I like that perspective. Teachers and professionals who have educational messages to share could use Substack to reach and impact the masses. Most of all, Substack is filled with smart, motivated writers and learners. Everyone is a student of life here with the goal to learn and grow.

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Thank you for highlighting this aspect of the platform. I joined substack to rethink and rewrite my dissertation for a broader audience!

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My substack on life in Japan and the cultural impact has attracted lots of academic response

https://hiddenjapan.substack.com/

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Thanks so much for including my perspective! And always exciting to discover new writers to check out!

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Just out of curiousity: Have you ever posted an idea, and then a month later decide it was either wrong or you changed your mind? If so, how did you handle it via this platform?

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This is something I think about a lot! I haven't had this exact experience yet, but I'm certain it will happen at some point. I've tried to be very upfront with my audience that my thinking might change on different issues, as new research comes out or my interpretation of it evolves. I definitely try to be cognizant of this - it's tempting when you "take a stand" on something publicly to want to stick with that position, but I think (hope!) readers actually appreciate a willingness to change/evolve over time. Curious to hear how others think about this issue, too!

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Thanks for the answer :) . I try to pull out my opinions/ideas from my newsletter, so I was curious about how other authors handle when they are consciously working to share their researched findings. Part of me is jealous of the idea people haha.

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it's important that we remain Open to Change

https://opentochange.substack.com

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Pretty cool to see another Brown University affiliate on here!

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It's so true that substack offers a space for more expansive writing! I'm a political scientist and I write and teach about Black politics, race, and feminism and substack lets me explore these topics through art, music, and my personal experience.

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Substack just keeps getting better!

Any social science and qual researchers on here? I'd love to subscribe to some

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And academics can speak freely here, not the case in all universities these days

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I don’t think we fully understand how powerful substack can be as a marketplace of ideas.

One thing I resonated with in this article right away was the common theme that academia is hierarchal. There are more PhDs than tenure track positions and it’s so important that they have a place to develop and share ideas.

I personally believe the power of diversity in thought and I’d hate to see young academics conform their beliefs to what academia wants.

Substack is powerful because it allows ideas to spread that might otherwise die.

It also gives people access to brilliant minds through subscriptions as opposed to spending tens of thousands of dollars on tuition. ($50 per year as opposed to $50,000)

Substack has been a powerful tool for me as a writer as well. I’m trying to figure out what I want to pursue in regards to my writing and academic career and substack has been a place I’ve been able to post nonfiction, fiction, and my thoughts.

By doing so, I’ve received feedback fro me waders on what’s working and what’s not but I’ve also realized what I’m interested in.

I also love the ability to change on substack. I started my substack thinking I was going to write journalistic pieces but through the substack community discovered that i really enjoy writing poetry.

That’s another plus about substack, you can write whatever you want. No one’s going to tell you not to post or publish something, you have complete ownership over your work.

I encourage everyone to subscribe to a few people who write about topics you’ve never explored, you really never know where it could lead.

If you’re interested in some poetry check out my stack!

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What if those ideas are wrong? There's isn't anyone on Substack to hold you accountable for promoting wrong ideas. Correct me if I haven't understood you correctly.

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That’s the beauty of sharing ideas in a public space and having ideas open to the judgement of the public tends to be more accurate than having an expert judge the idea.

For research that does a better job explaining this idea than I ever could, see this article by Harvard: https://hbr.org/2018/12/the-right-way-to-use-the-wisdom-of-crowds

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"While disagreement is not necessarily a bad thing – combining diverse judgments and estimates underpins the wisdom of crowds –in order to be effectively leveraged it first has to be correctly interpreted. In most cases, disagreement should signal that either or both parties are likely to be wrong. Our data suggest the problem is that people interpret disagreement in a self-serving way, as signaling that their estimate is right and the other party is wrong.

We ran a final study to test this interpretation. We asked 401 U.S. adults to form a judgment before seeing the judgment of another participant selected at random from a prior study. Some participants saw peer judgments that were in close agreement with their own, and others saw estimates that differed dramatically. We then asked them to evaluate the quality of both judgments. We found that, as disagreement increased, people evaluated others’ judgments more harshly – while their evaluations of their own judgments did not budge. Our participants interpreted disagreement to mean that the other person was wrong, but not them."

An opinion is not based on fact; therefore, all opinions should be questioned including one's own opinions. Statistics do not produce facts; they produce similar data on a widely held opinion (or not), which consequently isn't right by virtue of it being uttered at the moment it was asked about. Shared opinions there may be, but the factual nature of them will never be determined by a statistical method or an algorithm.

When the context of surveying opinions in a specific situation, e.g., a business situation in which the manager wants everyone to work according to his/her way of thinking, which is a basic form of conformity - because if individual staff initiated workflows based on their own opinions, the business may lose money; the business wants to increase income and lessen expenditures. Not-for-profit businesses may work differently (and allow individual staff to work as they see fit) given profit isn't a goal - they rely on funding submissions.

So pushing (statistical findings) found in for profit business settings on the staff is really all about getting staff to agree to do things that lessen expenditure and increase profits. Otherwise, why bother asking their opinions? But taking the opinion of the crowd as fact isn't scientific because science knows that opinions are not based on fact.

"...in order to be effectively leveraged it first has to be correctly interpreted. In most cases, disagreement should signal that either or both parties are likely to be wrong." Well, the question is, who makes the correct interpretation? Especially when the data isn't factual? The correct interpretation can only be given by someone who is versed in the subject matter, an expert. But here is the quandary: who decides if the expert has given the correct interpretation? Those being asked their opinions? Certainly not! Because the general public rarely if ever questions their own opinions; they simply believe their opinions to be right - as demonstrated by the Harvard research.

If a researcher doesn't question their own opinions, then they'll deceive themselves when they interpret the stats. Qualitative stats in the case of the Harvard research because asking about opinions produces qualitative data; the number of people asked is the quantitative data. Eighty odd people (roughly 22% of all those surveyed) is not representative of all the people employed by businesses in the US. Therefore, any interpretation of that Harvard research that says it's true of all employees is false.

Clarification: I am not a statistician. But I did study stats at university to gain my PhD.

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Sorry but I disagree with your assertion that “the correct interpretation can only be given by someone versed in the subject matter, an expert”

We live in the Information Age and you don’t need to be an expert to correctly interpret data.

We can agree to disagree on that

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Conformity of thought in academia is at scary levels 👍

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I agree with this concern..I think at some place we can still ‘regulate’ time, place and manner of speech, including of people who claim the earth is flat, that dinosaurs are just a bit older than humans, or that there is no gravity

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As Forrest Gump might have said: “One day, for no particular reason, I just started writing”. And I chose Substack. 👏🎂

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😂 I was thinking something like this, too. We don’t have to teach online or parcel out research in bits (although those things are dandy); those sound like the familiar structures. It’s ok for academics to just start writing and see where it’s possible to go, outside the confines of a research trajectory and a department curriculum. People with PhD’s might have imaginations and end up somewhere unexpected. 🫡

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Precisely! I often start without knowing how I will end. During the course of writing an ending somehow manifests itself, for which I am always grateful..

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