Norms of Self-Promotion (updated)


A graduate student in philosophy who prefers to remain anonymous writes in with questions “concerning self-promotion and marketing oneself in order to move up in the world of philosophy.” He asks: “Is blatant self-promotion just a feature of the discipline now?  Is doing anything necessary to sway the public opinion a necessary evil?  Or should we be calling these people out for this rather egotistical practice?”

His main concern is Wikipedia: “I have seen a few examples of pages that are obviously self edited, and they usually contain some pretty exaggerated (or just plain false) information.”

I am not sure this is a widespread problem. Very few living philosophers have their own Wikipedia page, and most that do probably do not need to “move up” in philosophy since they are noteworthy enough to have a Wikipedia page. I would bet that most of them do not edit their pages for anything more than basic accuracy, but I have no evidence on this one way or another. (Please do not provide what you take to be  examples of this in the comments; if you have a particularly egregious example, email it to me.)

More common self-promotion, I would think, takes place on social media in the form of touting one’s career and work accomplishments. Is this a big problem? Again, I am inclined to think the answer is no, but perhaps I am insufficiently sensitive to this, as I spend time each day involved in activities to “promote” Daily Nous. Even those who routinely post about their latest publications aren’t engaged in a behavior that is at odds with the medium. Certainly a publication is at least as worth sharing with your acquaintances as is a photo of what you ate for dinner that night! A lot of the times people are genuinely excited about getting their work out there, and I don’t see anything particularly objectionable about sharing that excitement with others.

Even if people are more mercenary in their reasons for posting about their accomplishments, it is kind of hard to see that as unreasonable given the economics of the philosophy job market. I am inclined to give people more leeway in regards to etiquette when in dire circumstances. No need to worry about using the correct fork while the ship is sinking.

In any event, those with basic social skills tend to limn the contours of acceptable boastfulness fairly well, and those that don’t, it seems to me, suffer some social consequences. If you find someone’s relentless plugging tedious you can always block their updates and ignore them at conferences.

Generally, it seems to me that, even online, the basic rules of social life apply. Yes there are defeaters for these rules, such as fame, but most of us—especially philosophers—are best served by hewing more or less to them, one of which is: if you relentlessly talk about yourself while failing to show a sufficient interest in the lives of others, people will not want to interact with you.

Yet, I do agree with my correspondent when he writes: “I would be particularly interested in seeing comments on this topic to get a feel for what other philosophers think.”

UPDATE: (4/20/15): Over at The Philosophers’ Cocoon, Marcus Arvan has collected some information about citation rates, concluding: “It looks like if you are from a small college or foreign unranked university, almost no one will cite you even if you publish in Mind or Phil Review.” He adds:

Although these prestige effects are not entirely unsurprising, these data suggest to me that perhaps “letting one’s work speak for itself” is not all it’s cracked up to be–particularly if you are an author from a small college or foreign university. Maybe some self-promotion, indeed, is in order.

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Another Grad
Another Grad
6 years ago

It seems like the morally questionable behavior said student had in mind is not self-promotion but *deceitful* self-promotion. Truthfulness & Trustworthiness are the central pillars of academia. Lying about one’s academic credentials is as bad as intentionally making false data and distorting quotes. If we all agree that this type of academic deceit is bad, the next question is whether we should call them out through means like internet shaming (which Justin you wisely prevented). That I don’t have an answer. It seems like the least one can do is send a message to the offender. Minus that, I am not aware of any public forum where one can bring forth such accusations and corrections. I am also interested in hearing from others about the proper way to call out deceit.Report

Matt
6 years ago

I’m typically very happy when people I know, or who work in the same areas that I work in, let me know about new publications or the like. It’s often hard for me to keep up on new work coming out, so I’m almost always glad when I hear about a new paper or book or conference by a friend or just someone doing work in the areas I work in. That is, of course, “self-promotion”, but often enough, if you don’t promote yourself like this, no one else will. And, if the work is good, it’s a service to let others know about it. People should feel no hesitation about this, I think. (I suppose that spamming huge numbers of people whom you don’t know at all, or whose work is only marginally related to the topic at issue, is bad behavior, but even that is probably only very marginally bad.)Report

Sandalwood
Sandalwood
6 years ago

Somehow I don’t think that editing one’s wikipidia page will make someone “move up in the world of philosophy.” Hopefully that’s not news to anyone. As for social media: I share my publications on facebook because I assume that my facebook friends would want to share in my happiness, not because I am trying to “promote” myself.Report

Sandalwood
Sandalwood
6 years ago

I also find it concerning that the anonymous grad student is suggesting that we call out people who he thinks “obviously” edited their wikipedia page. Surely we can find something better to do with our time.Report

Beach Bum
Beach Bum
6 years ago

There is a real issue lurking here. Publishers now urge authors to promote themselves, in social media, blogs, and so forth, in part because publishers no longer can or know how to do it. The book review system in philosophy is weak. So DIY promotion becomes a career necessity, especially for the starter. And we don’t really have norms for this, or if we do they relate to the past, before we started tossing publishers catalogs in the trash without reading them, and before we stopped going to the library to survey the incoming journals.Report

A postdoc
A postdoc
6 years ago

Attention management in academia seems a big challenge at the moment, and self-promotion is part of this larger issue. Here is one suggestion: spread the news about your own work commit yourself to promoting the work of other people just as much as your own work. When someone asks about material for teaching or research (e.g. on facebook), let them know about other people’s stuff. When you read something that you found really interesting, share the news with others. Pay particular attentition to work that might get less attention than it deserves because of implicit biases, unfortunate choice of titles, obscure publication venues, etc.
And by the way, not all wikipedia pages are done by people themselves. It’s a pretty scary feeling when you see someone has set up one for you and you have no idea who it was. When you see wrong claims on the internet, don’t underestimate the role of trolls, incompetent journalists, well-meaning readers, etc.Report

Ryan
Ryan
6 years ago

“Is blatant self-promotion just a feature of the discipline now? Is doing anything necessary to sway the public opinion a necessary evil? Or should we be calling these people out for this rather egotistical practice?”

The graduate student sets the stakes too high, and I think Justin’s response becomes predictable. If we’re looking for an airtight moral violation involved in professional self-promotion, we’re unlikely to find it (so my answer to the second question is ‘no’, so long as ‘anything necessary’ is interpreted weakly enough.). And because of the competitiveness, professionalization, and so on of academia today, the answer to the first question is ‘yes.’ And since this is probably necessary to ‘get ahead’ (to where, exactly?), the answer to the third question is ‘probably not, so long as one doesn’t distinguish oneself with obviously tasteless self-promotion’ (e.g. Justin’s example of someone who just talks about himself all the time, any time, for all of time).

I’m not sure any of those answers are hard to find, as I think Justin’s post suggests. So it strikes me the issue isn’t framed properly. The question, to my mind, really is: to what extent, if at all, are the professional activities of /academics/ in tension with the epistemic and moral aims (whatever each of these are) of /philosophers/? Once seen that way, I think the issue becomes a lot more interesting and less obvious.Report

Ruth Groff
Ruth Groff
6 years ago

I love to hear about and share in the pleasure of the successes and achievements and excitement of my friends.Report

P.D.
6 years ago

I doubt there are many if any philosophers who plump up their own Wikipedia entries. More likely is an entry written by former students, fans of the philosopher who have fond memories but are fuzzy on the details.Report

Fritz Allhoff
Fritz Allhoff
6 years ago

There are three particular forms of self-promotion I’ve always found quite sketchy. (Writing a Wikipedia page isn’t one of them.) Here they are, for discussion:

1. Continually referencing your own published work. Some people do this *all the time*, e.g., in comment posts on blogs, posting new publications on Facebook, etc. (“As I’ve argued elsewhere…”) At some stage, I just feel the work should speak for itself and doesn’t need to be plugged–by the author at least. As a few other DN posts have made clear, part of the problem is that a lot of work isn’t read at all, so we might understand why people revert to promoting it. But there might be a reason this work is going unread.

2. Re-commenting on blog posts. Again, quite ubiquitous. Someone posts, then someone replies. Then the first person replies to the reply. And to every other reply. I think a good, rough, and defeasible rule of thumb is that nobody should have more than one comment on a particular thread. Otherwise you’re just taking up too much of a shared resource. For example, there’s a discussion at another popular blog right now–about a quite interesting topic–where two people have posted over half of the almost 30 posts. It’s just tiresome.

3. Twitter. Just stop. Completely. (Blogs, including this one, are fine and less inherently narcissistic. Webpages, too.)

It just seems to me that good philosophers don’t need to self-promote (much); the work takes care of that. Write good stuff and it’ll all get sorted out. I guess one issue is whether people are promoting their work or *themselves*, and maybe those sorts of things can come apart.

In any case, tastes may differ, but these are mine. 🙂Report

former grad
former grad
6 years ago

Perhaps the worry is over people who network their way through the discipline? It’s sorta slimy at times, and perhaps wrong. I certainly have a distaste for it and people who start with some connections have a huge advantage, but it’s not clearly unacceptable.Report

twbb
twbb
6 years ago

” Re-commenting on blog posts. Again, quite ubiquitous. Someone posts, then someone replies. Then the first person replies to the reply. And to every other reply. I think a good, rough, and defeasible rule of thumb is that nobody should have more than one comment on a particular thread.”

I don’t get it; how is that self-promotion? I don’t think anyone ever gained anything by posting too many comments (though I would suspect plenty of people have lost something by saying too much).Report

fed up grad student
fed up grad student
6 years ago

I strongly disagree that self-promotion is unproblematic. No offense, Justin, but I think it is easy to see things one way when you are a tenured faculty member. (I’ve discussed this with senior people in the profession before and they said roughly what you said in the post, though some of them tempered it with “I understand this must be frustrating”.) It’s really annoying–more than annoying, I think it is really genuinely problematic–when as a grad student or junior unknown person, you see people who are self-promoters get opportunities (including: Jobs! Publications in invited things, and I don’t mean crappy invited things) that you don’t merely because they are pushy. I’ve seen lots of senior faculty just give into pushy behavior on the part of grad students, but not think about how this disadvantages non-pushy grad students. (I also think this radically disproportionately disadvantages women and members of other minorities in the profession, including people from working class backgrounds or who did not grow up in a “professionalized” family or culture.) I won’t get too specific, but I have witnessed this happen with respect to conferences a lot: a grad student or pushy, self-promoting junior person will talk their way into giving a talk or comments at some conference. What worries me is that I feel like I know, in some of those cases, that the senior organizers of the conference did not actually think (I’ve talked to some people who have been in this situation!) “wow, this person’s work is really impressive, I should let them be the only grad student at my conference” or whatever. Rather, they were just bad at saying no.

Certain grad programs train their students to heavily self-promote. I find those students (and former students) the most difficult people to deal with in the profession. But I don’t think it’s merely a matter of me feeling annoyed by them: I think that they are deliberately manipulating an imperfect (to say the least) system of rewards in academic philosophy, and I believe that we have an obligation in the other direction: to make the professional side of philosophy more fair, just, and open-minded. I’m not sure I want to blame grad students or people trying to get jobs for acting this way in desperation (though I do think they shoulder some of the blame–I think it is wrong to take advantage of an unjust or unfair system in a way that advantages you, even if it’s the Hunger Games, which one might think philosophy sort of is). Mainly, I really wish that (a) grad programs would not train their students to be merciless self-promoters (things I have seen: business cards, large numbers of printed and stapled copies of papers to “hand out” to senior faculty–and only senior faculty–at conferences, constant name-dropping, incessant emailing of essentially every senior person in ones subdiscipline asking those people to read things/talk to them/invite them to things, etc., and (b) that senior faculty would realize that every time they give in to that behavior, they are advantaging someone who doesn’t deserve to be advantaged over any other grad student or junior person. It’s not that hard to find out about quiet, nose-to-the-ground grad students or junior people working on interesting stuff in your subdiscipline. Invite them to your conferences, etc., instead.

I think we are at a somewhat critical juncture right now with respect to this issue. What kind of profession do we want to be? Surely we want to be one where what matters is one’s work and thoughts and conversation etc., and not one’s ability to demand things of others/be overprofessionalized. But the casual response from senior faculty to self-promotion is going to serve to exacerbate the tragedy of the commons issue (where I take it the common good in question is: having an at least somewhat fair or just profession, a goal I think we ought to be striving for), when they could be setting an example by instead favoring grad students and junior people who are quietly doing good and interesting work . In my subdiscipline, big names are often completely surrounded by an impenetrable wall of (entirely male) grad students at all conferences and events. If we’re not going to tell the grad students to cut it out (which people seem strangely unwilling to do), doesn’t the responsibility then lie with those senior people to push through the wall–they are the only ones who can penetrate it, I know I sure can’t, and I’m not even shy–and find out about the non-obnoxious people in the room?Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

”Re-commenting on blog posts. Again, quite ubiquitous. Someone posts, then someone replies. Then the first person replies to the reply. And to every other reply. I think a good, rough, and defeasible rule of thumb is that nobody should have more than one comment on a particular thread.”

Yeah, this seems like a rather eccentric view: not only do most lively blog threads include multiple posts by a handful of people, I haven’t seen much evidence of people disapproving it. It seems to be an accepted norm. It’s not a question of monopolizing a limited resource, since most threads suffer from a lack of people at the well, not a surplus, and many good conversations draw as many spectators as participants.

Now, one might argue that the accepted norm would benefit from change, but I frankly can’t see how there could be many fruitful or interesting philosophical discussions with such a norm–without dialogue and so without a degree of back and forth, of call and response.Report

Yet Another Anon Grad Student
Yet Another Anon Grad Student
6 years ago

To wax Nietzschean, I just want to point out that it is highly questionable whether self-promotion or pride are at all bad things to begin with. Surely they can be bad when taken in excess or if they are accompanied by delusion. But I think it is totally innocuous for people to post something like “check out my new paper, forthcoming in __” on their fb page. Indeed, they SHOULD take pride in their intellectual accomplishments and should attempt to share these accomplishments with others.

“fed up grad student” makes some interesting points. But there is a very big difference between promoting one’s papers on social media and badgering organizers to invite you to conferences and symposia. The latter is certainly objectionable, not because it is self-promotion but because it is a form of manipulative harassment. Moreover, the suggestion that young scholars should not contact senior people is not very plausible. There is simply no way that senior people have the time and energy to search for young scholars who might be interested in their work and reach out to them. Again, young scholars should not badger people. But demanding that they not even contact people whose work they are interested in is crazy. Academia is inherently social. Like it or not, the ability to reach out and work with people is a relevant skill that one needs to develop.

As far as the promotion of fairness goes, we would be a lot better off trying to make better and blinder admissions/hiring/acceptance practices than fostering an environment of internet shaming. The problem with shaming is that it is an inherently unreflective and tribalistic practice with nothing to insure any sort of due process for putative offenders.Report

Anonymaus
Anonymaus
6 years ago

I think #13 is spot on. There is nothing inherently problematic about self-promotion, but it can have inegalitarian effects that are pro tanto morally problematic—not just socially unsavory. Perhaps we should be especially skeptical toward self-promotion by people who are already privileged in various ways (e.g. white male full professor at an Ivy League university who comes from an academic family) than people who are not (e.g. non-white female adjunct instructor at community college who comes from a working class background).Report

OP
OP
6 years ago

I think you (as well as Another Grad who commented above) hit the nail on the head: it isn’t self-promotion that is bad, it is the deceptive/manipulative self promotion that is problematic.Report

PhD Candidate
PhD Candidate
6 years ago

I don’t understand the idea that we *as a profession* ought to establish norms for how much, or in what manner, people should talk about themselves or their work or interact with other members of the profession. That just strikes me as absurd. There are just certain facts of professional life (ALL professional life). i.e. Knowing lots of people will lead to more opportunities, having lots of people familiar with your work will lead to more opportunities as well, promoting yourself and networking will lead to meeting more people and making more people aware of your work, doing this in a way that is obnoxious will be off-putting and will give people a negative impression of you as a professional, and so on. These are just facts of professional life, and some people will be better than others at navigating them. I am myself preparing to go on the job market this year, and I am terrible at both networking and self-promotion. However, I realize that these are things that *I* need to improve on if I want to increase my chances of being successful. Sure seeing people promote themselves can be annoying, but to talk about it as though it represents some existential crisis for the discipline (as fed up grad student suggests) just seems ridiculous to me.Report

Another Grad
Another Grad
6 years ago

Fed-up Grad, I have a question for you. Please tell me whether I was pushy, obnoxious, and outright being unfair to others. A bit of background. I am an international student with English as my second language. I am not white. I am also a woman in philosophy. I was going to present at a big conference for the first time and felt overwhelmed. I went for counseling and had several anxiety episodes. My counselor told me to focus on the things I want to achieve and nothing else. I said I wanted to give a good presentation and introduce myself to a professor I’ve admired. So I focused. That professor was at my talk. I forced myself to go up and say hi. Afterwards, he asked to talk about my work over coffee. I went home satisfied that I achieved my goals, and that would’ve been it… if not a chance event: a friend sent both of us an email. That professor almost forgot me but for that email. By chance, he also just received a fancy invitation. He offered it to me because I talked about it in my presentation.

So what did I do? I made it a goal to meet a senior professor during a conference. Emails were sent that reminded him of me (he wasn’t the one who reached out to me). I got invited to do something other quiet, better-qualified people could not (he didn’t go through a list of objectively qualified candidates to choose the best one). You might think that the story is alright because I am in a minority position and I was anxious and didn’t want to promote myself. What if things were slightly different? What if, like now, I was a more confident person with better linguistic skills. I wanted to meet a professor I admire and so I happily went up and said hi. We talked, and I followed up with an email thanking him. He got the invitation and gave it to me because of our conversation. From the outside, it seems like I did everything you are fed up with. Should I have done nothing at all just because I am now a happier and more confident person?

In fact, when I was in another grad program, I got a research assistantship with a male professor. I was thrilled and anxious to do well. Some of my colleagues said it was because I was a minority and a female. Other people were obviously more qualified and not considered. I was hurt. I went to that professor, asking if he considered others in the department. He said he observed us for a while and admired my work ethics, that I was willing to meet with him weekly to discuss how to improve. He didn’t want someone who was already good enough, he wanted someone who was willing to work with him. So who is to say who has the right qualifications and background, and whether someone was favored because they talked up someone else in slimy ways?

In conferences, I often found that students like to stick together in a group. Since I don’t have a group, I roam around randomly talking to people. I go to the same conferences and see them again. We become friends. The others are still sticking with each other. All I am saying is, the same behavior does not indicate the same intentions. I have a friend who does not go to any conferences and does not want to publish before his work is perfect. He argues that good people will recognize his perfectly good work the way it is, whenever they come out. The system of networking and publish or perish is bull. Is that the right way to contribute to the community and beyond, by holing up quietly doing work only the author can see? There might be some annoying, obnoxious people out there, but do not look down on those who spend the time perfecting their handouts, their slides, preparing their name-cards and dressing up professionally, walking around engaging with people in ways that make it easier for others to know them, such that their work can be improved and really make a difference to the profession.Report

Jonathan Ichikawa
6 years ago

I think it’s perfectly appropriate to introduce oneself to people, to present one’s work in the best possible light, and to communicate the idea that one is worth reading/inviting to events/etc. I also think there are obvious extremes to which these appropriate actions might be taken that are smarmy and not to be encouraged. It’s true that the fact that this kind of thing can make for a professional advantage does contribute to inequality. But I can’t think of any academic or non-academic field where that’s not true. (And I wouldn’t ask a graduate program not to train their own students to play the game well — although I would certainly ask one to not to train the smarmy versions.)

‘Self-promotion’ is an extremely vaguely-applicable term, as some of the hypothetical and actual cases described above demonstrates. I think it’s often simply used to signal that one doesn’t like someone.Report

fed up grad student
fed up grad student
6 years ago

Jonathan: I can think of lots and lots of fields where this is not true. All the ones I was familiar with before I tried to become an academic. There are lots and lots of professions where things just aren’t like this. Teaching at the K-12 level. Any trade in which one is unionized. All the jobs I was familiar with or knew anything about before I tried to become an academic! People who have those jobs don’t do these things, or at least, it is not widespread in the same way it is in philosophy.

But I agree that there are obvious extremes. And Another Grad, I don’t think you did anything wrong in that situation. But I do think there is a difference between doing that sort of thing once, or a few times, with a few people you really respect, and doing things like: completely dominating a senior person’s time at a conference, or even just doing the thing that you described non-stop with everyone, and forcing continued contact. It seems to me to obviously be okay to cultivate relationships with faculty outside your department, and I didn’t mean to suggest that it was not. But I think most of us can recognize the phenomena I am trying to talk about, even if they are hard to delineate.

What I do think is that leveling down here is the right thing to do, rather than leveling up. We should discourage the smarmy version of these people, the people who build the wall and incessantly get themselves invited to every dinner and every conference and so on. That’s all I meant to be saying. I disagree, even if most professions that I guess philosophers consider legitimate professions (I have had this exact same thing said to me before, multiple times: I guess philosophers just aren’t familiar with the kinds of professions I am familiar with, and would be in if I were not in this one) are competitive and cultivate this kind of self-promotion, that we should then just throw up our hands and say “well it’s a feature of anything that is competitive”. I think there is a genuine justice and fairness issue, and none of those other professions are just or fair, so we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to them. I think justice and fairness require that we be somewhat thoughtful about things that contribute to injustice and unfairness in the discipline. And I think this is one of them.Report

GradStudent2000
GradStudent2000
6 years ago

This is a touchy one. I’m among the heavily Facebook addicted. I don’t censor myself at all. It’s more of a personal problem than a professional one, I think. But I have incurred some surprising professional benefits and burdens as a result. I’ll share a more general recurring phenomenon here: I’ve ended up at a few conferences after making some insignificant comment on something that popped up in my newsfeed. It can be exciting sometimes. But it also just feel cheap and unpleasant. At this point, I don’t put too much stock in it one way or the other. It’s just a thing that happens sometimes. I’m not sure what professional norms to draw from that. Any ideas?Report

Another Grad
Another Grad
6 years ago

Fair points, Fed-up-grad. You’re pointing to a deep and important issue of just resource distribution. Perhaps there should be a post that discusses what *we* as a profession should do about being privileged & being disadvantaged in academia without the distraction of what counts as proper socializing etiquette. I appreciate it when others share their networks/contacts and invites and when I have something I try to pass it along. There may be an obligation to do so. Many conferences have mentoring events designed to help disadvantaged members gain access to senior researchers and their advice. Perhaps there should be more.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

I agree that there is a sense in which the “pushy” people get benefits they perhaps don’t deserve. And perhaps we should discourage such behavior – at least when it is extreme and unwarranted. But it is difficult to draw a clear line here. I think self-promotion (when not overbearing) is a good thing. We should be proud of our successes, and we should be willing to put our most confident selves out there for others to see. I also think we should not shy away from introducing ourselves to more “prominent” or well-known scholars. I have gained a lot by emailing or introducing myself to philosophers I don’t know – and I don’t just mean in terms of invites/jobs. It’s good to be on people’s radars for those things, but it’s also good for one’s own research to be in contact with those doing important work on similar topics, and sometimes taking the initiative to introduce oneself is the way to achieve such contact.
I think the main issues here are a) that not everybody is comfortable self-promoting, and it is unfair that those who are good scholars/teachers may thus not be as visible as the shameless self-promoters; b) that (given the unfortunate culture of the discipline) certain parties are not as visible as others from the outset and thus may need to engage in MORE self-promotion than the “average” white male Anglo-American philosopher at a high-ranking school; and c) that the same people (the self-promoters?) are being asked over and over again to participate in things, making it difficult for other people to get a foot in the door. Each one of these has to do with visibility and inclusion, and here philosophy CAN do something about its incestuousness. This calls for senior scholars and those who already have their “foot in the door” to be on the lookout for ways to include other philosophers than the “usual suspects” when organizing workshops and looking at job apps. Networking can work the other way around: Not young scholars looking to promote themselves to senior scholars but rather established philosophers branching out and looking for new talent to include.Report

anonymous17
anonymous17
6 years ago

Justin, about your: “if you relentlessly talk about yourself while failing to show a sufficient interest in the lives of others, people will not want to interact with you.” I beg to disagree. So in a recent conversation I had with a prominent male philosopher, he spent 2 minutes talking about the issue I asked to speak with him about. But then he spent about 30-40 minutes describing his research, his intellectual disagreements with others in his field, his recent salary negotiations, jobs he has turned down, etc etc. I tried to respond in kind, volunteering information about my own research. This was met with a moment or two of stony silence, followed by his resuming the conversational along previous lines, i.e. on topics relevant only to him. To be subjected to this kind of thing on the part of my male colleagues is not unusual, in fact it is very common. I obviously don’t desire this kind of interaction, so in that sense you are right. But he is so prominent in my field I cannot avoid him. I am also kind of fond of him, despite his personal failings.

But there is a more general problem related to self-promotion. I have witnessed two cases where people were not hired because their presentation of themselves was not “forward” enough. In both cases I thought that the discrepancy in talent between the person who was not hired, and the person who was hired, was quite large. Still, the hiring committees in both cases decided that students would be better served by people who do not suffer from shyness. Talent, ideas, etc, never entered into the picture. This seems wrong. Fed-up grad student is right in much of what s/he says.Report

A woman in philosophy
A woman in philosophy
6 years ago

“But there might be a reason this work is going unread” and “It just seems to me that good philosophers don’t need to self-promote (much); the work takes care of that. Write good stuff and it’ll all get sorted out.” If the numbers on rates of citations of women and minorities is right, then it seems like those who aren’t white men are less likely to “write good stuff” and have it “all get sorted out.” I *hate* promoting my own stuff, but often worry that if I don’t, others are less likely to do it for me than for my male colleagues.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
6 years ago

Quite a lot of what’s being described here as promotion of *self* seems like promotion of *your research*. But promoting one’s research seems, not just acceptable, but praiseworthy. If you think you’ve made an important contribution, you should want it to be known, and you should want to bring it to the attention of others on whose work it bears. That seems to me actively a part of an academic researcher’s job description, quite independent of its career implications.Report

Patricia Marino
6 years ago

I think it’s also worth considering that if you want to draw in an audience that includes people beyond the philosophy profession, and engage more people in paying attention to philosophy, promoting your work/self/ideas beyond philosophy and beyond academia is useful and probably essential. Certainly, guides for non-academic publishing will tell you so. To me, anyway, this form of self-promotion seems positive.

I also think different forms of social media are different. On Twitter, people who follow you as a philosopher are partly expecting to find news and links about what you’re working on. It’s part of the point. I’ve had some great interactions there with philosophers and non-philosophers, and wouldn’t hesitate to use it that way.Report

alexandra
alexandra
6 years ago

One way of shaming those who shamelessly self-promote themselves and help others to do the same seems to me the blog http://scholarlyoa.com/Report

Gordon
Gordon
6 years ago

With apologies for the tone of the following paragraph, I think it’s important – and disheartening – that most of the comments here focus on the personal ethics of self-promotion. Surely we need to look at the reasons why people relentlessly self-promote, i.e., the fact that there’s way more brilliant people than there are jobs, and that everything about the job market encourages those in it to view each other as competitors in a zero-sum game. That structural condition overdetermines everything else about one’s early career, especially the need to stand out from the crowd of other completely qualified people who will be your competition for employment. And the background condition is that you know that failing to get any given job may mean you’re unemployed. So, sure, excessive self-promotion is annoying, but I think it’s really hard to blame the people doing it, even though the culture of self-promotion has predictable effects on already disadvantaged groups. The system is crap, and it loads up some people with all sorts of (non-meritocratic) structural advantages. What else are those who lack those advantages supposed to do?Report

Brian Johnson
6 years ago

This issue has been discussed in the context of other professions and readers here may find the discussions relevant:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/02/business/smallbusiness/02webshifting.html?pagewanted=all
And, more recently,
http://op-talk.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/24/the-self-promotion-backlash/
I will admit to watching with consternation the phenomenon of philosophy professors who engage in “tooting their own horn.”Report