I’ve been considering migrating my personal site and Academia.edu profile to MLA Commons for months now, but I’ve hesitated to do so for several reasons. First, I’m attached to the feeling of independence that comes with owning my own domain. It’s mine and doesn’t depend on the success of an organizational initiative. Second, most MLA members with Commons websites don’t seem to blog very much, which is something that I do on a more-or-less regular basis. I’m nervous about posting too much and thus being out of step with the Commons’ norms. Finally, I don’t always post on focused topics, and I’m sensitive to how my activities may contribute to a warped scholarly profile. Maintaining an independent site—floating free somewhere beyond the Commons, with its regular updates of user activities—eases this anxiety a bit.
But the time to begin migrating to the Commons has arrived. I was disappointed to learn that GoDaddy, the web hosting company that currently hosts my domain, has long done business with a range of neo-nazi hate sites. Although they did the right thing by severing ties with the most prominent of these sites, they only did so after a horrendous act of terrorism that claimed a young activist’s life. I’m uncomfortable being a part of that network, especially when there is a valid alternative right here at the MLA. It’s also important to me that the Commons, unlike Academia.edu, is a not-for-profit project. Academia.edu is erecting paywalls at a rapid pace, and they are working hard to find ways to convince academics to pay for access to our own scholarly networks. I want to do whatever I can to support alternatives to these sorts of compromised, for-profit companies that want to monetize our intellectual labor and sense of community. The MLA Commons is one such alternative.
I’m excited that the MLA is invested in building a robust open-access forum for scholars and teachers to network, share their thoughts and research, and collaborate on future projects. The Commons shows promise, and I’m hopeful that it will ultimately supplant the more problematic scholarly forums. But I also recognize that the Commons will only be as successful as MLA members are willing to make it. I want to be a part of this success. So this post, and those to come, are my small way of contributing to the Commons’ promise. I hope they encourage others to join the community as well.
I welcome comments to my posts, and I very much look forward to engaging with everything the Commons has to offer in the coming years.
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) 2017 Micah Robbins