Last Halloween a senior editor of a well-known psychology magazine contacted me. Would I be interested in becoming one of their bloggers? They liked my Twitter stream (twitter.com/mrwdawson), and knew from it that I had a new book coming out. They suggested that there would be some mutual benefit to my providing them some online content. That is, a blog could help sell books!
I gave the request some thought, replied that I was interested, provided a vague description of the kind of content that I might write about, and asked a few basic questions concerning the blogging process. After a couple of days of further reflection, I concluded a) that my description was extremely vague (even to me), and b) that I really had no idea about what I was getting myself involved in.
My solution was to scan through a few of their blogs to get some idea of audience and length, and to try my hand at writing an entry. The result, published in this “Cognition and Reality” blog, was something that did not take long to put together, and I felt that it was a better indication of my blogging intent than was my original reply. I sent it on to the editor as an example of potential contributions.
They did not respond.
One consequence of my second e-mail was that someone from the magazine went to my home page and looked at my C.V. (Yes, I admittedly track that kind of activity). That, combined with my two replies to their original request, must have given them second thoughts. Was my work too flakey? Was it not flakey enough? I may never find out.
From a great deal of experience with my books, I know that when publishers stop contacting you, they are no longer interested in your work. I thought that the blog situation was a little different, though. After all, the editor contacted me first! So, after waiting a couple of weeks I e-mailed them again, wondering if they were still interested. They replied that they were, apologized, said that they were busy producing the latest issue of their magazine, and promised that I would hear back within two weeks.
Of course, they never got back to me.
I waited a month, and sent an admittedly snarky reminder about their promise to reconnect. I noted that it was an interesting recruiting strategy to contact potential contributors, and then proceed to ignore them. They probably read that as me expressing a declining interest in blogging for them, but, of course, that is pure conjecture.
I still have not heard back from them, and I likely never will.
I certainly was not interested in blogging for this magazine anymore, but their initial request did pique my interest in producing a blog. I thought that it would provide me an opportunity to keep my writing habit sharp. I also was interested in the possibilities that a blog offered in terms of a non-traditional medium for communicating about the foundations of cognitive science, and why the kind of research that I do might extend beyond the ‘ivory tower’. If you are reading this entry, then you already know to what the original request to blog has led.
Why ‘Cognition and Reality’?
My research concerns very abstract investigations of foundational issues in cognitive science. The title of this blog is a reminder to me to think continually about the implications my research has to the real world. The title also reflects my growing interest in embodied cognitive science, which generates theories about cognition by taking an agent’s mind, body, and world all into consideration at the same time. Finally, the blog title pays homage to Ulric Neisser’s book of the same title; Neisser’s book is a pioneering classic of embodied cognitive science that I misread as a graduate student, and rediscovered much more recently.