This week a few bits and pieces about blogging have arrived in my inbox – and since I only seem able to hold the most urgent pile of events and demands in my mind, they’ve commanded my attention.
First of all there was Deborah Lupton’s report of a survey she did about academic’s use of social media. She says that academics use social media for
… connecting and establishing networks not only with other academics but also people or groups outside universities, promoting openness and sharing of information, publicising the development of research and giving and receiving support.
However, she suggests,
While the majority of the respondents were very positive about using social media, they also expressed a range of concerns. These included issues of privacy and the blurring of boundaries between personal and professional use, the risk of jeopardising their career through injudicious use of social media, lack of credibility, the quality of the content they posted, time pressures, social media use becoming an obligation, becoming a target of attack, too much self-promotion by others, possible plagiarism of their ideas and the commercialisation of content and copyright issues.
So some enthusiasm for, but also concerns about blogging…
Then Taylor and Francis appeared in my inbox in the form of their own guide to academic blogging. T and F has turned the “Why do academics blog?” paper that Thesis Whisperer and I wrote into a neat little info-graphic. As Inger remarked to me when we saw the proofs, it’s interesting and just a bit scary to see something about which you’ve written a fair few academic caveats – on the one hand and on the other and you need to know this about these figures – turned into something that looks so ‘certain’ and ‘sure’ and ‘authoritative’.
Next I was asked how I managed to blog so regularly. “Monday morning and Thursday lunchtime” I responded, “It’s just a schedule” – so it’s something I do each week. I generally write both blogs on Sunday morning, although sometimes (like now) it’s the day before. I do think that the rhythm of the schedule helps me (well that’s all a bit Henri Lefebvre, but he was onto something in saying that the way that rhythm works is important). I’m not sure I would keep up with this blog if I wrote more sporadically. I have a kind of blogging rhythm which is self regulatory. I impose my own deadlines which I can generally keep to. Blogging is now a bit like washing the towels and sheets – it just gets done on a regular basis. So has blogging become my writing housework, I wonder?
And because I’m coming up to the three-year mark with this blog, I’ve been thinking about how many words I’ve actually churned out. It’s at least three books worth. I’m quite forcibly struck by how inaccessible many of those words now are. The archiving system for blogs is not that good and it takes a bit of effort to search through the back-lot of posts to find anything – and that’s just me and I mostly know what’s there!! I’m promising myself that I’m going to find a way to make some of these back-lot posts more accessible. But that means having time of course, and so it might take a while to get round to. But the access and organisation question is also a reason to keep writing books as they do have some kind of coherence, they are a much more curated form of academic writing.
The most rewarding part of the blog is the feedback. This comes in part through the data that is made available by wordpress in counts and graphs of hits, but it’s also from posted comments that engage productively with what I’ve put out. As well, it’s when people quietly tell me that the blog has been useful to them in some way. I know that I should probably call these comments something policy-wise like impact, but it seems more in keeping with my sense of my self as a researcher and teacher to have someone say they find something that I’ve done of interest and use.
This blog has certainly got way, way more readers than any other kind of writing that I do. And these readers are everywhere. Patter reaches into bits of the world that expensive English language journals and books don’t. So there’s a politics about this kind of blogging too; making things accessible, sharing academic knowledge. This runs somewhat against the grain of the dominant consumption publishing models that we academics are now too often held hostage to.
My final thought this week was prompted by a request to write a piece about some of my education research. Because it was a short piece, I automatically slipped into what is now my accustomed blog genre – thinking first of all about the point I wanted to make and then brainstorming a title and playing around with an introduction designed to capture a bit of interest and encourage people to read on. I haven’t fully figured out whether I do have a constant format for blogs – and if I do, this one certainly isn’t sticking to it, as it’s more in the form of a bit of musing – but I guess I can sort out blog-as-genre in the next year.
Meantime I’ll just blogger off.