I’ve noticed that an awful lot of bloggers blog about blogging. Some bloggers who blog about blogging blog about other kinds of academic writing as well. And some bloggers blog about academic writing, but not blogging – but not often. If you blog about one form of writing, you tend to blog about the other. But I have a hunch that more bloggers blog about blogging than blog about the other kinds of academic writing they do. And while I see bloggers taking their blogging about blogging into mainstream academic publications, I don’t see a lot of bloggers publishing more generally about academic writing. There are some of course who do, and I’m one of them.
I’ve also noticed that a lot of blogging about blogging has common themes:
(1) advocacy blogging about blogging – readers are encouraged to think about blogging and given reasons why it is a Good Thing
(2) instructional blogging about blogging – readers are provided with a set of handy hints about how to start and manage a blog
(3) reflective blogging about blogging – writers consider their own blogging habits, be they fast/slow, regular/irregular, diary-like, linked to impact, absolutely unlike other forms of academic writing, career building, testing out of ideas, a way of improving other forms of academic writing and so on …
So what does this blogging about blogging actually mean, I wonder? Well, I suspect that blogging has somehow legitimated, promoted and extended an interest in academic writing.
In 2001, Mike Rose and Karen McClafferty wrote an important paper for a key US educational research journal entitled “A call for the teaching of writing in graduate education”. Rose and McClafferty argued that all graduate students should engage in some formal learning about writing and should be exposed to research about writing. Based on investigations of their own regular ten-week graduate writing workshops at UCLA, they suggested that writing workshops had a number of benefits for doctoral researchers, including:
• an increased sense of agency about the crafting of writing
• a stronger sense of audience
• more understanding of how to make writing accessible within the confines of their discipline
• improved skills as critical readers
• more access to critical peer support, and
• more opportunity to shape a scholarly identity in and through writing.
Since Rose and McClafferty wrote this piece there has been significant growth of exactly the kinds of writing workshops that they envisaged. In addition, many universities now employ writing specialists who work across the disciplines. It is a rare UK and Australian Graduate School which doesn’t now offer some kind of writing based programme for doctoral researchers.
But I think that many of the benefits that Rose and McClafferty attribute to writing workshops may also apply to blogging. Certainly some of the blogging about blogging suggests that bloggers find they have a greater sense of agency and feel they have a more assured voice, write more accessibly, and that they’ve found a greater range of readers. Blogs about blogging suggest that bloggers also find – and frequently point to – new forms of peer support and other academic opportunities generated through their blogging, as opposed to other forms of academic writing. This suggests of course that the act of just writing more may be a Very Good Thing and that writing in public and for a public or two may be even better.
And one more thing. Blogging about blogging, and to a lesser extent blogging about academic writing more generally, has moved writing discussions out of formal classrooms and away from people who are writing specialists. We might say that discussions about academic writing have in part been democratised. Everybody who blogs has some vernacular blog writing expertise since there aren’t yet any blogging ‘experts’, merely people who’ve been doing it longer than others. And there are no gatekeepers who decide who can blog about blogging, simply readers who do or don’t accept what is on offer. Similarly, there are no gatekeepers for who blogs about academic writing. Blogging about blogging is free for all, sometimes a free for all. But all this bloggery seems to be doing something about academic writing that is new, different, and generally positive.