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.
Thanks for this, Pat.
This isn’t about academic blogging, but it’s practical advice for teacher bloggers from Ross McGill (@teachertoolkit on Twitter) for teacher bloggers, in case it’s of any use/interest for readers of your blog:
Apart from the occasional guest blog I’m not blogging yet as I want to complete my EdD thesis first, but I read and tweet about a lot of blogs and find it a fascinating channel of communication! And I always enjoy yours.
I’ve done a lot of writing for the Research Whisperer over the last three years (almost entirely at Shut Up and Write, which shows the power of that particular exercise). I have no idea if my writing has improved in quality over that time.
Certainly, I’ve become more confident in my authorial ‘voice’. I don’t think I’ve gotten faster though. Each Research Whisperer article is 1,000 – 1,500 words long. On average, it takes me two Shut Up and Write sessions of 1.5 hours each (3 hours total) to draft, revise, upload, find a picture, tag and categorise each article. However, lately I’ve found that it is taking longer – two sessions isn’t enough anymore. That may be because I’ve written all the ‘easy’ posts and the ideas are a bit more complicated now. Or it may be because I’m more conscious of the audience, so I want my prose to be the best it can be. Does this mean that I’m _less_ confident, more doubtful, now than I was before?
I’ve never kept a diary, and my personal blog has only a handful of entries. Yet I find it easy to speak with authority on the Research Whisperer. I’m not sure why – something to do with loving my job, I think.
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I haven’t – so far – noticed any ‘peer support,’ but I find blogging about academic efforts reassures that *something* is being created, even if it’s only a chart of progress to date. It’s like reading an old diary, going back through the posts.
The prescribed constraints of academic writing are onerous for anyone creative ~ albeit my loose grammar has improved, and I’m learning to junk superfluities, adjectival clauses and waffle (aka ‘padding’) while retaining what I hope is *different*. This happened by default. I don’t know if it was consciousness of an ‘audience,’ or simply paying more attention to the prose being generated *because* of the academic practice.
I do think it’s best to opt for a separate blog host, not one’s own institution’s webspace.
Overall, absence of gatekeepers is A Good Thing.
And proper blogging isn’t commercialised, which is another plus point in its favour.
This made me smile Pat as I have a half-written blog about blogging in my ‘blog ideas’ folder!
Talking to colleagues who don’t blog can be a useful activity for reviewing your own blogging gains and pains. When ‘to blog or not to blog’ is no longer the question, and it becomes habitual, it’s easy to forget the initial learning curves. The writing/critical reflection etc is integral to the blogging process but a blog is also a digital mirror which reflects you onto the internet. This can be a scary thought which in itself becomes a barrier. I think it’s worth keeping the need for digital confidence in mind when promoting blogging as academic practice.