bourdieu and blogs (yes, really)

Today I’ve been wondering about a field analysis, a la Bourdieu, of academic publishing. I dare say someone’s done this and it’s just one of the very many, many things that I haven’t caught up with.

I’ve been thinking about academic writing as a field. That’s because blogging is generally seen as a pretty low’ form of academic writing/publishing, certainly when compared to the ‘high’ status peer reviewed journal article and scholarly monograph. While both journals and books have different exchange value in different disciplines and policy contexts, they patently have much more status than blogs.

Some minority activities do of course have status in their fields – like the avant garde in art for instance. Well, I mean what used to be avant garde before we all became unshockable and it all became big business. But the vast majority of academic blogs are not avant-garde, certainly not in the way that some other scholarly digital publications are – collaborative platforms, non linear publications and so on, as produced by the digital just-add-name-of-discipline folk.

Blogging seems to have taken over from writing for newspapers as a suspect scholarly writing activity. Once upon a time, and certainly in my living memory, academics who wrote for the popular press were seen as somewhat egotistical. They were often assumed to be tainted by a need to expose themselves in public. It was all a bit unseemly, excessive and untoward, unnecessary hubris. These days, writing for newspapers, certainly in the UK, has less of the cheap and tawdry about it. It’s public engagement. It’s impact. It’s talking to the research user community. Writing for the press has come in from the margins of scholarly activity and is much more mainstream.

The outcast position on the nether regions of academic writing has transferred from writing for the media to writing the blog. The academic blog seems to have about the same kind of cultural cache as your average airport novel. It’s a low status time wasting activity. Of course, some blogs are more respectable than others. Any Bourdieusian analysis would have to do a bit of work on which kind of academic blogs were most on the nose and why. There are hierarchies even at the edges.

But if blogging is a ‘low’ scholarly practice, it’s also one where many of those/us who are involved have a bit of an attitude. We like blogging, we can see a point and we’re a bit tired of the assumption that it’s a kind of self indulgent distraction from the Real Work. At the same time there’s perhaps a certain pleasure in being part of a minority who are out there on the boundaries of respectable academic activity, dabbling in something that just may, in its turn, become mainstream at some point in the future. In fields, many things on the borders of respectability do eventually have their day.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in academic blogging, academic writing, blogging and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to bourdieu and blogs (yes, really)

  1. Sam Schulz says:

    ‘There are hierarchies even at the edges.’ Thanks, Pat. I think I just may use this! (properly cited, of course)

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  2. Another way of classifying blogging is as an ‘academic literacy’ (rather than as a scholarly practice). ‘Scholalry’ practice already seems to suggest that it (its rules, genres, etc) is defined by the walled diktats of the publishing/REF industry. If we adjust our perspective and reconceptualise blogging as one of many forms of ‘academic literacy’, I think this discourse could accommodate an academic way of conceiving blogs because then blogs become one of a range of developing social (academic) practices, i.e. they do different ‘academic things’, like thinking, reflecting, provoking, dialoguing …. They can become representative of the academic process, rather than the product (which is how scholarly activity is measured, i.e in terms of measurable output/product).

    The following article develops this further:

    Boggs, G.L (2015) ‘Listening to 21st century literacies: Prehistory of writing in an academic discipline’ Linguistics and Education (29): 15-31

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    • pat thomson says:

      I’m going with scholarly. It has a longer history and is a much mor generative notion for me than academic. It’s more amenable to ontological and axiological debate than academic in my view. But we can discuss f2f in more depth.

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  3. Reblogged this on Academic Emergence and commented:
    Pat Thomson on the ‘academicness’ of blogs:

    “many things on the borders of respectability do eventually have their day”.

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  4. Jane S says:

    “We like blogging, we can see a point and we’re a bit tired of the assumption that it’s a kind of self indulgent distraction from the Real Work.”
    Me-eh! I didn’t know we bloggers are on the margins of academic respectability! Dear me.
    I’m not very clued-up on Bourdieu, ‘habitus’ etc., but I really, really LIKE writing blog posts. I think this is because the space is mine ~ and such writing is indeed a relief from Real Work. We all need time out from being frightfully serious, and ~ dare one say it? ~ breaks from research writing and info-dense prose. This last is something I find particularly taxing. Writing’s an art, not a science, and one of the important aspects is its impact. My endless thesis revisions are losing their distinctive voice, becoming anodyne and – let’s face it – rather boring. An alternative is needed to placate the frustrated writer who’s always trying to break out of academic Colditz.
    With blog posts you can please yourself. 😉

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  5. Is there any evidence for the claim that blogging is a low-status activity?

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  6. SheriO says:

    I heard one scholar assert on Twitter that referring to the writing in blogs as “blogging,’ denigrates the writerly practice of publishing posts online in a digital format.

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  7. ailsahaxell says:

    Blogging is not ‘one thing’. It’s writing and as with any writing, it can serve many purposes.
    It may be scholarly, or not. It may be the testing the waters of interest, exemplifying academic literature with local examples…. For myself its a playful space where i do not sweat the small stuff, or if i do, i sweat it less. Writing in a less confining space (than an academic journal or a book chapter) my blogging is a bit like art- its not been overworked. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes not.
    But i find myself wanting to write here such a long response….i am now going off to my own blog to construct my thoughts 🙂

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