Sunday, January 30, 2011

Academic Blogging

Should academics blog?

Yesterday, I held an informal workshop with my postgraduate students. It's an occasion for us all to meet and discuss the down and dirty aspects of working on a PhD thesis. I always mean to introduce more baked goods to these meetings, but the last few days have been far too hot to even think about ovens (the witch in the gingerbread house did not live in Melbourne in summer). Yesterday, we began talking about the importance of - and drawbacks of - having an online presence.

There are a few reasons I began to blog here:

1. I often come across information and links that are of interest in my research. The blog is an opportunity for me to pull these together and share them with students.
2. I can communicate with past, present and potentially future students beyond the classroom.
3. The blog provides me with some control over my online presence. Through the blog, people can at least see how I like to present my work.

More and more, publishers are also checking the online presence of potential authors. This is something to think about for those hoping to go the authorial route.

There are, of course, drawbacks. Blogs are public. Anyone can read them, so you have to be mindful that you are publishing, albeit in a more informal way. Copyright boundaries are still vigorously debated. There are trolls and their bridges apparently have wi-fi these days.

Yet, I like having my blog. It helps me to think about what I'm doing and what it means in terms of the wider community. I think it is a useful tool for academics.

A while ago, Patrick Spedding blogged about our colleagues' blogs, including mine. I also came across a blog by Maria Nikolajeva, best known by myself for her work on children's literature. She helpfully blogged, among other things, about her career trajectory. Nikolejeva combines personal and academic reflection and the first time I came upon her blog, I read her post on baking bread. There is, of course, Henry Jenkins, too. His blog is a great source for interviews with great thinkers, whether from industry, fandom or academia. There is little personal reflection, but, then, Jenkins has worked his life as a fan into his academic life. Each academic decides on what they feel comfortable with sharing. The important thing, I think, is to respect those boundaries and for readers of the blog to understand that it is a blog - not an academic monograph.


titanium said...

Another thing I've found about "Academic Blogging" from the perspective of a student - but hey profs are always learning anyway - is that journaling what you have learnt is a good way of cementing it into your own head. Also, being forced to write for an audience makes you stick to schedule and be clear about the topic, which is good for you in the long run.

I also love the fact that after journaling one of my IT subjects the hits on my blog sky rocketed in the weeks before the exam. :)

Patrick Spedding said...

I probably blog because I am an insomniac -- though I'd like to think I do it for other reasons! But now you have me thinking, it would probably be a good idea to explain what those reasons are. Well, sunrise is another hour away …


littleread said...

I blog as a way of warming up my brain, I find that talking about other things helps to clear my mind. and help me to focus my academic writing offline. Also I like posting pretty pictures.