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Thoughts on Blogging In Academia

Going to give a short presentation soon on Social Software in Academia.
What follows is a a public collection-place for my thoughts on Blogging in Academia:

Summary of my Use, and General Thoughts:

  • Personal catch-all. Given that my interests are eclectic–borges & ts eliot, natural language processing, AI-driven pedagogy, social software, lingusitics, religion… the blog I have is the reflection of this.
  • My research is at the intersection of computer science, pedagogy, and linguistics. A very restricted audience
  • Blogs seem to benefit people inclined to write. By “writing” i don’t mean writing as a journalist or academian necessarily. I just spent this last week writing conference papers, and that blog-writing isn’t necessarily so painful.
  • I mean writing in the same way that you would extrovert to your friends at a coffeeshop. Or writing in the same way as a radio talk show host pontificates. It’s that kind of sublime-in-thought-but-not-in-syntax kind of writing.
  • I am inclined to write, when real life doesn’t get in the way.
  • Blogs seem to be good when they have regular content. It seems like it takes a regular flow of new stuff to keep an audience once they are attracted. At least, that’s what I see when I read the A- and B-listers.

Am I blogging for myself or blogging for other people?

  • If I am blogging for others:
    • I would say my goal is to develop a “community” rather than just a “readership”. how does community develop around blog? I’ve met about 3 (2 of whom I now correspond reguarly with) people now who’ve stumbled across the language pedagogy stuff I write about. With those 3, my blog has seemed more like a facilitator to begin talking more thru email than it is to form a community.
    • What does it take to form community? Perhaps multiple people interested in actively blogging and commenting on each others’ blogs is what it takes to form community. A community certainly hasn’t developed around what I have.
  • If I am blogging for myself:
    • It makes things easily searchable (the whole “outboard brain”). This is what first got me starting to blog
    • It enforces clarity and quality of thought. When I know others are reading, and when I know google and are going to store what i write for all eternity, It makes me think through my thoughts a lot more, carry them out to their next logical step.
    • Interesting, it’s shown me a hierarchy I have for what I create: I was going to put up a final essay from one of my classes last term, and I realized I was embarrassed to have that quality of writing associated with me. granted, i’m taking engineering classes, but it’s funny i value the general unknown public more than my classes…). Contrasted, I just finished a paper for a conference in Portugal next fall, and I had no problem putting that up without any cleanup.


  • Consistency in blogging encourages smallthought, rather than large thought. little, one-line commentary and linkage is the easiest to write consistently. this isn’t necessarily the most insightful of commentary.
  • Expertise in a small or emerging area is projected by google into expertise in a larger area. An annecdote: About half a year ago I wrote a big old post on folksonomy, just when it was getting big. It must have done something big to my google rank, because later on I wrote a post referencing a conference, ICALT, that I decided *not* to submit to, and I found that I come up first in google for “ICALT 2005 blog”. Oh well.
  • I suppose websearch is useful for discovering the existing A-list for an established subject, but hard to find new stuff.
  • The dichotomy in pull between writing for yourself and writing for others:
    Like most nerds I’m scatterbrained and eclectic. Call it NADD or call it being a renaisance man. How do we reconcile the desire to track multiple subjects with the desire not to get too high noise:signal for readers on the blog? One answer is to have multiple blogs, but heck, I can hardly post to mine regularly.
  • The difficulty in forming community: it’s hard to establish a community out of no-where, unless you’re contributing to something that’s already hot in the blogging world. My annecdotal experience says this. Is it true?

One Comment

  1. Having (unfortunately?) left the world of hard core academia, I miss what it symbolised – the idealogy of expression and experimentation with thoughts and mind connections. Of course, in reality, it was harder to meet people with whom you could discuss such. I found it surprising and a bit of a shock/disappointment. Maybe that’s another reason why I’ve returned to blogging.

    Perhaps in your world so closely linked to the computing/networked world, blogging is commonplace, but so far, apart from the friends who already blog (or read others who do!), many others have never even heard of the term.

    You commented on the very question I tried to address back in the now archived blog I keep/kept – who is one writing for? (Or, more grammatically correct, for whom is one writing?) As you write to a range of audience, by nature of the posts, you introduce segmentation – eg technical/academic or general – food, society, even poetry. I personally think it’s a shame you don’t blog more as the technical side of things, I wouldn’t usually comment on, so have to wait at least till the next general blog!

    I agree that it’s hard to establish a community. But if that was a goal, then it would go back to what the purpose of the blog was – is it to try and get as many viewpoints from different backgrounds as possible (always skewed towards those who are IT literate and possibly into the whole blogging arena); is it to strengthen existing friendships (which would probably mean more emphasis on news and personal thoughts/reflections and possibly have some reliance on prior understanding); or simply for carthasis (that’s one of my latest words!)? So far, the conclusion for my own blog is that it’s a combination of the last two – it helps develop the voice knowing the audience includes friends who want to know my musings (and occasionally to comment on them). It seems therefore that the pitch is on – if you’re interested in knowing more about how my mind works…
    whether the reader actually gets much out is another matter. And since I’m no longer in academia, perhaps it matters less.

    The small thought v. big thought concept. I struggle with that too. But still, to have every post be heavy-loaded and deep-deep… I think it would be a burden. I advocate the deep yet light touch interwoven, in order that as many friends as possible can access something. And after all, that expresses who I am too, right?

    And yes, I like your coffeeshop analogy.

    Other points – from your description, does that mean I’m also a nerd? No matter, the other day, our director just categorised our entire department as such – the “nerds” of the organisation. Said in half-jest, I gather.

    Multiple blogs definitely is too much. But perhaps insomniac writers might find it of comfort.

    If there are but a few who respond, if they are sparked by what I’ve written, it doesn’t matter about the rest. All this is ultimately about finding one’s voice.

    Posted on 06-May-05 at 13:33 | Permalink