October 14, 2010 11:00 pm EDT
I return to one of my favorite subjects, blogging in the academia, but this time with a focus not on the students, as in my previous post, but on the scholar herself. I believe that blogging may be a useful tool for those of us involved in the process of creating (and communicating) new knowledge.
How so? Because of the nature of blogging itself.
Blogging = Reading + Writing + Linking + Commenting
This concentrated definition (which I borrowed from Kosmopolito) summarizes very well the way blogs work. And this fits very well with the way scholars work as well, doesn’t it? We read or see or listen to other people’s work, be it in the news or at the movies or in academic journals. We react to these inputs usually by making a note (at least a mental one, to self) and then connect through references to others’ writing, which we implicitly comment on (think of the mandatory literature overviews of every book or article). Blogging functions not so differently from the way an academic article does. So if the two are so close, why bother?
Blogging has some unique qualities. I will enumerate them briefly:
- Blogs allow for timely reaction to events. They are a comment on things almost as they happen.
- Blogs are more creative as they have no “submission guidelines” to follow.
- Blogs allow for easy and fast cross-referencing and checking of sources through linking.
- Through links, bloggers can create and develop networks of writers with similar interests.
- Quick feedback is possible through the “comment” function.
- Comments foster open dialogue and the direct interaction between the author and readers.
- Communication beyond the narrow circle of academia is possible on the Internet.
Taking into account these great opportunities available for the 21st century academic, I wonder how many of us actually use them? Well, at least some. In her recently published PhD dissertation at Lund University, Sara Kjellberg discusses the functions of the academic blog. Included in her research were interviews with scholars from two fields of knowledge: physics and history. For both hard and soft sciences, she concludes that blogging is a useful way to communicate research results and to engage in conversations with other people who share one’s interest.
Among the blogs written by scholars, there are a couple that I very much enjoy reading. My choices reflect my areas of interest, and are included here just as proof of the existence of scholar bloggers and examples of how one can go about doing it in practice. As I am comfortable with several languages, they may appear somewhat strange to you at first, but not after you have tried Google Translate! In Swedish I like to check out Peter Englund’s blog. Englund is the Secretary of the Swedish Academy of Sciences that awards every year the Nobel Prize, and a respected historian and writer in his own right. In Romanian I read the blog of Vladimir Tismaneanu, professor at the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. In English I often check the posts by Timothy Garton Ash on the “Comment is Free” section of the British daily The Guardian. Garton Ash is professor of history at University of Oxford, also active at Stanford University and as a consultant for various European bodies. Also in English, another blogger with spot-on writing (and a great dose of humor) is Sean Hanley, lecturer at University College, London.
Perhaps you realized that throughout this post I was avoiding the inevitable question: do I blog? Hmmm, I guess you know the answer. Not YET, but I will. Just give me some time to finish grading those exams, giving these lectures, going to the 3rd meeting of the day…
Some resources for those who might want to get going with their blog immediately:
Blogging: A short introduction for academics by Kosmopolito
I am a blogging researcher: Motivations for blogging in a scholarly context – Sara Kjellberg
On how to use hyperlinks (and the implications thereof) – Julien Frisch
A directory of academic blogs by discipline – The Academic Blog Portal
Anamaria writes from Lund, Sweden. She is one of the founding members of the editorial collective at University of Venus.