Portrait of the Scholar as Blogger

7 Jun

By Anamaria Dutceac Segesten

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:

  1. Blogs allow for timely reaction to events. They are a comment on things almost as they happen.
  2. Blogs are more creative as they have no “submission guidelines” to follow.
  3. Blogs allow for easy and fast cross-referencing and checking of sources through linking.
  4. Through links, bloggers can create and develop networks of writers with similar interests.
  5. Quick feedback is possible through the “comment” function.
  6. Comments foster open dialogue and the direct interaction between the author and readers.
  7. 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.


PS the hand in date is Tuesday May 10 at 4pm

4 May

On Tuesday May 10 you will have to hand in your Magazine/Book/Newspaper/Website [or a receipt showing that you are having it printed] to Lauren at reception.

You also have to publish a PDF or widget from Blurb of your completed work on your Blog/website at the same time.

You will need to hand in this URL along with your submission and your HEADER SHEET.

If you do not do all of the above your work cannot be marked and this will result in not be able to pass the course.

Don’t Panic and try to enjoy the creation you are about to produce.

Any questions just email me at:  im08@gre.ac.uk

All the best



26 Apr

Tomorrow [Wednesday 27 April] is your second to last day in LAB B for producing your GAMSWEN project articles.

You should have written most of them by now with an introduction and a conclusion.

They need to have references in the text as to where and who you got the information from (Powers 2011) AND and bibliography for each article.

Tomorrow then should be about eh design and production of your document in which ever form you have chosen it to be in.

It is very important that you are there tomorrow for me to be able to help you with your design work and the content of your articles.

See you before 10am in LAB B tomorrow.

Hope you have had a restful and productive break

All the best


PS the hand in date is Tuesday May 10 at 4pm.

The London Zine Symposium

30 Mar

12pm – 6pm – sunday – 17th April – 2011 –

at The Rag Factory,
Heneage Street, London E1 5LJ

Entry free/ donation


About the Symposium

The 7th annual London Zine Symposium will be a day celebrating zines, small press, comix, radicals can DIY culture.


First stalls confirmed for 2011



With just under six weeks to go before the big day we’re happy to announce the first confirmations of stalls for the 2011 London Zine Symposium. 2011 will once again see over sixty distros, collectives and individual sine makers selling their wares on the day. This year we have people coming from Finland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy and across the UK. It’s going to be an amazing spread of different zines to pick up. You can see full details of the first confirmations at www.londonzinesymposium.org.uk/stalls/

We’ve also announced the early details of our workshops, walks and talks. The Anarchist Teapot are returning to feed us all, and Past Tense are once again going to be running their popular radical history walk around the East End. You can see full details at: www.londonzinesymposium.org.uk/whats_on/


Choose 9 Articles from the list below for GAMSWEN 2011.

24 Mar

1.     London Underground and corporate identity and  Edward Johnston

2.      Jan Tschichold and Avant-Garde Typography in the 1920s

3.     British Library Visit

4.     Charles and Ray Eames

5. The Growth of Graphic Design Rand, Müller Brockmann, Fletcher, Chermayeff”

6.     Animated Animation

7.     Computers……?

8.     Click  Click [Photography?]

9.     Postmodernism and you

10.   An article subject of your own choice.

11.   Perception + Illusion

The hand in date is Tuesday 10 May 4pm

A case of never letting the source spoil a good story

23 Mar

A case of never letting the source spoil a good story

By Ben Goldacre

Perhaps it’s too embarrassing for some writers to risk linking to primary sources that readers can check for themselves
Wind farms have been blamed for the stranding of whales, according to a distorted story in the Daily Telegraph which was later retracted. Photograph: Christopher Thomond

Why don’t journalists link to primary sources? Whether it’s a press release, an academic journal article, a formal report or perhaps (if everyone’s feeling brave) the full transcript of an interview, the primary source contains more information for interested readers, it shows your working, and it allows people to check whether what you wrote was true. Perhaps linking to primary sources would just be too embarrassing. Here are three short stories.

This week the Telegraph ran the headline “Wind farms blamed for stranding of whales”. It continued: “Offshore wind farms are one of the main reasons why whales strand themselves on beaches, according to scientists studying the problem.” Lady Warsi even cited this as fact on the BBC’s Question Time this week, while arguing against wind farms.

But anyone who read the open-access academic paper in PLoS One, titled “Beaked whales respond to simulated and actual navy sonar”, would see that the study looked at sonar and didn’t mention wind farms at all. At our most generous, the Telegraph story was a spectacular and bizarre exaggeration of a brief contextual aside about general levels of manmade sound in the ocean by one author at the end of the press release (titled “Whales ‘scared’ by sonars”). Now, I have higher expectations of academic institutions than media ones, but this release didn’t mention wind farms, certainly didn’t say they were “one of the main reasons why whales strand themselves on beaches”, and anyone reading the press release could see that the study was about naval sonar.

The Telegraph article was a distortion (now retracted), perhaps driven by its odder editorial lines on the environment, but my point is this: if we had a culture of linking to primary sources, if they were a click away, then any sensible journalist would be too embarrassed to see this article go online. Distortions like this are only possible, or plausible, or worth risking, in an environment where the reader is actively deprived of information.

Sometimes the examples are sillier. Professor Anna Ahn published a paper recently showing that people with shorter heels have larger calves. For the Telegraph this became Why stilettos are the secret to shapely legs”, for the Mail “Stilettos give women shapelier legs than flats”, for the Express “Stilettos tone up your legs”.

Yet anybody who read even just the press release would immediately see that this study had nothing whatsoever to do with shoes. It didn’t look at shoe heel height, it looked at anatomical heel length, the distance from the back of your ankle joint to the insertion of the achilles tendon. It was just an interesting, nerdy insight into how the human body is engineered: if you have a shorter lever at the back of your foot, you need a bigger muscle in your calf. The participants were barefoot.

Once more this story was a concoction by journalists, but no journalist would have risked writing that the study was about stilettos if they’d had to link to the press release – they’d have looked like idiots, and fantasists, to anyone who bothered to click.

Lastly, on Wednesday the Daily Mail ran with the scare headline “Swimming too often in chlorinated water ‘could increase risk of developing bladder cancer’, claim scientists”. There’s little point in documenting the shortcomings of Mail health stories any more, but suffice to say, while the story purported to describe a study in the journal Environmental Health, anyone who read the original paper, or even the press release, would see immediately that bladder cancer wasn’t measured, and the Mail’s story was a simple distortion.

Of course, this is a problem that generalises well beyond science. Over and again, you read comment pieces that purport to be responding to an earlier piece, but distort the earlier arguments, or miss out the most important ones: they count on it being inconvenient for you to check. There’s also an interesting difference between different media: most bloggers have no institutional credibility, so they must build it by linking transparently and allowing you to double-check their work easily.

But more than anything, because linking to sources is such an easy thing to do and the motivations for avoiding links are so dubious, I’ve detected myself using a new rule of thumb: if you don’t link to primary sources, I just don’t trust you.

Postmoderism and Design – Discussion Space

21 Mar

Have a look at and read the article in full

Designing Britain 1945 – 1975 > From Solving Problems to Selling Product > Theory > Postmodernism


And then comment on what you think about this article in relation to your own design practice using the link to the Quick Topic discussion space at:

Discuss Postmoderism and Design

You will need to post at least 2 comments by the end of the lesson on Wednesday 23.03.2011

This is an extract from the article…

At a philosophical level, Modernist design methods assumed that objects could have a priori significance – in other words that they could have a predetermined meaning that is in existence prior to the user experiencing the object. This implies that the meaning of the object is constant, predetermined, and independent of its situation. This position allows for the possibility of an absolute and universal meaning to be attached to an artefact, with the act of consumption being a passive reception of given meaning. The cultural turn implicit in Postmodernism challenges the assumption that the object of study can be an autonomous entity – it is said that an object is not able to speak for itself, but is in fact ‘spoken for’ by its social and political context. The values associated with the object are determined by the position from which the object is viewed and aesthetic appeal is regarded not as a universal value, outside of history, but rather as an ever-changing quality relative to the circumstance within which the object is consumed. In consequence, the true nature of things is to be found in social processes and structures that surround them, rather than in an intrinsic, immutable quality of the things themselves.


And then comment on what you think about this article in relation to your own design practice using the link to the Quick Topic discussion space link below

QuickTopic free message boards

Discuss Postmoderism and Design

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Discuss Postmoderism and Design

Next up, what you see is what you get.

16 Mar


Next up, what you see is what you get.

This post continues the discussion about the tool we developed for Split Second.  Once you get past stressing and (possibly) scrolling in the timed trial, the tool asks you to slow down and consider a work in various ways prior to rating it.  What you may not know is different people are randomly assigned into groups and asked different things during these stages, so your own experience is often different from other participants.

Section two of the tool is designed to get you thinking in various capacities about a work prior to rating it. Participants are split into six groups and each group is given a question or activity about ten works. Either you are asked one of five questions (shown below) or you are just given the rating scale alone.

Which activity did you get? Participants are split into groups and each group is assigned a task to complete prior to rating. (Image: Intoxicated Woman at a Window Northern India, 79.285) 

In terms of the data coming back to us, we’ll be looking at a lot of different aspects.  Do any of the activities have an effect on the eventual rating?  How widely do answers vary to these questions?  Do participants bail from the tool and,  if so, which question/activity triggers this? How long do participants spend with works prior to answering and rating?

The third section of the tool is a bit of an information showdown.  Unlike the first section where we are looking for gut reactions or the second which gauges whether thinking/participation has an impact on rating, this final section looks at how given information may change things.  This time, we are specifically looking at the information that the institution produces to see how effective it is (or isn’t).

Participants are randomly split into one of three groups and presented with ten objects. Some people only see the object’s caption, others are given tags to consider and the final group gets what we think of as the museum “gold,” the interpretive label.  I’ve spoken to more than a few participants who were really disappointed when they were randomly selected to just review tags or captions; don’t you just love it?  Folks disappointed that they can’t dig into label copy is a bit of trip.

Participants are split into groups with some reviewing typical caption information, tags or label copy. (Image: Intoxicated Woman at a Window Northern India, 79.285) 

In this activity we are measuring a few things.  Most obvious, which type of information changes ratings. Less obvious, we’re going to be looking at length of label copy and tone of the label to see if ratings are effected simply by how we compose these materials.  Also thinking about how long people linger with these materials prior to rating.  We’ve got a chance to look at tagging in a new light, too. We know tagging has a positive effect on our collection’s searchablity, but do tags as information sitting on a page help or hurt a participant’s rating of an object?

The rating scale used in both of these sections is also worth noting because it’s a notch above what we used for Click!. In both Click! and Split Second, we recognize participants are rating art and, with its many complexities, wanted to stay away from simple 1-10 or 5 star scales.  In both cases, we implemented a slider with some general direction, but otherwise want to give folks as much granularity as possible. Split Second‘s slider differs from Click! in that there’s no fixed position of the slider mark itself.  With Click!, the slider was fixed in the center and then moved by the participant.

Click! Rating ToolSlider used in the rating tool for Click! was fixed at the center position until moved by the participant. 

In Split Second, the slider isn’t fixed until a participant hovers to encourage participants to move from center and use the breadth of the scale.

Split Second Rating ToolWith Split Second’s rating tool, slider is unfixed until hover and participants are encouraged to use the breadth of the scale. 

This is a subtle change that will likely have a big impact and many thanks goes to Beau for this idea and implementation. For as simple as the tool is, there’s a lot of complexity behind the scenes and Beau and Paul have done incredible work as the team behind it.

The preliminary data is incredibly rich and the questions and ideas that I’ve talked about here barely scratch the surface of what we are seeing, so stay tuned for more.  If you’ve not taken part in Split Second yet, you’ve got until April 14—go for it!

What Designers Should Know About Visual Perception and Memory

15 Mar

Closeup of an eye

A very interseting post on a blog by Steven Bradley on Monday, March 7th, 2011 at:


Here are some excerpts:

When a visitor lands on your web page and begins to look around you hope your message is communicated clearly and understood. On the surface this may seem like a simple one way transmission of ideas from your design to the viewer’s eye. The reality is more complex.

Visual perception is the result of complex interactions between external visual stimulus and prior knowledge, goals, and expectations. Understanding how we all perceive things visually will help designers communicate better.

This post will focus on the theory and science of visual perception and memory. Much of the information comes from the book Visual Language for Designers by Connie Malamed, which I recently read and recommend.

Visual Processing

Perception is the process of obtaining awareness and understanding of sensory data. We take in something visually and then need to process what we see in order to derive some meaning from it.

Our brains need to find meaningful patterns in our visual environment in order to make decisions about what to do and how to respond.

Human beings process sensory data in parallel as we interact with the world. Different regions of the brain are simultaneously activated through networks of neurons. This parallel processing allows visual perception to be both fast and efficient and it’s why designs can communicate quickly and efficiently as well.

Visual perception is a two way street. We see small details in the environment and take them all in to see the whole. We also bring to our environment knowledge and specific goals that determine where we look and influence our interpretation of sensory data.

How we perceive things is a combination of both bottom-up and top-down processes.

Schematic of the eye

Bottom-Up Processing

The bottom-up process is driven by external stimuli.

The human fovea can only focus on a very small area at one time and we see through a series of saccadic movements of the eye.

We fixate on one location for a moment and then move on to the next fixation. We take in little at each fixation and it’s through a pattern of saccades that we take in our visual environment.

This all occurs quickly and early in the visual process without any conscious effort or attention on out parts. It happens so quickly we’re not even aware it’s happening.

At a glance we detect the following without conscious awareness.

Each therefore can be used to attract attention to something in your design. As we process the above information our brains

This all occurs rapidly helping us to recognize and identify objects on the page. This information is quickly passed to other areas of the brain and influences where we place our attention next.

'Everything is a matter of perception' standing out as red words in a sea of white letters

Top-Down Processing

The top-down process is driven by prior knowledge and expectations as well as our specific goals of the moment. What we know shapes our interpretation of the things we see. The task at hand influences where we look next.

We tend to disregard anything that isn’t meaningful or useful at the moment. In the image above the red letters spelling out “Everything is a matter of perception” clearly stand out due to the contrast in color.

Your mind is looking for words in a sea of letters as we generally expect a pattern of letters to form words and sentences, etc.

Most of the other letters fade into the background as you read the sentence in red.

Suppose though, I asked you to find all the occurrences of the letter “P” in the image? Now as you scan the image the letter “P” should start to stand out a bit more and it’s possible that even the highly visible red letters start to fade into the background. At the very least you likely aren’t noticing the words they spell out.

The task at hand is affecting your visual perception. You see more of what you’re looking for and less of what you aren’t. This top-down process so affects our visual perception that some suggest we see more with our mind than with out eyes.

What we know, what we expect, and what we want to do influence what we see.

Abstract illustration representing free of thought


We hold information in different kinds of memory. Sensory memory records fleeting impressions that last a few hundred milliseconds. This is long enough to hold the prominent features of what we see long enough to further process them.

When sensory information is auditory we call this echoic memory and when the information is visual we call it iconic memory.

Please read in full and write a comment about how this migt affect your work/blog.


2 Mar


It was created by the street artist Blu, who describes it as the result of “months of work and hundreds [of] buckets of paint”. That’s hardly surprising, given that it tries to illustrate the history of the universe since the big bang, with a particular focus on the evolution of life on Earth.