I recently read an article by Inger Mewburn (The Thesis Whisperer) called “‘You make me want to throw up’: why do some academics hate blogging?” As I read down through Mewburn’s experiences of resistance to blogging among academics I felt incredibly familiar with most of them: the accusation that blogging is not scholarly, the comments about how one could possibly have so much time to post regularly, and that it’s simply a waste of time. The time issue has really irked me, and even upset me a number of times. While many ask the seemingly rhetorical question of how to find the time with general curiosity or wonderment, I have felt that some ask it with a hint of disdain about what I and others choose to spend a small part of our time doing. Often, I answered with the fact that I have regularly managed to produce a post from beginning to publication in under 30 minutes. Now I just choose to state, “why not try it and see for yourself?” I have even encountered a few snorts of laughter about my participation in and enjoyment of blogging. This resistance to blogging as an academic practise has often led me to question my motives and even my place in academia.
But then I look at the benefits that I and others have reaped from making ourselves visible online. Through twitter and this website I have gained publications, built up a wonderful and useful network of peers, learned of and shared information about events and issues related to my work. More importantly, I think I am sharing a part of myself that would be totally invisible if I didn’t engage with social media as a doctoral student. Anyone who reads this blog or follows me on twitter knows more about my interests, hobbies and goals than they could possibly learn from any of my work published in journals or books. Nadine Muller recently wrote a blog post called, “Silences & Selfishness: The Politics of Blogging the Personal & Professional.” In this, she writes about the line between the personal and professional in academic blogging, and whether the two can mix. In response she received many encouraging and supportive comments calling for more humanity in the humanities. Just taking this example alone, it is clear that blogging is worthwhile for anyone, and certainly for academics. The style of writing and the format may be different to producing a peer-reviewed article, for example. But, it is, nonetheless, a useful tool in taking one’s creativity to another level, and exploring other methods of expression and dissemination.
Despite the resistance that remains, I see an ever-growing number of academics turning to blogging, be it a WordPress/Blogger site and/or micro-blogging on Twitter. Several of my colleagues blog and we read, share and comment each other’s posts creating another layer of engagement with one another’s work. Some are currently working on projects (The Samuel Forde Project by @michaeljwaldron and @ShaLo1; The Charles Clark Project by @mary_db10 and @Carriegriff) about individuals and have given them a living presence on twitter; those interested in their work can now converse with the 19th century artist, @Samuel_Forde, and the 19th century book antiquarian, @charlesclarkjnrs and learn more about the projects via 140 character snippets. These are wonderful examples of the new types of dissemination that academics have at their disposal. When increased visibility of research and the researcher are achievable, when public engagement is all the more possible, it is hard to believe that many still view blogging and social media in general as burdensome.
However, blogging is not the law of the land for academics. We are still free to work and publish with traditional methods and mediums. But it is important to accept and appreciate the evolving nature of research. As Inger Mewburn states,
“It is not really up to those who do use social media to try to therapise others. If others don’t want to partake, whether from fear, or disinterest, there’s not much we can do to convince them otherwise. We can only model other ways of being an academic and hope others may follow our lead.”
I am interested to know if other academic bloggers have experienced any resistance to their online engagement, and how you think social media has benefited your work. Please feel free to leave any comments you have.