I’m currently sitting in a computer lab, getting thoroughly inspired by the workshop I’m attending on Academic Blogging, run by my colleague and MSc E-Learning alumni, Nicola Osborne (her prezi for the day is here http://prezi.com/nhayktwpgqq1/academic-blogging-workshop/ ).
I’ve been avoiding blogging with vigour for some time now 🙂 and her workshop is forcing me to think ‘Why am I blogging? Who is my audience? What do I want to be blogging about?’
So here’s my thoughts on why….
I teach on the MSc in E-Learning where we have a course (Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning) which includes a blogging component worth 50% of the student’s final grade. That blog is a private space between a single student and their blog tutor, one where the student posts regularly, reflecting on the topics, activities and readings the course covers. The tutor’s job is to comment regularly and help guide the student toward a more critical stance on the materials and a more confident blog voice. I’m a fairly good blog tutor but I feel a bit of a sham as I’ve not really blogged myself. So, partly, I want to blog so that I better understand the experience of blogging and can better support my students.
I’m also (kind of) doing a PhD. “Kind of” because it’s been a bit of a slow start and will probably only take off now as I am making a topic, location and supervision change (more on that in another post!). I’m a terrible procrastinator and I hope having a regular blog writing schedule will push me. I also know how very very important writing is to help think through ideas, to not lose the ideas (oh how many have slipped away over time!), to have writing that can be drawn on later and to simply get practice at writing (nothing’s worse than the blank page when the deadline looms!). So, I’m hoping a blog will help me synthesise readings, chart the development of ideas, and perhaps also be a space where I can sometimes get input from others to help provoke my thinking further.
I’m also (sort of again) research active – I’ve been involved in a few very cool projects over the last couple of years and the blog is a nice way of sharing that.
I’m hoping also that my PhD and ‘work’ research will be complementary and this blog might be a way to bring the two together.
What this means is that I have multiple purposes and maybe multiple audiences (students might pop along to check out more about this Clara person, my supervisors and phd mates might want to check out and feedback on my thinking about my phd, and colleagues who share the same research interests I do).
Yesterday, John Naughton made a great point about social networks and Erving Goffman’s (1959) book Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Naughton was specifically talking about the dangers of social networking (in his example, a private dinner party becomes public faire, much to the host’s horror as guests tweet, FB and take pics without the host’s knowledge). He said:
“Goffman uses a theatrical metaphor to interpret social interactions between people. In everyday life, he argues, we are all actors, each of us playing a variety of roles. The audience consists of the other people with whom we interact. And, as in the theatre, we operate in two zones – one when we are, as it were, on stage, and the other when the curtain is down and we can revert to being ourselves – ie discard the role or identity we assume when in the presence of others.
Goffman’s analysis was entirely predicated on the face-to-face encounters of social life as it used to be in a pre-internet age. In those days, it really was possible to go backstage, as it were: to discard one’s public face and be oneself. It still is, but now you have to switch off your phone and resist the egotistical temptations of social networking and location-based services. And, hey! – if you do that, then maybe people will start inviting you to dinner again.”
As I pondered Nicola’s question in today’s workshop, I realized one reason I haven’t properly blogged yet was because I fear how these different roles, different audiences, will come together on this one stage. I’ve taken the easy route of simply publishing products – artefacts of complete (or complete enough!) research like presentations and abstracts for papers. But I what I need as a developing academic (whether an associate lecturer or a phd student) is to be able to talk about my processes – and that might make for a more interesting blog too. To use a metaphor – I’ve been showing the swan smoothly sailing above the water, not the frantic paddling underneath. 🙂
I know I can balance the multiplicity of roles – I’m Facebook friends with colleagues, past students, friends and family. But FB asks:
“What’s on your mind?” is easy to answer – it’s in the present, there’s no expectation it’s what will be on your mind in a moment’s time. There’s an ephemerality to a FB status and an informality that makes managing multiple identities a little easier. I can easily share a pleasantly trivial thought and press enter and it’s done. Within an hour or two it will slip down the news feed and although it’s still present in my timeline, it’s indicative of where my mind was not where my mind is now.
But a blog post has a different tenor. There’s the magic button that says:
‘Publish’ comes with different meanings – particularly in Academia where it collocates more with ideas of permanency, robustness (the peer reviewed article, for instance) and a certainty of thinking.
I know that each is permanent and public in some ways (after all, my FB comments, though private, could be made into screenshots and shared with the world). But there is something in tension between process and product and the mighty ‘publish’ button that has meant that my blog has not yet been the blog I intend it to be.
I hope it will become a little more of what I want it to be …. We shall see. 🙂
- Goffman, Erving. (1959/1990). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Penguin Books: London.
- Naughton, John. (21 October 2012). How social networks can destroy your life. The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/oct/21/john-naughton-foursquare-social-networking?CMP=twt_gu [Accessed 22-10-2012]
- Osborne, Nicola. (22 October 2012). Academic Blogging. The University of Edinburgh Digital Scholarship workshop http://prezi.com/nhayktwpgqq1/academic-blogging-workshop/ [Accessed 22-10-2012]
- “Swan boat” by flickr user Awesome Joolie / joolie http://www.flickr.com/photos/awesomejoolie/4074076752/sizes/n/in/photostream/