Why academics blog and why we blog

Blogging is nothing new to academics. Scholarly discussion of academics’ blogging practices dates back to over 10 years ago. Jarreau’s (2015) diagram below summarizes the main reasons for scientists to blog:

Source: Jarreau, P. B. (2015). All the science that is fit to blog: An analysis of science blogging practices (click image to enlarge)

A similar listing of reasons can be found here (12 reasons: https://mindbursts.com/2014/02/24/academicblog/)

A recent edited volume by Deborah Lupton, Inger Mewburn and Pat Thomson The Digital Academic: Critical Perspectives on Digital Technologies in Higher Education (2018) brings together 10 chapters that investigate the impact as well as possibilities and constraints of being a ‘digital academic’.

Chapters 2 (Mewburn & Thomson) & 4 (Marshall et al.) draw attention to the ways blogging and other social media enable scholars to develop an ‘academic persona’, which I find particularly revealing and relevant in thinking about the interplay between academic writing and digital academic practices for this project. As Mewburn & Thomson in their chapter on the impact of blogging on doctoral researchers’ identity construction, rightly put it:

Much of the work of constructing and academic self occurs in and through writing. When researchers make writing choices, they conform, adapt, reframe or resist dominant academic textual genres. […] these choices construct[s] a particular kind of scholar. When others read this work, they interpret and respond to it: they ‘see’ the researcher, their text and their scholarship at one.

– Mewburn & Thomson (2018, p.20)

One interesting finding in their study is that doctoral candidates often see their blogs as a space for “slow thinking”. That is, it is a space for them to formulate their half-baked ideas for their theses, or to write their thoughts “into being”. As one of the participants in their study said, “[blog] writing teaches me more about what I think” and that “I write in order to know what I think”. This is also one of the reasons why we started this research blog – to help us write our scattered ideas about the project into being.

One of the aims of our study is to explore what blogging means to bilingual academics in Hong Kong, and the sort of effect blogging has on their English scholarly writing. Despite the growing body of work in the past decade from different disciplines outlining the functions of blogging in academia, a focus on digital academic writing and literacy is scarce. One of the few examples is Julia Davies and Guy Merchants’ (2007) auto-ethnography of their own academic blogging practices. Positioning themselves as both the subjects and the objects of their insider research, Davies & Merchant examine their academic blogging literacy practices ‘from the inside out’, that is, they are simultaneously the authors of the blogs as well as the researchers of these blogs.

Why We Blog

We have set up this research blog as a site of engagement, where digitally mediated academic discourse takes place. This blog also serves as a site that allows us to be actively engaged with our research object – digital academic discourse and practices. We explicitly position ourselves as both insider digital academics as well as the researchers of this project. The following list sums up the ways we use this blog:

  • sharing research notes and resources;
  • keeping track of research progress;
  • promoting the project outside academia (outreach);
  • communicating with project team members from different institutions;
  • developing ideas for future publications;
  • exploring a sub-genre of academic writing;
  • developing our auto-ethnographies – participant research.

We hope to update this blog at least once a month during the one-year project period (until summer 2020). Your comments and feedback are most welcome.

References:

  • Davies, J., & Merchant, G. (2007). Looking from the inside out: Academic blogging as new literacy. A new literacies sampler, 167-197.
  • Lupton, D., Mewburn, I., & Thomson, P. (Eds.). (2018). The digital academic: Critical perspectives on digital technologies in higher education. Routledge.

by Carmen Lee

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