Why I blog

Recently I did a short audio interview with Mark Carrigan for his digital sociologist series about my academic blogging (you can listen to my answers here). Responding to Mark’s questions have made me think some more about the reasons why I blog as part of my academic work. Here are some:

  • I enjoy it! At the risk of outing myself as a word nerd, I love writing about ideas and investigating social life, which is why I chose to become a sociologist. My blog gives me the opportunity to do this writing in a different way from the usual academic format.
  • Academic blogging is a refreshing alternative to writing long, detailed academic pieces – journal articles, book chapters and books. It takes many hours of dedicated attention and focus to produce these pieces of writing. Once written, they must go through the review and publication process, which again takes months or even years. In contrast, I can quickly write a blog post, finish it, press the ‘Publish’ button and it is immediately out in the world.
  • Related to this is the notion of control over my work. When I write a blog post and publish it, I have full control over its content and form.
  • I can use the blog to present ideas that would otherwise not have a forum. For example, I have written quite a few ‘how to’ posts in relation to using social media for academia and tips for conducting academic research. These posts are not traditional academic pieces and would not have a place for publication and sharing if it were not for the blog.
  • Blogging affords me the opportunity to comment very quickly on current social issues, a far cry from the long lead times of traditional academic publishing (see, for example, my post on Kate Middleton’s pregnancy, which I wrote and published within 24 hours of the announcement).
  • I can use the blog for research purposes in various ways. First, to present some ideas I am currently working on in their early form. Second, to outline some of the findings of an academic piece that has been completed and published. Third, to respond to or comment on other academics’ work.
  • Blogging gets my ideas out from behind paywalls and makes them accessible to everyone. It therefore allows for an exchange of ideas not just between academics but with anyone who cares to engage. Sociologists write about ‘society’. What we research is about people, and with blogging, it can for and with people too. As academics we should be sharing our ideas and research with everyone, not just those who can access our work in university libraries or can pay for it.
  • While blog posts do not go through the standard processes of academic review and quality control, blogging provides a form of ‘post-publication’ review. People can read, comment on, share, tweet or blog about, reblog or cite the material, all of which are forms of engagement and commentary on the work.

The negative aspects of blogging? The only one I have yet identified is the additional time commitment required. For the reasons outlined above, I believe this is a small price to pay.

14 thoughts on “Why I blog

  1. I am currently reading one of your books (and hope to read more), and was excited to find out that you have a blog, so I’m glad you’re willing to put in the time! Your critique of HAES on this blog was also really interesting and helpful for me.

  2. I too, blog, although not as frequently, nor as eloquently as you. I am both interested and troubled by blogging as a source of academic expression, and would be curious to know your views. I see blogging as a way of reaching out that I can’t do in the pages of a peer reviewed journal. How could I, for example, make a plea for information, in the way that I have on the medical humanities blog (http://medicalhumanities.wordpress.com/)? And, how could I, in the traditional fora of the academe, draw together thoughts from so many disciplines, as I have on my own not-very-up-to-date blog (http://socdiagnosis.tumblr.com)? The traditional sociologists wouldn’t have me, any more than would the historians, the creative writers or the philosophers. I can dabble in many areas without having to circumscribe myself. So, blogging is perfect for these purposes.

    However, the challenge for me as an academic is the idea of putting it “out there” without the sanction of the field. While, on the one hand, it’s liberating to be able to do so, on the other, it’s a risk. Even as I write this comment, I could be making an incredible mistake that I won’t be able to rectify, saying something totally inane, or simply being misread. Peer review (and good editors!) save me from myself most of the time.

    To palliate that, I don’t blog like you do, I just leave little crumbs. Short, and sweet, and not too complicated. That way I won’t trip over my feet. But I wonder how you feel about the academic vulnerability of the blogger. Do you see this as a problem to manage? What are your views?

    PS-love your work. Of course!

    • Hi Annemarie

      Thank you for your comments (and I am a fan of your work too!).

      To be perfectly honest, I don’t myself feel like I am taking a risk. I don’t worry about mistakes or stupidities (perhaps I should?). I feel reasonably confident of what I am saying and think and edit carefully before I hit the ‘Publish’ button, so try to ensure a high quality of writing that way.

      However I can understand your reticence about putting ideas ‘out there’ without any kind of mediation. Yes, it is risky in a way. I wonder if it is more so for established academics (who have a reputation to preserve), or for early career academics, who are trying to establish one? Is this kind of reticence gendered perhaps (do more women feel reticent about publicly engaging in forums like blogs than men, I wonder?).

      There is a sociological research study in this!

      Deborah

      • So nice that we are mutual fans! I first read your work when I was a not-so-young doctoral student in physical education in the late 90s. I quote you regularly of course and look forward to seeing your most recent book.

        I agree that there would be an interesting sociological study to be had around academic fear of exposure. My guess is that it would have to be Bourdieun in nature, that gender plays an important role, and that lots of academics spend a lot of time trying to not to reveal their inner insecurities.

      • Rosalind Gill wrote an interesting paper on stress, neoliberalism and fear of failure in academic work recently called ‘Breaking silence: the hidden injuries of neo-liberal academia’. If you Google the title you can download the open access PDF.

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  5. I am a new PhD student, and I blog for several of the same reasons. Although I haven’t published academically since shortly after I completed my master’s, I find blogging helps me organize my ideas and articulate them clearly, which makes research easier. Because I’m in a blended program, rather than the classroom, it has been difficult to adjust to the reduced amount of verbal interaction time, which I find essential to formulating ideas. Blogging helps with that too, as I can write in a more conversational style. I very much enjoy your “How to” posts! Glad to have found your blog!

    • Great to hear your thoughts, and thank you for your kind words. I agree that blogging can be a really good avenue for writing for doctoral students, as you suggest, and is also a great way for them to get their thoughts out in public before they have published in more formal formats. One way to ‘stake a claim’ early in the topic they are researching.

      Deborah

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