Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why Academics Blog

Why do Academics blog ?

This is an extract from an email to a friend who is just starting her academic life.

Hi S,

you said:
" I like writing and sharing opinions about Laos. If I could do that for the rest of my life I'd be pretty happy."

You might want to check out: the site:
You will notice that is a site run by a number of academics, Phd's and a collection of authors. It's a joint effort. It has a good following.
See what you think of it.

Blogging in some way and building up your presence online is a good way to start your academic profile, it will take years to reach the right momentum and there is nothing to stop you starting now, as a student.
This Blogger site on which you are reading this now is a good start, there are others such as which have advantages.

If you are interested in blogging, sharing your knowledge and building up a presence:
I'd suggest: write about the things which grab YOU now about Laos, things which YOU want to say, put them on the blog, your blog, and then later those blogs may turn into fully fledged papers. Comments and feedback in the meantime will help to refine your ideas, - aid your papers.

I have a number of blogs on different subjects. I'm now building up my academic presence on the web.

It took me 6 years to realize that I needed to do that, that the Uni and official publications are old technology and very limited, talking to a small elite that plays the paper counting game, for prestige, for job security, career and of course genuine interest.

The academics that have impact on many people have a web presence and are known and quoted online.
Their official paper output is a subset of that.

A blog/web-presence, also gets your ideas out to anyone and everyone interested, not as limited as official papers in official journals.

A fine line between 'pestering' and 'sharing'.

With email you need to decide who to send your latest great idea to, and chances are your friends will politely receive your mails and never read them. They are your friends, that does not mean they will be interested in ALL you are latest great ideas.
A blog, like a social network site, offers things to people, it does not thrust it in their faces. Like birdseed on a hand, you hold it out, and if and only if interested, people come and look.

A recent BBC article makes a very nice point of how we have shifted from direct 'in-your-face-email' to 'check-and-look-if-you-like' status updates, found on social networks.

I think of blogs as the mature, slow moving more encompassing equivalent of social network sites. In a blog you focus on one area and you do it in to a depth that is not possible in a social network site.

On a blog I want my ideas to be seen and listened to by as many people as possible, even those who are not 'friends' simply because I don't know them yet. The upshot of this is that what I put on the net has to be:
  • Appealing to an interest group.
  • Make sense and be coherent to a degree I might not bother with in just a quick email.
In a blog I want to attract people along similar interests, like a magnet attracting iron filings.

Below is a list of links to other academics, describing their reasons for blogging.

An academic, Elizabeth Lane Lawley writes a nice intro called:

why do academics blog? click here

She writes: I keep getting asked this question by colleagues here at RIT and elsewhere, and I find myself sending them the same links over and over again. So here’s what I give people who ask me this, in an attempt to clarify the value of blogging to those of us in academia. It’s not all about personal confessionals. Really. click here.

Lawley describes why she blogs and how she started here: why_do_academics_blog.php

The next four points below are taken from her blog above:

  1. Anders Jacobsen describes why he blogs here,
  2. The contribution academics make in blogging here and here and here and here .
  3. Collin Brooke - blogging_mea.html
  4. Essay collection on blogging here

Below is a list of academics with sizable blogs and a web-presence:

If anyone has other examples please email or comment.