Why blog – part 1

Posted October 6th, 2008 by Paul Ayres

This is the first in a series of blog posts this week taking a closer look at blogging, asking why you may want to blog, picking out some of what is happening in the UK blogosphere and looking at how blogging can interact with other arenas, such as the academic publishing process, institutions and the mainstream media – first up, a two parter on why you may want to blog.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to give my top three reasons why someone may want to blog – I must confess that I was not on top form and being more used to writing things down than saying them out loud off the top of my head, I meandered around giving one and half reasons in a not very compelling manner.

I went away and thought about it and came up with at least 10 reasons, so I’ve split them into two blog posts and deliberately not put them in any sort of order of importance / preference, as I would imagine that different people will have very different attitudes and motivations when it comes to blogs and blogging.

Learning styles – are you a reflective learner? Then blogging as a learning activity, may suit the way you choose to learn or indeed teach. A couple of years ago at the ALT-C conference, I recall a session from Julie Hughes on the effect of blogging in terms of the development of critically reflective practitioners within a community of practice – which really made me think about how blogging may suit some types of learner.

The Invisible College – is one of my favourite phrases about blogging and was coined by the Berkeley economist (and blogger) Brad DeLong. It’s the idea that by being a blogging academic, you’ll be better at what you do by writing publicly and engaging with fellow experts in the field. It’s kind of like a year long academic conference where you can pick the brains of the academy and make yourself smarter.

Dissemination – research funders are looking for impact when they issue research grants and with competition for cash as intense as ever, a proposal from someone a funder knows will get out there, may give you an edge. I recall the ESRC Heroes of Dissemination paper from the “pre-blog” world and would suggest that blogs and the Internet may form an important part of a modern day dissemination strategy.

Writing skills – whether it is writing for publication or writing for different audiences, writing is at the end of the day a skill – and one which you always benefit from practising. Time spent blogging will encourage the little and often side of your writing and perhaps open your eyes to the different nuances of language in the academic world as opposed to the “real world”, if you are brave enough to blog in public.

The virtual notebook – the Internet and the rise of online information means that there’s plenty of information to go around – perhaps too much. But separating the wheat from the chaff is itself an important skill and this use of critical thinking is something that you are probably doing every day – why not write it down, share it publicly and use a blog as a virtual notebook of what you encounter online.

But that is probably enough for now – more suggestions on why blogging may be of interest to you, will come tomorrow – or if you are particularly keen, try the Guide to Using Blogs in Economics which may have some tips that are also applicable to your subject.

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