The last blog I wrote for the Preparing the Future Professoriate class last semester, “To blog or not to blog after this semester?”, actually comes full circle quite nicely to the readings for this week. The consensus seems to be, at least among the authors of the assigned readings and Godin and Peters, that blogging is awesome. I definitely raised my hand in class last week when Dr. Nelson asked, “who in here hates blogging?”. While I am not a huge fan of blogs, I do see the value in the activity. As I wrote in my previous blog entry on the topic and as the articles describe, a blog is a great place to practice writing, much in the same manner as the journal or diary of yesteryear. I certainly saw improvement in my writing over the course of mandatory blogging last semester. According to Hitchcock, blogs have great potential in academia. Many professors and scientists struggle with connecting their research to non-experts and “normal” people but often also have trouble communicating in general (I call it as I see it). Writing a blog forces authors to think through the information they want to convey in order to present a coherent argument. The benefits of this practice are two-fold: one advantage is the practice in communication, but organizing information into a digestible format also helps the authors better understand and form deeper connections with their own material. One big plus for blogs over old-school journals is the possibility for two-way dialogue with readers, which Rosenberg likens to the telephone, and what can be nearly immediate feedback. Another beauty of the digital blog is the ability to modify, update, and correct posts after publication—a “freedom to fail,” if you will. This freedom should be liberating to academics who normally must conform to rigid formatting guidelines of scholarly journals and get caught up in what reviewers might think.
One potential caveat to the blog hype is that, while blogs are ideally open forums accessible by anyone on the internet, most bloggers will not reach a broad audience but rather a small handful of followers. The readers one is able to attract are generally colleagues (if the blog is in the academic realm) and friends. That is to say, blogs do not necessarily initiate conversations with the uninformed masses and, instead, present an example of confirmation bias: the people that regularly read a particular blog largely do so because they know they will agree with the views presented by the blogger. Not that there is anything wrong with this arrangement. Opportunities for public discussion exist if readers do want to weigh in on a topic, but blogs largely serve the blogger through the action itself of synthesizing information to create a post. Blogging can still be worthwhile, even if no one besides the author ever visits the site. I just wanted to point out that the vision of blogs as an educational tool that invites discussion and collaboration with people around the world is a possibility, but also quite idealistic.
The only other hesitation I have regarding blogging is a fear of too much technology. Not to sound like grandpa or a conspiracy theorist. On the contrary, I am very much on the bandwagon that believes technology is the key to solving many problems in the world. However, I do shudder at this new expectation that we should spend an additional hour or two every week hunched over a keyboard in front of a bright screen working on our digital identity, especially when most of us in higher education already spend most of our days doing just that. I feel that there are other approaches to accomplish the blogging goals, such as writing in a journal or setting up regularly scheduled, informal meetings with peers and colleagues to discuss research. Blogs are definitely a streamlined, glitzy alternative to the traditional ways of doing business, but that does not necessarily mean that everyone should feel like they have to blog. If that sort of thing tickles you, then wonderful. But if not, I think that is also fine.