Over drinks with colleagues the other evening the topic of blogs came up. While we all admitted to reading blogs on a regular basis, I was the only one amongst us who blogs (or even has a website). My colleagues doubted the value of a blog. Consequently, I found myself justifying to them the time and effort I invest in writing a blog, labor that seems to be uncompensated and, given the current systems of rewards in the U.S. academy, uncompensateable. My justifications included the platitudinous “outreach” and inchoate ideas about engaging in public debates. I tried to convince them why I blog. They tried to understand why I would blog. In the end, I suspect we are no closer.
Today I saw a tweet by Becky Higgitt (@beckyfh) that indicated academics don’t, as a rule, use their blogs for public outreach. Her tweet linked to an article at The Guardian, “Why do academics blog? It’s not for public outreach, research shows.”
In the article, Pat Thomson (@thomsonpat) and Inger Mewburn (@thesiswhisperer) analyzed 100 academic blogs and found that most academics use their blogs to analyze academic culture or to communicate or comment on research:
By analysing and categorising the content of these blogs, we determined that 41% largely focused on what we call academic cultural critique: comments and reflections on funding, higher education policy, office politics and academic life. Another 40% largely focused on communication and commentary about research. The remainder covered a diverse range, from academic practice, information and self-help advice to technical, teaching and career advice.
In contrast to much of the rhetoric around blogging, most blogs they analyzed were written for other academics, not an interested public (read the whole article, which brings up some interesting points, especially about blogs and regulating what academics can say in public).
Their work analyzed the content of blogs. I wondered: How would academics who blog describe their motivations, their intended audiences, and the benefits (if any) they receive from blogging. Initially, I retweeted Becky’s tweet, asking #whyblog?
But then I thought, why not put together a small survey and collect some information to extend Thomson and Mewburn’s initial conclusions. So that’s what I did.
A couple quick points:
- While I try to understand academic broadly, more of a scholar, I remain interested in why people with some academic affiliation blog.
- I realize that some academics contribute to more than one blog and that their goals likely change with each place. If you are such an academic, please complete the survey for each blog.
- Check as many boxes as apply for “Reasons for blogging” and “Intended audience.”
- Finally, I am not an expert in designing and conducting surveys. If you are and would like to work together to do a better job at it, please contact me.
I will post the results when I have gathered enough to make them meaningful.
Thanks for taking the time. Please send your academic blogging friends this way.