Friday, June 4, 2010

Academic blogging: Issues and Challenges

Yesterday I attended a symposium on academic blogging in Trinity College Dublin organised by the collective who produce Pue's Occurrences. My own contribution concerned the Ireland After NAMA blog (other blogs represented are listed below). It was fascinating to listen to the experiences of other academic bloggers and the kinds of issues and challenges that they face through blogging. I thought it might be useful to share those challenges with a non-academic audience (I've put up a very similar post on Ireland After NAMA given the completely different constituencies of the two blogs), so below is a basic summary. I'm sure many of these issues will resonate with non-academic bloggers as well.

  • feeding the monster - need to post regularly to build and maintain a reader base
  • voluntarism – relies on voluntary labour and enthusiasm of posters
  • in collective blogs, getting people to contribute - people are busy; but also a lack of confidence in the credibility of the media
Academic credibility
  • some contributors worried about wasting work by publishing it through a media that presently lacks sufficient academic and institutional credibility and legitimacy
Building a readership/community
  • how to implement successful strategies to develop a readership base
  • building trust and relationship with readers; building a community
Relationship between individual creative/academic freedom and institutional control and oversight
  • to what extent does a blog represent institution? What level of control do they/should they have over it?
  • To what extent are blogs experimental thought spaces for ideas and analysis as opposed to formal spaces of reporting/commentary (does it have to have the same levels of rigour and validity as that written in a journal?)
Different way of working
  • a blog can drive a research agenda and not the other way
  • blogging is often a process of doing and publishing research in a just in time fashion
Different way of writing/communicating
  • shorter pieces in a much more journalistic style; lacks usual academic conventions
  • making ideas and writing open and accessible
Editorial policy
  • for collective blogs - is there a need for an editorial policy or control? Or a writer’s/reader’s charter? What happens if people post material that is inappropriate or badly written? Who takes editorial control? On what basis?
  • for design, maintenance and content, for subscriptions or servers, for events, etc
Media interest
  • what happens if a post goes viral and the media get interested? It can be a lot of pressure and can take up a lot of time
Dealing with negative feedback/abuse
  • vested interests do not necessarily like what you have to say and can react, sometimes not through public debate by private means; how to deal with this?
Dealing with the public
  • dealing with comments in a timely and informative manner; being prepared to engage beyond the initial posting.
  • how to deal with people who ask you to do work on their pet projects
  • discussion of work on other social media such as bulletin boards – do you engage? What happens when the material gets misinterpreted?
Dealing with conflicts of interest
  • how to deal with posts on topics or expressing views that conflict with or undermine funders of the blogger's research (or someone else's in the collective)
Dealing with data issues
  • publishing material that is copyrighted or used under data license; intellectual property issues in general
  • maintaining links to other sites
Archiving and longevity
  • what happens to the data and material being created? Long term archiving of material? Long term maintenance of material produced?
The blogs taking part were:
Pue's Occurrences
Ireland After NAMA
UCD Academic Blogging
Irish Left Archive
Come Here To Me!
Some Blind Alleys
History Compass
The Model Blog


Karen Miller Russell said...

Great post. I've been running an academic blog for 4 years now but am going to take some time this summer to decide what to do with it next. I've begun to lose interest and haven't done much with it for the past few months beyond irregular posting. I'm also having much more fun with my hobby blog ( which is part of the problem, I think.

Rob Kitchin said...

thanks for the link to your blog, Karen. I think the problem is that after a while posting can seem like a chore, rather than a joy. Feeding the monster, as per the first point!