Digital Revolution in the Academy

My blogging experience:

When I enrolled in the graduate program at VCU in 2015, I found out that academic blogging will be one of the most crucial skills I will have to learn as it was a part of weekly assignments for all of my courses. Before writing my first blog, I started my research to find out what is an ideal blog post and came across many articles which provided some insight on how I should proceed. I had often struggled with getting my opinions across to other people, as a result I was absolutely petrified of beginning this journey of writing the blogs. For me, other assignments were much easier because its content was not visible to the world. But, blogs were different, they were visible to the whole world to read. As Badgett (2016) explains “Blogging is an outlet that, at least in theory, can reach anyone in the world with access to a web browser”.

With the guidance of my mentors and by reading the blogs of my colleagues, my blogging technique and overall appreciation of blogging have completely changed. It’s helped to voice my opinions and hone my ideas about the ways I can write blog posts in an effective and engaging manner. By commenting on others’ blogs and engaging in effective conversation with them, I am able to improve my critical thinking skills. Similarly, Cohen (2012) states that “writing a blog – as well as reading and contributing to the blogs of others – seems the most practical and engaging means of achieving the intellectual ideal”.

Source: freshspectrum.com

Why blog?

Blogging can be employed as a crucial tool for reaching a wide variety of academic and non-academic audiences. Badgett (2016) notes that political scientist John Sides advises his fellow political scientists to “choose topics to which you can add value as a political scientist”. I agree with his advice. As a sociologist, I would prefer writing blogs about topics which make a valuable contribution in the field of sociology as well as the ones that seem important and appealing to non-sociological audiences. Moreover, writing blogs are much cheaper and quicker than publishing in academic journals which are often not accessible to general public. To be a successful public sociologist, one should be able to connect with the public and get their findings across with an ease. Badgett (2016) claims that blogs like Sociological Images provide various ways for sociologists to engage with the public, making potentially thousands or even millions of people familiar with our ideas and findings. Silva (2013) also clarifies that academic blogging can ‘coexist’ with academic journals. She states that “academic blogging can work as more of a trial run with the public before committing to a journal” (Silva, 2013). Many academics have also taken up micro-blogging via Twitter as it is easily accessible via phone or computer and only requires smaller posts than blogs. Daniels and Feagin (2011) suggest “academics, like others who use Twitter, have found short updates a useful way to find and maintain connections to others who share their research and other interests”.

What to consider before blogging?

Academic blogging has proven to be very beneficial to me as a student. However, it is crucial to consider the type of content included the blogs as well as the frequency of blog postings. The academic blogs are ‘public portfolio’ of sociologist’s academic work. Badgett (2016) suggests that since blogging is time-consuming, we should make sure the “value of the blog is sufficient to justify the time”. I agree with Badgett, it is critical to consider that we are not investing time in such blogs at the expense of time for research and other academic engagements. Badgett (2016), Golash-Boza (2011), and Silva (2013) provide a few guidelines about effective blogging. Here are some of their guidelines I would like to incorporate in my blogging:

  • Write short and distinctive posts.
  • Choose attractive titles.
  • Choose topical tags for easily finding the post.
  • Post frequently
  • Use multi-media visualization such as images.
  • Ask for feedback and make necessary changes. Rinse and repeat!
  • Keep practicing and be patient.
  • Use language that can be understood by non-academics.
  • Summarize research and make it accessible to the public.

Source: shoeboxblog.com

 

Should all sociologists blog?

In my opinion, the above guidelines should be considered for becoming an effective blogger. There are various advantages of academic blogging, however, does that mean that every sociologist should blog? Philip Cohen (2012), an owner of blog “Family inequality” suggests that not every sociologist should blog as it may seem to be an “overkill”. He explains that academics will not have sufficient time left to engage in other projects if they all decide to write and read blogs every day. Daniels and Feagin (2011) also state that “scholars across disciplines often express reservations about the use of social media as a “waste of time” or a “distraction” that takes them away from their academic pursuits”. Moreover, we cannot neglect the fact that our published blogs are visible to almost everyone in the world, making us vulnerable to critics and potential employers.

The blogging has its own advantages and disadvantages. We should be able to weigh our choices and decide if blogging is a right fit for us by considering the type of content we should write about and how to promote our blog so it can be accessible to wide variety of audiences. There are many other alternatives to engage with the public via social media, one has to decide if they can dedicate needed time and resources to publishing blogs. After blogging for two years, I can say that it’s an ongoing process of learning and adapting to new technologies of blogging. If I wish to be an effective blogger, I will have to keep updating my writing skills and style as often as I can.

References,

Badgett, M. V. L. (2015). The Public Professor: How to Use Your Research to Change the World. New York and London: New York University Press.

 

Daniels, J. & Feagin, J. (2011) The (coming) social media revolution in the academy.

Fast Capitalism, 8(2).

 

Golash-Boza, T. (2011, March 2). So, you want to start an academic Blog? Four tips to know before you start. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://getalifephd.blogspot.com/2011/02/so-you-want-to-start-academic-blog-four.html

 

Healy, K. (2012, March 29). Should every sociologist blog? Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/should-every-sociologist-blog/

 

Silva, L. (2013, May 12). So you want to Blog (academic edition). Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/university-venus/so-you-want-blog-academic-edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Digital Revolution in the Academy

  1. Rucha,
    Great summary of the readings and thanks for including your own personal experiences. Before discussing your points regarding the reading I will comment on your personal experiences. I agree with you in your opening and closing statements about blogging, especially how you should constantly be working to make your writing more “blog like” and figuring out ways to have your blog appeal to a wider audience. You mentioned microblogging in your response, that has become a very practical and simple approach for academics and what I call recreational users of social media. When I first started blogging, I wrote too much and still struggle with making my blog structure short and concise. I write with a lot of detail but blogs are not the medium for being wordy and descriptive, rather brief and to the point. I attempted to do this in my most recent post, adding more quick points and making my paragraphs shorter. In doing so it took me longer to write the post because I wrote as I normally do and then I had to go back and modify my sentences. You chose some quotes throughout the reading that I think are important when considering writing blogs and how to write blogs. The quote from Cohen regarding the practicality of blogging is true. Having a forum for people to communicate that allows for engaging content that is quick and easy to read and understand is much more efficient than reading formal writing. Many people want a communication forum where they can share their thoughts and ideas in an informal way, with simple language and perhaps some media to support their argument or share the story. The quote you used from Badgett regarding John Sides calling for valuable content is important as well. In order to have followers of any blog it requires that a blog bring value to its readers. I think about myself going to a blog for reading or why others would and it is simple, we view a blog because there is an exchange taking place. In the case of blogs, the writer shares information and the reader exchanges their time for the value of reading what has been written. This tip should be included in all blogging tutorials and lessons-make your blog valuable of suffer low readership. Perhaps all sociologists and academics of any other discipline should not blog, but those who care to and those who write effectively should. Making blogging a requirement or pressure for all academics seems a bit much. There are those that should probably not blog, their strengths lie elsewhere. Then there are those that should blog, and do not from time restraints, professional considerations, etc. These individuals should use their talents to share valuable information that could benefit colleagues and anyone else who reads their work. In my opinion one of the most valuable readings from the week was So You Want to Start an Academic Blog, which provided valuable, easy to implement, practical skills for writing a blog effectively. Tips on how to engage audiences, use effective writing strategies, adding media, and how to grow your blog are all critical to be a successful blogger. I envision, that as blogging becomes more prevalent among the academic community that it will increase in popularity. Before blogging more traditional forms of communication were shared more so among the academic community exclusively. Blogging allows academics the opportunity to continue their formal work and writings but also share their findings with more public audiences. That is one of the values of blogging as it relates to public sociologists. They can play the part of the academic and communicate formally but they can also engage their public audiences as well, allowing their audiences to stay engaged in their research and academic findings.

  2. Great blog, Rucha! I love that you included visuals as well–definitely a great and luring part of reading someone’s blog. That is really neat to hear about the evolution of your perspective of blogging over the course of your time in the program. Initially, it is really intimidating to put your ideas out there for people to read, even your classmates, and people have varying levels of comfort with that. I am glad that this is a skill that you’ve developed through the progression of the program. You bring up an excellent point about getting the word out (if that is the goal) about an individual’s blog. In some ways, I do think that some of whose blogs get picked up is somewhat luck. I am sure there is really great stuff on the internet right now but I just haven’t seen it. Figuring out how to effectively promote your blog (likely by linking to other social media tools and sites) is key.

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