Why researchers blog

The online journal First Monday in its August edition features an article about researchers’ motivations for blogging. Since I just decided to make my return as a ‘hard bloggin’ scientist‘, I read the article with interest.The reasons for blogging mentioned by the researchers from Sweden, Denmark and The Netherlands interviewed for the study conducted by Sara Kjellberg are not very surprising. They include dissemination of content;  interaction with other researchers, expressing opinions, keeping up-to-date with work in your field, and trying out bits of your argument in small pieces of writing.

After my year-long blogging hiatus, the things I really miss about Serendipities are its function as a research support tool, its possibilities for interaction with other researchers, and the subtle pressure a blog always exercises to keep up with recent developments in your field of research. I could really identify with a comment in the Kjellberg article that while a lot of people think blogging steals time from your research, in fact it is a writing/research support tool.

What I have noticed in the past months is how often I returned to Serendipities to look things up, even if I never wrote anything new here. For example, I was writing an article on The Spanish Tragedy which discussed the soliloquy in which Hieronimo enters with a book of Seneca’s tragedies in his hand and cites bits and pieces from it, and I suddenly thought of Kevin Sharpe’s Reading Revolutions. Using the search function on the blog, I found my review of the book very quickly and remembered the ideas I had at the time – the blog entry even contained a very useful quotation from the book. This kind of function as a research journal also figures in Kjellberg’s article. One researcher calls it a “personal thinking space” in which she collects and sorts material for her research, which is then accessible from any computer linked to the internet.

For me, one of the great things of Serendipities is the people I’ve connected with just because of the blog, and whom I might otherwise not have met at all. Kjellberg’s article has something interesting to say about this kind of interaction on academic blogs. Usually, reader’s reactions and ‘crowdsourcing’ are mentioned as one of the main advantages of blogging. But only a few of the academic blogs I know (such as Mercurius Policitus or The Long Eighteenth) has a relatively large number of comments on their posts. This is also what one of the interviewed researchers remarks upon:

the interaction in blogs is exaggerated and […] blogging is more of one–way communication than a dialogue. […] [Kjellberg counters that:] the interaction does not necessarily show up in the blog. There is certainly communication taking place, where readers contact the blogger not only by using the commenting function in the blog, but also through direct e–mail messages and, in rare cases, by using the phone or through face–to–face contacts, for example when meeting at a conference. Interaction can thus happen outside the blog.

In this view, the blog is more a means to keep others up to date of your ideas and work, and let them know that you are out there. Of course, that means a normal website would do as well, so I hope to be posting things that trigger responses in the coming years!

Gender, history & blogging

Historiann this week features two great guest posts by Ruth Mazo Karras, one of the editors of Gender and History, in which she gives an inside view of academic publishing in journals. The first post walks the reader through the process of publishing an article (including a very useful practical timeline of the whole process), the second post answers questions from readers of the first post – also on the question whether you should publish an article on gender history in Gender and History or in a  journal that specializes in in your historical period.

I also found this Call for Papers in my mailbox, via kenau and the History of Feminism Network:

Call for Papers: Feminism, Blogging, and the Historical Profession
Journal of Women’s History

The Journal of Women’s History invites submissions for a roundtable on the emergence of blogging as a location for critical thought among women in the historical profession; historians of women, gender, and sexuality; and feminist scholars who may, or may not be, historians. Participants may wish to address one or more of the following questions in an abstract of no more than 250 words:

  • What role does self-publishing on the internet play in a profession where merit is defined by scholarly review and a rigorouseditorial process?
  • What are the intellectual benefits, and/or costs, of blogging?
  • What are the ethics and consequences of blogging under a pseudonym?
  • What kinds of electronic acknowledgement already correlate with established scholarly practices; which can be discarded; and which need to be attended to, perhaps more rigorously than in printed publications?
  • If many scholarly publications and organizations have alreadyadopted blogs as a way of spreading news and inviting conversation, is blogging itself developing rules and practices that will inevitably produce intellectual and scholarly hierarchies similar to those that blogging seeks to dismantle?
  • Does feminist blogging offer particular opportunities for enhanced conversation about race, sexuality, class, and national paradigms, or does it tend to reproduce existing scholarly paradigms and silences within feminist scholarship?
  • Finally, are new forms of colleagueship and scholarship emerging in the blogosphere?

The roundtable will consist of a short introduction, several essays of 2,000 to 3,000 words, and a concluding comment/response. Abstracts should arrive no later than July 15, 2009, and can be submitted electronically to Claire Potter at tenured[dot]radical[at]gmail[dot]com.

Final submissions are due October 1, 2009. Pseudonymous bloggers may publish under their pseudonyms, but must be willing to reveal their identities to the editor of the roundtable and the commenter. Bloggers based outside the United States are particularly encouraged to contribute.

Digital Literary Studies now online!

An anonymous commenter just left a link to the new online edition of A Companion to Digital Literary Studies. Three cheers to Blackwell for making this expensive resource freely available online.

The format of the site is the same as that of the Companion to the Digital Humanities: a menu of chapters on the left and a text file of the chapter, with hyperlinks, in the right-hand frame of your screen. The site is not very Web 2.0 – there is no room for discussion or interaction, but suggestions for corrections may be sent to John Unsworth by mail. The volume closes with a useful Annotated Overview of Selected Electronic Resources where you can now click on the links, instead of reading them from paper. Enjoy!