April 2, 2012 § 1 Comment
And perhaps more importantly, why now?
I’ve kicked around the idea of blogging in general, and about my experiences as a researcher in particular, for a long time. I’ve always figured I’m a smart person, I have things to say, and I think I can express myself pretty well. So what’s taken me so long? Why am I only blogging now?
It’s a brave new world out here on the Internet, despite how comfortable most people in academia feel interacting in cyberspace every day. We chat with friends, we email colleagues, we submit articles or accept student papers. We conference call, we collect data, we search for articles. We write, co-author, and edit. The better question may be, why NOT blog?
Ultimately, posts by Drew Conway and Dan Cohen have motivated me to action. The value of blogging, as a graduate student and as a member of the academy, is profound. While I only expected the benefits of expressing myself and sharpening my writing skills, Conway makes relevant points when he discusses the value of identity establishment and networking outside of the academy (points 3 and 4).
Though it is often hard to imagine this from within the cozy confines of the ivory tower, there are a lot of brilliant people outside of academia interested in exactly the same things you are. The difficulty, however, is connecting with them. The Internet is a powerful networking device, and if you are willing to put yourself out there these people will seek you out.
This last point reminds of why I came into academia in the first place. I love communication. I love talking about it, reading about it, learning about it and sharing my knowledge with others. To borrow from Thornton Wilder, knowledge is like manure, and it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around. People outside of academia know the importance of communication and are seeking out information every day. As an academic, I feel it is part of my responsibility to meet them halfway.
Cohen also makes the incredibly practical point that “you have the same copyright on words you write on a blog as those published on paper. And you have the precedence that comes with making those words public far earlier than they would appear in a journal or book.” Blogging allows for the protection of ideas that we, as academics, often so jealously guard. By writing about my ideas here I will be able to discuss some of them without fear of having my career pulled from beneath me.
I’ve determined, then, that the purpose of this blog should be threefold:
1. To communicate with fellow scholars in the field of communication and related fields. I expect that a number of posts in this vein will contain information relevant to the experience of being an academic: the process of becoming a scholar, and the occasionally very personal struggles I experience in order to grow and improve. I also hope to contribute a few helpful “how to” posts to share information on the technical tasks I’ve learned in the process of gaining my MA thus far (I have already planned tutorials on Zotero, clever research shortcuts, and working with some software programs–stay tuned!). Additionally, I hope to connect with other scholars. It is very easy to get lost in my own work sometimes; by writing and connecting with others I hope to feel more connected to the field as a whole.
2. To discuss ideas and research, my own and those of others. I have lots of ideas. Not all of them are good ones. Some of them may be better than I ever suspected. I hope to improve my own research by sharing it, and I aim to contribute to the robustness of my field by constructively critiquing the work and ideas of others. I may also provide commentary on topics not directly related to my research, but which I find intriguing or which inform my approach to research.
3. To reach out to non-academics interested in communication as it is studied from a scientific perspective. This will include applying an academic eye to mainstream media coverage of communication or communication-related research, as well as attempting to make academic research palatable to the masses.