digital scholarship,  Weblogs

Dear reader, I blogged it


A couple of posts coming up about every blogger’s two favourite subjects: themselves and blogs. Since moving to Reclaim Hosting (slogan: We put the host in hosting) I’ve started creating blogs willy nilly. Partly this is because I can, and it’s a fun thing to do on a Saturday afternoon when you live on your own and have no friends when it’s raining. But I think it also reflects that I have a number of discrete interests now that qualify for blogs of their own.

It started when Blipfoto, where I posted my photo a day, began having financial difficulties. I didn’t like the thought of losing that three year catalogue of memories. They seem to have sorted themselves out now (and I recently stopped doing the photo a day thing anyway), but I liked creating a backup that I owned and could control.

Then last year I set myself the goal of seeing a current film every week. I decided to continue that this year, but also set up a blog to record it. I don’t exactly review the films, I go on the basis that people know the plot, but rather I use it to talk about my personal reaction to a film. It’s quite fun, but I’m well aware it’s not that great. Writing about movies is tough beyond “I liked it/I didn’t like it”.

Last week I created (still messing with the themes) a new blog for the upcoming Cardiff Devils ice hockey season. This will be even harder to write about than films I predict. It’s very difficult to write about sport without sinking into a quagmire of cliche, sentimentality and melodrama. Plus I’m not really grounded in hockey knowledge.

So why do it? I don’t really promote these other blogs (allright, this post is doing that I confess, but I don’t tweet them often or seek out traffic). I don’t particularly want anything from them – the sports and movies blogosphere is a crowded place, so you’re not going to make a dent there. It is this very difficulty with writing for these last two blogs in particular that is the point of it really. I think it improves my writing overall to stretch myself beyond the usual topic (I mean, I can write about OER until everyone starts crying). Blogging is how I get to grips with a subject. Making myself write about it, in a public forum (even if no-one beyond Jim Groom actually reads it) forces me to think about ways in which I can frame it, respond to it and analyse it, be that a game, a film or anything.

This is exactly what I did with ed tech blogging at the start. Blogging is a key aspect of how I engage with a topic and come to understand it. That is allied to twitter and other forms of social media also, but blogging is at the centre of it. Some of you will have read that piece in the Guardian about how using social media was not serious academic work . Although the writer is mainly sniffy about twitter and instagram, I imagine they lump blogging in there too. My feeling is the opposite – I can’t imagine being a serious (or otherwise) academic without blogging.


  • CogDog

    Hee hee, I know all about those rainy Saturday afternoons.

    And now you let out your secret photo blog (I know D’Arcy Norman and John Johnston both have done different wordpress photo blogs where they post directly from their mobile). BTW, the barracuda link is busted, so the film blog is in the mist.

    I’m happy that at least one other person understands the personal motivation first for blogging- I tire of so many people going on about audience, readers, reach, lack of comments, when, to me at least, the writing is first for me, to think out loud.

    I’m with you, I cannot imagine not blogging. It becomes an itch that won’t get out of mine until I write it.

    Hmmm, I wonder if there is any rain forecast for the weekend…

    • Chris L

      I’m still a hyuuuge proponent of writing as thinking out loud. But that next step, publishing it, I wonder at the utility (for me) of moving it out of Scrivener or my bunch of text file and into a blog. Maybe I just scratched that itch…or my personal motivation is in the writing, not the blogging? I don’t know. It’s vexing 🙂

      • admin

        Hi Chris – I know what you mean. Since she was 2 I’ve kept a journal of my daughter’s life that I’ve never felt the need to make public (in fact NOT being public is a very important aspect of it). I think you probably have a higher quality threshold than me – I’ll blog any old crap. The public thing is interesting – I say I’m not seeking readers, but if not why not just create a Word doc as I did for my daughter’s journal? I guess there is probably some ego in the mix, and also something about maybe connecting with others. Plus the _possibility_ of a public audience feels right for these blogs, even if it isn’t an actuality.

        • Chris L

          Yeah…there’s definitely some ego (healthy and not) and desire for connection (healthy and not!). The productive view is to say to myself: sure, someone else has said this about that poem before, and perhaps even better, but perhaps it’s of service to put it out there again, for practical reasons of findability and because my voice might not be of higher *quality* but still might resonate with someone where another doesn’t.

          I’m evolving, ever so slowly, to the thinking that everything is secondary to being 1) present and 2) being of service in even such a small way. Then it gets all mystical and I blush and revert to talking to myself instead.

    • admin

      Thanks Alan – link fixed now. I think when I was busy raising a child I didn’t have interests that warranted a blog (I kept a private journal about being a dad), but now I do and I like the way it makes you approach a subject. So I sit in films thinking about what I can blog about them, which can be annoying but also makes me view it differently. You are right about that reach stuff – that maybe is necessary for a corporate blog but a personal one, who cares?

  • Chris L

    This: “Blogging is how I get to grips with a subject. Making myself write about it, in a public forum (even if no-one beyond Jim Groom actually reads it) forces me to think about ways in which I can frame it, respond to it and analyse it, be that a game, a film or anything.”

    I still intellectually get this but am having such a hard time swallowing my own similar prescription. For instance, I recently resurrected a bunch of my “Reading Notes” for Shakespeare and Montaigne, in advance of perhaps embarking on a new project focused on poet John Berryman…and I realized, as I read through them, that there’s nothing new in what I’m saying, whether the author is 500 or 50 years old.

    So now the question for me is whether the sentence you write above is true for me or not…or if I’m at a point where the writing was/is/would be the same whether I chose to blog it or just wrote it for myself.

  • CogDog

    I give my support for writing anywhere, public or private (I’m looking at you, choir).

    Thanks for the link fix, martin. I just enjoy seeing your subdomain names and blog titles.

  • David Harrison

    I think you’re right Martin about writing for yourself, and improving the quality of your writing. Whilst not claiming any erudition skills I have found that a) writing reports with exec summaries, and b) blogging have improved my writing and in particular my grammar. It’s so important on social media to get your , – : ; and . in the right places as meanngs can so quickly alter. So it’s a good discipline.

    Mainly however it’s creating a personal record. I’m sure I must be enering the pre-dementia stage and just to record things that I won’t remember next week (for instance I’m just about to post to my blog about the re-arranged HiFi setup I engineered last week) – boring, probably; necessary, essential. Now have I got those punctuation marks correct. ?

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