identity,  Weblogs

Becoming a multi-blogger

One of the (vague, ill-defined, unstructured) tasks I set myself this year was to see if my blogging/social networking activity could be bent some way to a more focused institutional benefit. I can make lots of (unsupported, wildly inaccurate, ego-driven) claims about the benefit of this blog to the Open University, for example it acts as a form of staff development, it forms part of an institutional dialogue, it raises the university's profile, it demonstrates the university's engagement with new media, etc.

But I also feel that my blogging activity has been well supported without any specific aim, and it has now reached a reasonably robust state where can I make the above claims without everyone in the room laughing (only some of them). So, I wanted to investigate whether this practice could become more central and foregrounded in what I do and in its institutional benefit.

One result of this has been the initiation of the digital scholarship work at the OU. We have created a site as a part of this activity (knocked together very quickly at our 2-day hackfest). After another iteration of this, I may propose to senior management that it is open to all (in the spirit of things), not just OU staff, but it may be that it only really works with the specific OU focus. One element of this is that it has a central blog for news relevant to digital scholarship. This is rather like my tumblr blog but with a bit more comment. I am also taking over some blogging duties over at the SocialLearn blog.

It is going to be interesting to see whether I can blog effectively for these different audiences. I started this blog as a separate entity from the OU, and although it is obviously related, I have never really had to worry about a very specific intention behind the blog. Hence I can spout half-formed ideas about music, football, elearning and general bobbins. This isn't going to cut it in my new (on-brand, suit-wearing, performance criteria achieving) role. It will also be interesting to see if I can spread my already meagre intellectual jam thinly across three blogs, and whether it impacts upon this one.

I guess what this really comes back to is identity again and the personal-professional tension. I believe a bit of the personal is essential to give a blog meaning. I created this intellectually challenging graph to illustrate my point:

(Graph produced at

So this mini-personal experiment will examine whether I can blog to a different audience, and still retain enough personal element to make it meaningful for me and the reader.


  • David Harrison

    It’s a challenging target you’ve set yourself. I’m finding the number of platforms and the different personas that I have to maintain means that some begin to look in the need of refresh.
    However you’re challenge is much bigger than mine, because people actually READ your blogs, mine are more by way of an experiment to see whether the context/persona/identity/corporate/personal thing can work or whether there needs to be a different schema for all of this.
    At the moment I’m quite drawn to using tumblr/posterous for the more personal stuff and to use the more heavy-duty systems for the corporate/work-related, but I still have too many of these platforms to maintain.
    Take care! You’ll need to make sure you get the feedback that sustains you – be a multi-blogger can make you both a sad (geek-wise) and lonely person 🙂

  • Martin

    Hi David – I would like to portray myself as a blogging superhero, but it’s probably not as tough as I made out. I think the digital scholarship one will fall out pretty naturally from what I do here and on the Tumblr blog. And I hope to get someone else to help out on that.
    The SocialLearn one is a bit trickier because it’s nearer a commercial blog, and I probably have to be more careful of what I say, and also to be seen to be commenting on things that SocialLearn should be part of. So there is more of an agenda to adhere to I guess. I think I will have to be strict with myself on this one – eg I will blog every Friday afternoon, rather than when it takes me.
    BTW – I recommend tumblr if what you want from your personal blog is to be commenting and gathering stuff around the web. I think it’s a great tool (lots of people rate posterous too, nothing really between them).

  • Owen Stephens

    I’ve had 2 blogs for some time, both ‘personal’ (in that they belong to me) but one work-based, and one more personal-based. To be honest the latter is a very occasional affair, maintained jointly with my wife. However, the former is where I’ve built my online professional identity (especially before Twitter).
    However, I’ve recently started a 3rd blog, which is specifically for the project I’m working on (TELSTAR), and clearly owned by the project/institution and not me. This has definitely started to affect what I post to my own professional blog – as I want to keep a clear separation between them, and yet where my professional interests are focussed is clearly linked with my current day-job. At the same time I want to make use of my own blog (as I have got a readership there) to promote my work on the project.
    To be honest I’d be happier if I was posting project stuff to my own blog, however my position as an academic-related member of staff is probably slightly different to that of an academic, but the stuff I write in the course of my work is owned by the institution, not by me – so I’m inclined to try to keep these things more separate than perhaps is ideal.

  • Martin

    @Owen – the issue of ownership is a tricky one for all staff. The hardline would be that the OU does own my material contractually. Like you, I have tried to use this blog as the voice of a project also, but it doesn’t always meet with success and sometimes a separate blog is required, but hopefully with cross-fertilisation.
    @Gustavo – oh dear! Not a very good start to maintaining my multiple identities. Thanks for pointing it out, fixed now.

  • Brennig

    Brilliant Venn diagram.
    FWIW I tread a slightly different path. My ‘professional’ life never crosses in to my blog, but my other ‘jobs/occupations’, writing, music and the general random bobbins (lovely description, thanks!) just flops out and informs/confuses in more or less equal values.

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