There’s an adage that goes something like if you stay still long enough, you’ll come back into fashion. I think that time is coming for blogs. And if it isn’t I’m going to pretend it is anyway. My rather vague reasoning for this is based on the following thoughts. These are not researched, just my impressions and I’m very aware that in social media impressions can vary wildly.
Twitter is a mess. The trolls are back in, it’s run by a temperamental man-baby, they are talking about changing the free nature, there are technical issues and doubts about its long term viability. Even if all this pans out, a certain amount of damage has been done – people have migrated elsewhere, but perhaps more significantly, my sense is that a lot of people have just started engaging with it less.
There is a social media rethink occurring. I think precipitated by the above, but something that has been growing for years is a reframing of our relationship to social media. Is it a healthy or useful relationship? Is it a good return on investment in terms of time? Is it fun anymore? The danger for social media sites like Twitter and Facebook is not so much the deliberate rejection, but rather just the slow fade of enthusiasm. And once people start asking these types of questions more regularly, that fade gains momentum.
A recognition of the value of online identity. When I used to write about digital scholarship around 2010, it was often in the context of ‘why won’t those suits recognise the impact of us blogging kids?” Sort of Footloose with RSS. Now the impact of online identity is widely valued, recognised, utilised, exploited by all sorts of institutions then investing in some reliable online identity is not something that is frowned upon.
Blogging always suited education. There have been fantastically inventive uses of Twitter, podcasts, YouTube etc for education, but I always felt that blogging was the closest cousin to standard academic practice. It gives time to expand on thoughts as much as needed, to break free from the confines of formal academic publishing and engage in thoughtful dialogue.
Everyday work is often a bit rubbish. I’m not sure this has changed much, but the sense is that (in higher ed anyway) that work has often become more constrained, less creative, more precarious and less rewarding. A place to call your own is a welcome refuge in such a context.
The conclusion I take from all this (which I carefully assembled so I could draw the conclusion I want), is that there is a desire to have a core place on the net, that is not subject to the whims of billionaires, institutions or markets, where you can engage in a range of dialogue, from personal to professional, and that you enjoy revisiting. Ladies and gentleman, I give you, the blog.
(Look, even Brian has said he’s going to start blogging more frequently, that’s the sign we’ve been waiting for, assemble your blogging hordes now).