For My One Thousandth Blogpost: The Un-Academic

[Author’s Note: the original version of this article was submitted as a variant of an invited presentation I gave to *** about my practice. The reviewer comments suggested a series of revisions relating to bolstering the theoretical basis of my approach described herein. Although I am not a member of this community, I have attempted to retrofit an appropriate theoretical context, at least in part, around the practice described. Note that this is post hoc rationalization that has not informed the development of my practice to date; rather it is a reflection presented through a particular lens. I could equally (and just as unreliably) have narrated a justification for the work using other traditions. The actual practice proceeds in a fluid environment mediated through immediate and informal online communication systems that include, but are not limited to, Twitter and the blog world that reviewer comments suggested the original article was better suited to; I agree.]

PS FWIW, some quick stats: this version of OUseful.info started in July 2008, or thereabouts. It’s had a few ten thousand over a million website views since then (according to WordPress.com stats), and I’m guessing several hundred thousand feed views (which I believe are counted separately?). The more I’ve blogged, the less I’ve read academic articles. The granularity of them is wrong, as is the mismatch in reference resolution (I pick up on phrases, images, or the abstraction of/reflections on ideas I’ve read about; citing a paper would suggest I found the paper interesting; that is often not the case – what often interests me is a particular sentence in a particular paragraph in a particular subsection of a particular section of a particular paper that just so happens to appear in a particular journal (but that might equally have appeared in another journal, given the way folk re-use their content or ideas often against the copyright license conditions they signed away…)).

I know that formal papers give a context around an idea, and often situate it within a particular tradition. But so too, I think, do blog posts, along with the blogs that in some sense containerise them. The embedding is of a different kind though: in part it’s a contribution to a daily ongoing communication with a community that often mediates its interests through the sharing of links (that is, references); in part it’s a contribution of ideas at a finer resolution than a formal academic reference, and in completely different style to them, to the free flow of ideas that can be found through the searchable and sharable world wide web.

Formal academic publications are a matter of record, and as such need to be self-standing, as well as embedded in a particular tradition. Blog posts are deliberately conversational: the grounding often coming from the current conversational context – recent previous posts, linked to sources, comments – as well as discussions ongoing in the community that the blog author inhabits and is known to contribute to. Blog posts aren’t intended to stand as a matter of record, although at times they sometimes do have some sort of longevity (“banker posts”, that guarantee you so many tens or hundreds of views a day, day in, day out…)

Alan Levine – CogDog – has been thinking about blogging too, recently: The question should be: why are you NOT blogging?; Every box you type in can be a doorway to creativity, and in a roundabout way, Gotta know when to walk. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything he’s published in a formal academic journal though…? And I don’t really know what theoretical frameworks drive his constantly innovative practice…But then, does it matter? Or does it only matter to the critics who don’t really grok this network-centric, link-sharing, webby thing?

5 comments

  1. Jim Groom

    1000 posts! Disco, here to the OUseful, which has proven oh so useful, and in many ways you remains the model for constant experimentation and open iteration. Thanks for being consistently awesome Tony!

  2. Tony Hirst

    @jimgroom Humbled you popped by… I am completely in awe of what you’ve been building out at UMW, both course and infrastructure-wise… Your comment much appreciated:-) Here’s to Feedistan…:-)

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