Guest post by Anamaria Dutceac Segesten*
“Publish or perish”: Academia has its own jungle law. To thrive (or even to survive, it feels like occasionally) one needs to produce texts and in this case I mean specifically texts as words (images, videos, audio presentations are not yet acceptable). Articles, book chapters, monographs, conference papers, working papers, book reviews – you name them – these are the certificates of an academic’s ability to think creatively, analytically and methodically, to produce and communicate new knowledge.
This is where blogs come in. Blogs are useful for researchers for at least three reasons.
- They are good for your writing skills.
- They are good for your research.
- They are good for your CV.
Let us examine each of these statements separately.
Writing is a habit, a form of exercise; you need practice in order to get better at it. Like Dana Forbes said on Twitter, ‘You give your sentences and paragraphs a good work out, and then they will be fit for the page’. Writing is also very much a matter of inspiration: how many of us have stared at the blank screen worrying about how to fill it with our thoughts? Blogging may be just as good as chocolate in fighting writer’s block, because it lifts the pressure of putting down well-rounded, thoroughly referenced texts and allows for the ideas that float around in your head to find a home on (virtual) paper. Posts don’t need to follow as rigorously as articles the academic writing standards, so they liberate you from those constraints. Writing a blog post gets you to think and write something related to your topic, but in a more casual way.
Blogs are also helping you improve not only the form of your academic production but also its content. Your research can be better by keeping a blog, which then becomes your personal idea incubator. Because of its format, the blog post allows you to focus on one, max two, things at a time. This may serve to organize your thoughts, to categorize your concepts or data, and to look at your material in a new way. Once you publish a post, you can receive feedback through the comments. That may correct some statements you made, or help you see new angles on the same topic.
More concretely, keeping a blog may be part of your fieldwork strategy. Should you be doing some qualitative interviews, narrative analysis or the like, you could show your impressions from the field written on your blog to your informants, who have the chance to contribute new insights, to take back statements or nuance previous ideas. You can keep in touch better with your field contacts, who can follow your work – thus building trust and a more solid relationship over time. Also in terms of qualitative field work, blogs can be a place where you can display your non-verbal data: pictures, drawings, videos that normally do not have room in regular scientific journals.
In my case, keeping a blog has proved to be very useful for my recent fieldwork on the collective memory of pre-WWII cultural diversity at the margins of Europe. In a series of posts on my blog I posted pictures from the trips, and wrote down my immediate impressions. When I showed the posts to my contacts in the region, they emailed or left comments on my Facebook that helped me get a better understanding of their point of view.
Finally, keeping a research blog helps you with your CV because it gets your name out in the open and strengthens your academic profile. There are already communities of academic bloggers like this one (sadly there is none yet specifically on Europe, as far as I know, but this is a role that hopefully ideasoneurope.eu can fulfill in the future). Having a blog lets you develop other social media skills, like scheduling posts, linking to like-minded writers and so on. And let us not forget that it is increasingly acceptable and merit-giving to publish in non-traditional media (for example we have seen recently the case of Wikipedia contributions being considered as part of the tenure portfolio).
Today euroblogging has become in many ways similar to journalist commentary or even to reporting (think of the pilot project on blogger accreditation). This type of blogging is not only welcome but also necessary in a media landscape where fewer media channels are represented in Brussels by even fewer journalists (as I discussed here).
At the same time, there is room also for research blogging on European matters, where academics would not comment on current events alone, but would discuss larger trends or more specific contexts. Our knowledge and understanding of Europe and of the European Union would only benefit from such efforts.
PS. Do YOU have a research blog on European matters? Let me know through the comment field below!
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