Academic(s) blogging

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A guest post by Jacob Christensen* in our series of blogging academics. Check out the rest of the series here and here.  If you are an academic (European studies, social science, humanities etc) with a blog and you would like to share your views about blogging and social media here –  please contact us via email or on twitter!

First, an observation: It is fair to say that Denmark does not have an academic blogosphere like the one we can find in some other countries. Curiously, I know a number of Swedish political scientists (and economists) who maintain their own blogs – check my blog list – but I actually seem to be the only Danish political scientist to have an independent blog. You will find Danish political scientists and economists on the websites of established media like Jyllands-Posten (Peter Nedergaard), Berlingske (Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard) og Politiken (Henrik Christoffersen), but there is no Monkey Cage, Crooked Timber or Economist’s View. Not even a Danish equivalent to the excellent Swedish group blog Ekonomistas.

Equally, I have Swedish colleagues tweeting about politics and academic themes but no Danes. Things are slightly, but only slightly, better on Facebook.

One reason for this sorry state of affairs might be that Danish academics tend to see the internet – and more specifically: blogging – as a mass medium like TV, radio and newspapers: A place where one writes to the general public, not a place where one engages in academic discussions. Traditionally, Danish media have offered good opportunities for academics to publish essays and columns so it would not be surprising if the internet is seen as more of the same. But then again this doesn’t really explain the difference between Denmark and Sweden.

Following this, it will probably not come as a surprise to you that I started blogging when I lived and worked in Sweden. The blog started its life for a relatively simple pragmatic reason: I wanted to share and discuss some rather technical observations about the German federal election in 2005 with a couple of colleagues and a blog appeared to be more convenient than e-mail if I wanted to keep track of my writings. The same goes for the avalanche of posts about Danish and Swedish politics which have followed in the past five and a half years. So if anyone asks, the imagined audience consists of a handful of colleagues (and this is the reason the blog is in English rather than Danish), but obviously anybody passing by is welcome to read and comment. Here, I should perhaps note that the most active commenters – two of my colleagues based in Denmark and Sweden, respectively – tend to reply by sending me … e-mails.

But besides the pragmatic aspect, there are some more general arguments to be made.

First, we live in the age of online but even if universities provide homepages for faculty members (permanent and temporary) and Facebook and LinkedIn provide outlets for online resumés, it may still be a good idea to take control of your online identity. After all, university homepages only provide limited information and are deleted when you leave your position. (I will leave aside the pain inflicted on us by “PU:RE” and similar instruments of administrative torture dreamt up by the bean counters). Similarly, Facebook and LinkedIn are for better or worse walled gardens with powerful, but limited capabilities.

Second, as AnamariaDutceac Segesten and others have pointed out regular blogging is also an exercise in writing. Similarly, most of my blogposts are inspired by events that I know something about but either don’t understand immediately or want to figure out in greater detail. At best, it can inspire ideas for later research, even if I have tended not to blog about my current research in recent years. I suspect that endless posts on the Danish unemployment insurance during the 1920s might have scared off just about every potential reader.

Okay, it may still be rather pretentious to assume that other people would by definition be interested in one’s scattered thoughts and ideas – and this brings me to the final point:

No, blogging will not make you an overnight celebrity (there is too much noise on the internet these days) or get you on journalists’ speed-dial lists (thank god). My blog has lived and still lives its own quiet life outside of the media highways. But as it is, it has in fact brought me some extra assignments, some of which are documented on my publication list.

* Jacob Christensen (1964) is a political scientist and currently an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark. Since receiving his Ph.D. in 1992 (gaaah) he has worked at universities in Denmark and  Sweden, including the University of Copenhagen, Umeå University and the University of Southern Denmark, Odense. He has taught just about every conceivable subject within political science and written about Danish social policy and history as well as parliamentary politics. At present, he is working on a study of the Danish ATP supplementary labour-market  pension.