‘Scratching your own itch’

This is a ‘Mike Bogle’ phrase which tripped off his tongue in his response to my last post. It was so great to receive Mike and Matthias‘ and Robin’s responses, which have stimulated my thinking and encouraged me to dig deeper into why I blog. It also encouraged me, Mike, to have a go at producing a video response to your video, but having tried it, I don’t think it does me any favours :-)! So here are my thoughts in text.

I suppose the big question for me is, how many people would continue blogging if their blog was private rather than public? Can blogging be sustained without an audience? For this post I am definitely talking to Mike, Matthias and Robin and to anybody else who ventures here. I am also talking to myself in the sense that I am thinking aloud, but I am very conscious that I may have ‘listeners’ or an audience. So whilst I may be ‘scratching my own itch’, I am looking around to see who is watching. I feel that this can’t  not affect what I write.

Mike, Matthias’ and Robin’s responses prompted me to read a journal article which I recently received from a colleague, about blogging in higher education.

Kerawalla, L., Minocha, S., Kirkup, G. & Conole, G. (2008) An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education. J. Computer Assisted Learning.

These authors studied the factors which influenced their students’ blogging and ‘identified six factors that influenced their blogging: perceptions of, and need for an audience; perceptions of, and need for community; the utility of, and need for comments; presentational style of the blog content; overarching factors related to the technological context; and the pedagogical context of the course.’

Students had different reasons for keeping a blog. They might be carrying out course directed activities and sharing them, carrying out course directed activities and blogging for themselves, blogging as a reflective learning activity, blogging to keep themselves motivated, or blogging as a way of recording and storing information.

It seems from the research that everyone blogs for a different reason, and so it is not wise to be didactic in expectations of students’ blogging. For myself, I think I have a multitude of reasons for blogging. My current focus on why I blog, has arisen from the fact that it’s one thing to blog for a course (i.e. the connectivism course), and quite another to sustain a blog that is no longer stimulated by a course. So I feel that this blog and my writing to it are undergoing an identity crisis which I will have to work through if I am to sustain my blog writing.

 The primary reason I blog is, as discussed before, to mark my thinking about my learning, i.e. to actively engage in reflective learning. But I can’t dismiss, in a public blog, the audience. So I also think about who might be reading, will they understand what I am ‘saying’, will what I am ‘saying’ be of interest, am I sufficiently articulate, is my presentation clear, have I checked my spelling and grammar, should I add photos etc.  All these audience-related questions give the writing a slightly different ‘flavour’ than may otherwise have been the case.

I will have to think about Mike’s comment that if my posts are relevant to me they will be to some others.  The interesting thing is that I won’t necessarily know. If the audience chooses not to respond or comment, it may not be because the post is not relevant, but simply because it’s enough to read it – a bit like enjoying a play at the theatre but not necessarily wanting to applause.

I did very much like your comment Mike about posts contributing to a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. That is something to hold on to.

8 thoughts on “‘Scratching your own itch’

  1. suifaijohnmak February 18, 2009 / 6:22 am

    Jenny,
    Yours are an inspiring post on blogging. I resonate with your views that “If the audience chooses not to respond or comment, it may not be because the post is not relevant, but simply because it’s enough to read it – a bit like enjoying a play at the theatre but not necessarily wanting to applause.”

    I would think this could also be a good start to reflect on the motivation of a blogger, from an educator’s and learner’s points of view and see if there are any significant difference between them.

    What are the critical factors which influence educators in blogging (especially our CCK08 ex-participants and instructors)?

    Would this also reveal the underlying reasons why collaborations amongst bloggers is both exciting and challenging?

    People do blogs for all sorts of reasons, and based on varying factors. Time, priorities, interests and contexts of blogs all seem to play a part

    I have written a few posts why I blog on my posts http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com and so I don’t want to repeat them now. It may be interesting to consolidate some of our findings to see the common “reasons” of blogging.

    Would a follow up survey/interview help in synthesising the results?

    I am surely interested in this. And would be happy to draft a questionnarie in Survey Monkey. However, would it be better to seek the consent from other bloggers before doing it? How about further discussion on the http://connectivismeducationlearning.ning.com ?

    Renewed thanks Jenny.

  2. jennymackness February 19, 2009 / 8:41 am

    Hi John – thanks for your comment.

    I have been reading your blog posts with interest. I think it would be very interesting to find out more about why CCK08 bloggers blogged and what they got out of it.

    I don’t think consent is needed to do a survey, although I think it would be courteous to ask Stephen and George if it was OK with them to use their course in this way. Consent from bloggers for the survey is implicit in responding to the questionnaire. Respondents always have this choice. However, you would definitely need consent if you wanted to use blog posts as part of a research study.

    I would be interested in helping to design a questionnaire, if you are serious about this. I think it could be really interesting.

    Thanks John

    Jenny

  3. suifaijohnmak February 19, 2009 / 12:02 pm

    Jenny,
    Excellent ideas. We will talk about the initial design and whether such study is to be published or not (I do think it would be nice to have it published in journals or presented in conference).

    It would be nice to know if anyone else is interested in such research.

    Meanwhile, if you like, we could start exploring the following:
    Do you want to develop drafts of this research into wiki/blog/any tools?
    I have already created one wiki for such purpose, though it is still under construction (http://connectivismeducationlearning.pbwiki.com). However, with a few minor additions, it could be used readily once we have decided to go ahead.

    (a) any similar researches done – blogs, articles, PhDs or submitted papers etc. (literature research) (there are lots of research resources posted on the http://connectivismeducationlearning.ning.com already
    (b) any questionnarie developed that could be used or adapted
    (c) any other research preparation work – e.g. a Gantt Chart, a time schedule or a Network Graph (iGoogle documnets could be useful)
    (d) any other research tools that need to be used

    We could also discuss using other platforms – FB, email or

    the Ning network (a good start) to attract others to join in. And their names could also appear in the project.
    Comments?

  4. Mike Bogle February 20, 2009 / 9:05 pm

    This constitutes another rapid-fire comment borne out of a chaotic morning 🙂

    Regarding your question “how many people would continue blogging if their blog was private rather than public”, I think it would definitely change the nature of the medium. So in that sense I probably need to reconsider my initial response.

    I still believe I don’t blog for an audience, but on reflection I think that the potential for discussion does influence things quite a bit. I’ve tried to maintain personal journals in the past and I’ve never been able to keep it up with any regularity. So all else remaining equal, something about engaging in this activity in a public space has changed the equation.

    For example, I recognise the fact that I need to ensure my thoughts are clear and concise in order for others to understand what I’m trying to say. So this motivates me to take the time to properly formulate and present my ideas in a coherent way.

    I think a clear benefit of this (at least for me) is that it helps me delve more deeply into topics that I would perhaps cover only superficially in a personal journal. The idea that my posts will somehow be judged or peer reviewed motivates me to make sure I’m doing them justice.

    In terms of the ‘identified six factors that influenced their blogging” I’ll need to return to that article when time permits – it definitely looks like something worth reading. So note to self.

    Ooops bubby calls. I’ll try and come back to this later…

    Cheers,

    Mike

  5. Mike Bogle February 20, 2009 / 9:08 pm

    Hmmm I just realised that I’m contradicting myself. By saying that I spend more time and energy performing an activity than I would in the absence of an audience, then the presence of an audience could be seen to influence the change.

    In effect, I am blogging for an audience.

    I need to ponder this further obviously! 🙂

    Cheers,

    Mike

  6. Lani February 22, 2009 / 2:11 am

    Hi all,

    Late to this conversation—

    When I began blogging, it was for me — the process of writing helped make my thinking clear. And I wanted a central place where I could go back to my learning. I’ve always been a “sharer” so like Mike, if what I had to say was of value, that was great. I was happy in my own corner of cyberspace. And I didn’t blog that often as I spent the majority of my time in comments with high school and younger students.

    When I discovered that people were actually reading what I wrote, and someone mentioned that I had an online voice, then I found that influenced what and how I write as you mention. I know that it did in the CCK08 course and now that I’m involved as a community leader in an online community of practice it continues. I have mixed feelings about that; sometimes it makes me uncomfortable– I haven’t figured that out yet.

    For me, perhaps because of my attendance at a Quaker college, silence doesn’t signal that thoughts lack value, but often rather the reading has added to the understanding of another who for any number of reasons has chosen not to respond, or it’s helped me delve deeper into what I’m seeking in the writing.

    I’m thinking, this talking to ourselves in an open space, continues to be a good thing– with or without the audience although I do find the discussions here are often some of the very best parts, even when I’m only a consumer and not an active conversant; might you agree?

    Best,
    Lani

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