The first week is already over and there has been plenty of interesting discussion and two interesting events.
On Wednesday Michael Barbour joined the course for a day to answer any questions that participants threw at him and he generously shared his strategies for working in the open.
On Thursday there was a webinar with Laura Czerniewicz who shared her work on open scholarly practice in relation to presence, visibility and branding, including her guide to curating open scholarly content:
and with Sarah Goodier a Four Step Guide to online presence
Also shared in the course was this slideshare by Sydneyeve Matrix about academic branding –
There has been some discussion about whether academics should blog. Some have said that open scholarship means sharing all aspects of your life (I have blogged about this in the past ), but as Laura Czerniewicz said ‘Some people are not comfortable blogging – some people have a blogging voice, others don’t’.
For me it’s not either/or. Sometimes I feel that I can’t get the blog posts I want to make out fast enough. At other times I feel that I have nothing to say, nothing to add to the conversation that has not already been said, nothing that I think anyone would find interesting to read – but sometimes you just have to force yourself and start writing, because as others before me have pointed out, writing is a practice – use it or lose it.
Catherine Cronin has recently said (I can’t remember where – sorry Catherine) that you can never tell whether something you write might be of use to someone, and you might never know.
Stephen Downes (a most prolific blogger) has written somewhere (or maybe it was said – again I don’t remember – sorry Stephen) that if you can’t find anything to write about, you must be a boring person, ‘or words to that effect’. I think what he meant was that everyone has something to say – we just need the confidence, the belief that there is someone out there that might want to listen.
This echoes what the poet Bernadette Mayer said in a Modern and Contemporary American Poetry MOOC webinar this week – ‘You can’t have writer’s block – as that would mean total lack of thought’. It’s not lack of thought, it’s lack of confidence. Various bloggers have written about this (see references at the end of this post).
Bernadette Mayer has provided loads of possible starting points for writers in a long document Bernadette Mayer’s List of Journal Ideas. In the webinar her advice was to find something completely impossible to write about and write about it, such that the problem becomes the material and we use the constraints. Write against the reality that is presented to you – she says.
Bernadette’s advice is for poets, but works equally well for academic bloggers. The advantage of blogging is that it can release you from the conventions of academic writing of the type done for journal articles. You can simply start and ‘let it all hang out’ and include images and multimedia. You can write a line or two or you can write at length. There are a whole host of genres you can experiment with.
I think it would be a shame to think about blogging only in terms of scholarship and academic branding. Blogging is much more than that, even for academics. It is about ‘finding your voice’ and building an identity. As Laura said: ‘So much scholarship is embodied in a person.’
Some references that might be of interest, that I have come across or been reminded of this week are:
- Downes, S (2009) Blogs in Education
- Theresa MacPhail (2014) The Confidence Gap in Academic Writing
- Also see this page on Scholarly Writing
- Dr Inger Mewburn’s Thesis Whisperer blog always has useful posts. See for example http://thesiswhisperer.com/2011/08/16/5-strategies-to-help-your-research-student-to-write/
- As does Pat Thomson’s Patter blog – See this post on writer’s block
- See also Martin Weller’s book – The Digital Scholar