Thursday, October 20, 2005

Why blog?

Earlier this afternoon, I stepped up front for a brief talk about why I blog (framed as "Blogging as a Graduate Student").  The session was part of SU's featured Gateway Focus on Teaching Luncheon Series; the broader theme for the event: "Technology to Support Student Motivation." I decided that it makes sense to share a few small details about the talk, including my list of five motives/motifs on grad student blogging.  It's testimonial for the most part, and perhaps it's well-worn terrain for you who have been keeping a weblog, but it's also useful for me to flesh out my talking notes and to write through some of the fuzz, the un- or under-answered questions, and the relative merits--from my perspective--of keeping a weblog throughout a graduate program of study.  I should also be clear that these are conversation starters and supple categories for organizing such conversations rather than some rigid and deterministic boxes.

Here are the five motives/motifs I used to ground the talk:

1.  Personal knowledge management: I need a customized information ecology.  The weblog is but one piece among a coordinated effort to take command of infoglut.
2.  Network immersion/emersion:  Blogging enables surprising social connections--collegial and familial, differently distributed in space and time.  Worldview: connectivism.
3.  Writing habit: Whatever else blogging is, it's writing.  And it involves a particular rhythm/cadence and a small pieces way of writing, rough-edged as such pieces may be.
4.  Research opportunitiesTechnorati's latest State of the Blogosphere report (10/17) tells us that between 700,000 and 1.3 million entries are posted each day.  There are 70,000 new weblogs each day, and many of them are self-regulating (with a few assigned, a few sp&mblogs, etc.).  Research possibilities? Mm, a couple.
5.  Technology learning:  I knew a little bit of HTML before I started a blog, and I could size images, but my own aptitude for technology has sprung up from a willingness to experiment with this weblog.  Among the things I've learned or looked into because of blogging: CSS, aggregation, XML, template futzing and alternative uses for blogware (this list could go longer, of course).  Much of what I understand about technology is due to blogging (well, yes, and the intro to computers course I took as an undergraduate).

There's a lot more to each of these points, and I want to come back to elaborate and explain (another day, perhaps an entry to each).  What else can we do with a list like this?  What good is it?  Well, plenty of people are hearing about blogging for the first time.  I wouldn't define myself as an early adopter, but I think it's easy for early adopters to continue to cycle new technologies into practice without periodically relaying recent digital happenings. This is potentially complicated (whether technophiles ought to repeat themselves once in a while, retrace trails of activation for the benefit of others), but I'm keeping it simple by saying almost-confidently that yes, it's important to revisit, repeat, and echo such things.  The counter-stance makes some sense too: a milder axiom that those who say they want on board with technologies must not dally.

Finally, back to my other question, what else can we do with a list like this one?  We could flip it around to see what happens.  Play it backwards. Ooh...looks like I forgot to mention that a sixth motive/motif is pleasure, enjoyment and fun. Blaspheme and outlandishness, I know (and damned if I shouldn't be doing something more serious right now), but let's see how it looks:

5. gninrael ygolonhceT: Forget technology. Luddites not ludics. It's all just too exasperating. Plus, who cares?  Isn't Dr. Phil on?
4. seitinutroppo hcraeseR: Museumification, paper-based research authorized only.  Blogs are trivial time-wasters.
3. tibah gnitirW: Event-modeled, constrained comp.  Caffeine-assisted activity spikes, panic, deadline anxiety.
2. noisreme\noisremmi krowteN: Isolation and insularity.  Hermitage.  Disconnectionism.  Strict individuality and closedness.
1. tnemeganam egdelwonk lanosreP:  Knowledge mayhem, chaoforgetfulness and debilitating noetic loss.  Where are my notes?   

No, this isn't the only thing we can do with such a list. 

Bookmark and Share Posted by at October 20, 2005 7:00 PM to On Weblogs
Comments

good gravy, D. Dr. *Phil* is on. sheesh. :)

What kind of time waster are you when you're typing words backwords? You must have some kewl something that did that for you! I'm sure you do.

You'd never type words backwords. You'd run a script.

Right? Care to share? :)

Posted by: madeline at October 20, 2005 8:58 PM

I can blog frontwards dna sdrawkcab, m. Algebra's not my strength, but I aced sdrawkcab gnipyt in the 10th grade. And the high school, the tiny little town, the curriculum, sorta sdrawckab sometimes. No scripts.

Posted by: Derek at October 20, 2005 9:04 PM

holy crizzap.

it's not the typing backwards (or back"words") that blows my shizznit. it's the thinking in sdrow the rehto yaw that is drah.

ouch. that was ooooooooooos drah. for me. :)

Posted by: madeline at October 21, 2005 9:00 PM

Right, as if I wasn't already cryptic enough.

Posted by: Derek at October 22, 2005 11:29 AM

Well, you should've been at the tenure meeting yesterday where we were told that we shouldn't waste our time doing things like "blogging."

Arrrrrrrgh.

Posted by: jenny at October 25, 2005 5:30 PM

That's a drag. The misunderstandings of these fairly basic technologies might be in the lead for the most disappointing dimension of academic work. Of course, nobody believes that blogging alone should win a body tenure, but to discourage it with a thou shalt not and a wagging finger is to misunderstand it. It's like:

T&P: Are you playing solitaire?
Jr. Fac: Um, no. I'm blogging.
T&P: Even worse!

Posted by: Derek at October 25, 2005 7:44 PM

Sort of related to backward typing: My wife was watching a TV show where they were interviewing a 54 year-old guy who could add up huge columns of numbers in the time it took other people just to read the numbers. They did some sort of scans of his brain and found that when he was adding up the numbers, he was using both sides of his brain (not just the left side). He said he "exercises" his brain by doing things like reading the newspaper upsidedown. That way he needs both sides of his brain to decode the characters and read the paper. So...

.sdrawkcab gniggolb eb lla dluohs ew ebyaM

Posted by: Jon B. at October 30, 2005 12:32 PM

Maybe. I can't say with any certainty that I'd have much patience for reading full entries keyed backwards. But I'm all for shuffling methods around.

Posted by: Derek at October 31, 2005 9:27 PM

Hmm...we bloggers may give the impression that not blogging is so sdrawkcab, or Academy 1.0. Some tenured faculty who don't blog may feel unsettled, disgruntled, or threatened by this new practice that is getting so much press. Alex Halavais wrote a post about this subject a little while back.

Blogging changes things and change is difficult for most people.

Posted by: Marcia at November 7, 2005 12:48 AM

I probably wouldn't go as far as to call non-blogging backwards, although I can see how an that might show through as my aim here. You're right that blogging stands to enact a change--if only on the deeply personal scale of writing habits. In his talk on Friday, Jeff reminded us that all new media produce anxiety; maybe, then, it becomes a question of the split between ease and anxiety (or something). I like to think in terms of Acad2.0, Acad1.0, and Acad0.0. I don't have too much interest in proselytizing to the 0.0ers, except when I'm invited to say a few things about why I blog. But the 1.0ers (heck, everybody from 0.8 to 1.5) are curious or at the very least willing to acknowledge that technologies have changed the ways we work in the academy. That said, I want to imagine that the frontward list can be used with the 1.0 bunch to affirm--"That wish you're expressing about PKM or connectivism or writing habit or networkacy or tech learning...why not blog?"

Posted by: Derek at November 7, 2005 8:02 AM