Thursday, October 20, 2005

Why blog?

E arlier 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.