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  • Mark 2:20 pm on April 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: blogging, , note taking, ,   

    Getting hold of ideas while they are clear: note taking as a creative practice 

    I often come out of meetings feeling that what we’ve been discussing is utterly transparent to me. I feel I hold the issue in my hands, seeing how the initial steps connect to a broader horizon of action. It couldn’t feel more straight forward. However partly for that reason, I never take notes at the time. I often scribble stuff on a whiteboard, piece of paper or notebook file which vaguely captures my sense at the time before coming back to it a week or more later to find that what was lively has now become dead, what was transparent has now become opaque and what was in my grasp now feels alien to me.

    It’s left me obsessing about the discipline involved in a note taking practice. I suspect I’d gain so much from forcing myself to spend twenty minutes quietly writing out long form notes after important meetings, before going on to other things. I’ve had this discipline for thinking for a long time. It varies depending on the time and energy available to me but I’ve trained myself over time to seize on what C Wright Mills called the feel of an idea and force myself to elaborate it while it’s fresh in my mind. The post you’re reading is an example of this. So why do I find it so much more difficult to get myself to do this with ideas which emerge in meetings?

  • Mark 11:37 am on December 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: blogging, , inger mewburn, , , , social media phd, , , Tyler shores   

    Social Media and Doing a PhD: what do you need to know? 

    I organised a Sociological Review workshop at the weekend with Jenny Thatcher, Pat Thomson and Inger Mewburn. I’m sufficiently snowed under at the moment that I don’t have the time/energy to reflect on it properly but here’s a sneak preview of the graphic produced by Julia Hayes (below), links to live blogging by Tyler Shores below and live tweeting by Zoe Walshe on the #socialmediaphd hashtag. I’ve also attached some photos of the charts participants produced which I want to come back to later and think about properly.

    Live-blogging: Academics as social media curators

    Live-blogging: Social Media and Doing a PhD — Problems and Opportunities

    Live-blogging: Thesis Whisperer, Academic blogging, and social media

    Live-blogging: Pat Thomson, Academic blogging, and social media

    Live-blogging: Mark Carrigan and Academic blogging and social media

    Live-blogging: Social Media and Doing a PhD, What Do you Need to Know


  • Mark 7:17 pm on November 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: blog, bloggers, blogging, , documents of life,   

    What will it mean when blogs are decades old? 

    Reading the philosopher Daniel Little’s reflection on eleven years of Understanding Society, I found myself wondering how blogging will be seen when we are surrounded by personal blogs which are decades old? The blog you are reading is eight years old this month, superseding a sequence of blogs which covered a further seven years before this. Its form and content have changed significantly in that time but its underlying purpose has not, cataloguing my intellectual engagement in a more or less thorough way during that time. It has ranged from what C Wright Mills called fringe thoughts through to elaborate reflections, even documenting an entire program of research on asexuality from start to finish.

    It seems likely to be something I will stick with, leaving me wondering about how I will feel about it in twenty, thirty or forty years time? What will be the significance for intellectual culture when there are many of these elaborate texts of such an age? How will they be interpreted as what Ken Plummer called documents of life? In my more pretentious moments, I’m starting to wonder if the sheer fact of sustaining a blog like this over a long period of time has intellectual significance in and of itself, above and beyond the many ways in which it provides the soil from which other more familiar intellectual endeavours tend to grow.

    • landzek 8:00 pm on November 25, 2018 Permalink

      This has crossed my mind also. I figure by the time I die there will be 50 years of my blogging and people will be able to do sort of a meta-analysis on whole subjectivities.

    • landzek 12:28 am on November 26, 2018 Permalink

      … Also, I feel that the more data we have recorded will only allow for more control over human beings. But I don’t mean this in a bad way; I mean this in a purely logistical functional way.

      I’m from the generation of the uni-bomber, and I think generations before the 90s were really skeptical of technology and view technology is something inherently bad, is if human beings get involved with technology then it it will only lead to an abuse of power authoritarianism and despotism; like 198for big brother.

      I think this sentiment persists.

      But I think human beings are so resourceful that the abuses that come from technology are merely a sort of “conscious control” if you will; as each abuse arise it is it is not only checked, but that checking becomes another plot point and knowledge of how to go about controlling human beings effectively.

      Extrapolate this idea out a few chapters in a book, and I feel that what will occur is the very idea of freedom will change and away to wear its meaning will not change for the human being existing and living in the world of the unknown future, but only in reference to the past, say our time right now, will freedom have changed into a sort of “not freedom”.

      Our sense of freedom isn’t complete rejection to control without consent. And I think this will always be the case but the conditions under which we qualify what controllers and wet consent is will change with the effectiveness of how human beings are able to control the aggregate or mass of human beings.

      So I think that blogging and just the sheer massive data and Shira representative quality of individuals on the Internet will one day be able to be analyzed in such a way that will only contribute to our understanding of how human beings actually function and exist to be happy and content . which is to say control.

    • landzek 12:40 am on November 26, 2018 Permalink

      … lol. You’ve allowed me food for thought!

      I mean just think about crowd control.

      I was a punk rocker back in the 80s and I remember going to shows where there would be like five bands playing it would cost like $15 to go. Bands like bad religion, Subhumans, Black flag, exploited. And some of the shows with just being a giant concert hall in they would be a lot of people there and you can get up on stage and sing with the band and then jump off into the stage and it would just be a giant slam pit (this was before the idea of “moshing” ). And people would come out blurry and still smiling. They’re close would be torn in people would be laughing and it would be a fucking good time.

      But by the time the grunge bands started getting popular, the people who put on shows, and the new audience of people that was into this more underground hard rock all of a sudden, didn’t understand that kind of communal release, and the promoter started getting security guards, and they started putting up what we called “the trough“ which was between the stage and the audience. A practice which is standard now.

      Security and venues move people in and out and control what occurs inside of the concert almost perfectly. And what is occurred is that people now have fun, but it is a controlled fun, they defined they’re phone within the parameters of what’s expected to occur at a rock concert. And there is security guards everywhere to make sure that everyone stays within these parameters. They got it down to a science just like the light shows and the sound systems.

      This is what the world will become. But people don’t like to think about it because we still have this sense that freedom is something essential if nothing else is. It will only be in the gradual process of control and then the reflecting back to the past where people will be out able to understand this slow and gradual limiting of freedom, but most people will not be able to really grasp what these words from the past actually mean . And by then those people who do understand it will be easily checked.

      But this won’t be a bad kind of authoritarian kind a despotism wear the big hand of big brother is coming down to suppress everyone’s freedom. It will be the natural course of ethical sensibility of just being human in the great light of progress.

    • Mark 12:14 pm on November 26, 2018 Permalink

      I think this should be a blog post rather than a comment!

    • landzek 1:55 pm on November 26, 2018 Permalink

      Lol. Well… oddly, there is a difference between imagination and reality Lol. Sometimes I just let my mind go wherever.

  • Mark 4:51 pm on October 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , blogging, , , , ,   

    Some thoughts on intellectual self-archiving 

    Anyone who has read my blog for a while will be aware that I use it to self-archive. As Cory Doctorow explains in this wonderful piece, it’s a mode of information storage suitable for those whose working lives revolve around the identification, evaluation and retrieval of information:

    I consume, digest, and excrete information for a living. Whether I’m writing science fiction, editorials, columns, or tech books, whether I’m speaking from a podium or yammering down the phone at some poor reporter, my success depends on my ability to cite and connect disparate factoids at just the right moment.

    As a committed infovore, I need to eat roughly six times my weight in information every day or my brain starts to starve and atrophy. I gather information from many sources: print, radio, television, conversation, the Web, RSS feeds, email, chance, and serendipity. I used to bookmark this stuff, but I just ended up with a million bookmarks that I never revisited and could never find anything in.

    Theoretically, you can annotate your bookmarks, entering free-form reminders to yourself so that you can remember why you bookmarked this page or that one. I don’t know about you, but I never actually got around to doing this — it’s one of those get-to-it-later eat-your-vegetables best-practice housekeeping tasks like defragging your hard drive or squeegeeing your windshield that you know you should do but never get around to.

    Until I started blogging. Blogging gave my knowledge-grazing direction and reward. Writing a blog entry about a useful and/or interesting subject forces me to extract the salient features of the link into a two- or three-sentence elevator pitch to my readers, whose decision to follow a link is predicated on my ability to convey its interestingness to them. This exercise fixes the subjects in my head the same way that taking notes at a lecture does, putting them in reliable and easily-accessible mentalregisters.

    Blogs are far from the only way to produce what Doctorow describes as “a central repository of all of the fruits of my labors in the information fields”. The commonplace book is an obvious precursor to the research blog. Luhman used a terrifyingly intricate filecard system. C. Wright Mills advocated a file or journal to keep track of ‘fringe thoughts’. Any system will entail certain constraints and affordances for your self-archiving. However, the usefulness of an archiving system will depend as much on how you use it as on which system you choose.

    It occurred to me recently that my self-archiving has become inconsistent. Whereas I went through a phase of putting everything on the blog, often leading to five or six posts per day, it’s now spread across a number of systems:

    1. Highlights and notes in Amazon Kindle
    2. Ideas grouped together in talks on Artefact cards
    3. Resources archived in a number of e-mail folders
    4. Points to explore archived in Notability
    5. Ideas placed directly into ongoing writing

    The first point troubles me because I despise Amazon yet become more dependent upon them with each day I use this system. The latter one in particular troubles me because I tend to over-write. I find producing words relatively easy and it’s only in the few years since my PhD that I’ve learned to edit myself properly. Therefore ‘fringe-thoughts’ that immediately find expression might end up being lost.

    The urge to capture everything might seem obsessive. However, there’s something genuinely exciting about the idea of building a living archive of your thought over a period of decades. This blog has been active since 2010, encompassing 3426 posts over almost 7 years. Looking back on it, I’m struck by how much my thought has changed in that time but also how many continuities there are. Things I struggled to express years ago are now clearly defined questions I’m addressing in my research.

    Perhaps I need to put more effort into this, embracing intellectual self-archiving as a commitment rather than merely a habit. Though it seems possible that simply having written this post, articulating the issues and archiving it in my ‘outboard brain’, might be sufficient to change my practice. It often is and that’s one of many things which is so engrossing about intellectual self-archiving.

  • Mark 3:58 pm on April 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , blogging, , , , , ,   

    The transformation of academic writing and the challenge of ephemera 

    What does social media mean for academic writing? Most answers to this question focus on how such platforms might constrain or enable the expression of complex ideas. For instance, we might encounter scepticism that one could express conceptual nuance in 140 characters or an enthusiasm for blogging as offering new ways to explore theoretical questions beyond the confines of the journal article. However these discussions only rarely turn to writing in a more biographical sense, as a recurrent activity which is both personally meaningful and professionally necessary.

    Social media is certainly offering us more occasions for writing. The most obvious form this takes is the personal blog, providing one with a platform for exploration whenever we are taken by the feel of an idea worth exploring. However I suspect that many academics who sustain a personal blog do so because it serves a purpose prior to writing, serving as a common-place book or ideas garden. In such cases, the time spent blogging serves as a preparation for writing, even if it is sometimes an oblique one. There is no necessary tension here between blogging and writing, even if sometimes the former can hinder the latter, for instance when the familiarity of the blog draws us away from more formal writing that might not be going well.

    What about online writing that doesn’t serve this preparatory function? In the last few weeks, I’ve found myself thinking about the challenge of ephemera increasingly confronting academics. I mean ephemera in the literal sense of “things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a short time”. Long-established examples include book reviews, newsletter articles and short pieces in magazines. With the growth of social media, we are seeing a rapid expansion in opportunities to produce such ephemera. Multi-author blogs and online magazines will often be sources of invitations to write, as well as offering opportunities for this to qualified parties who are seeking them out. Such writing rarely constitutes much of a commitment in its own terms. One of many reasons I enjoy writing of this sort is that the usual temporal horizon rarely exceeds a few hours work. For instance, it might take a while to read a book for review but not to write the review itself.

    To call ephemera a ‘challenge’ may be misleading. In many ways, I remain convinced this is an opportunity, for the enjoyment of intellectual richness and diversity at the level of both individual scholars and scholarly communities. But unlike blogging in the preparatory sense discussed above, it can often take away from time and energy available for ‘real’ writing. The number of opportunities can itself prove problematic, as invitations and inclinations lead to over-commitment in the face of this abundance. For instance, in the next couple of weeks, I’m supposed to write an article for a magazine, a book review for a blog symposium, a blog post for a newspaper and a piece of sociological fiction for a zine. If I’m being realistic, it seems unlikely I’ll complete them all and thus the writing that was chosen rather than invited is likely to fall by the wayside. Though I think it’s a shame that I experience this as in some sense a distraction, despite my enthusiasm for the planned pieces. Much of this is related to journal articles, as things I should be writing but feel little inclination to, leaving it hard not to see a distance from academia as involving a gain rather than a loss of intellectual freedom.

    A subsequent conversation made me think back to Richard Rorty’s remark about universities enabling one to “read books and report what one thinks about them”. Is the promise of ephemera a matter of keeping in touch with this aspiration within a university system which militates against its realisation?

  • Mark 3:31 pm on March 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: alt metrics, , , blogging, , , science writing,   

    Bloggers and their role in the dissemination of scholarly information 

    Notes from this Webinar. I had to leave after the second speaker so they’re not complete.

    Alt metrics are a complement to existing metrics, addressing some of the key issues posed by metrics: the lag time of citations, the limitations of impact factor, the time to publication and their focus on a niche audience. The intention of alt metrics is to expand the focus, in order to assess what a broader audience think about research. This has many aspects but one increasingly important one is blogging, currently encompassing 10,000+ blogs with over 1 million mentions of research, from 2006 to now.

    Research commentary plays a crucial role in the public understanding of science. It mediates access to research, sometimes providing a more accessible articulation and other times providing a critical focus. The webinar gave an overview of four different types of blog which Alt Metrics are concerned with:

    • Newspaper blogs: often hosted on a subdomain, with a large and diverse audience.
    • Public education blogs: written by specialists and scientists, with public education as a main goal. They tend to have a social media presence and a large but specific audience.
    • Blogs hosted by academic institutions: a lab or department, often used for promoting that groups work, a narrow academic focus and act as a press release outlet for the group.
    • Research blogging platforms: these are a large collective domain, aggregating lots of different blogs, with an audience that tends to be researchers, helps build a research community.

    One of the guest speakers, Rolf Degen, talked about how the internet has disrupted the work of freelance science writers. What were once 95 weekly science sections had become 34 in 2005 and 19 in 2012. He embraced social media in order to help build the audience for his writing, though encountered the problem of people not following links through to his article from his tweets. He tried to compress the complexity of a science story by taking a screenshot to post on Twitter, inciting readers to click through to the piece itself. Another problem is that people on Twitter like negativity, sarcastic comments and the tearing apart of established studies.

    Nonetheless, it’s important to recognise that the ‘dirty side of science’ has been ignored by the media, who get most of their information from big science institutions and their press releases. Many of his followers are well qualified, prone to instantly criticising him if he makes a mistake. His editors have never been experts in his field, with criticism from readers being confined to letter to the editor. For this reason, the quality control is much higher than it has previously been. He argues that social media has created “an acquired taste for criticism” which is greatly beneficial for science writing. It’s creating a climate in which it’s just as much fun to find error in something, as to find great new insights, contributing to a turn away from the bias for positive results.

    The next speaker, Neuro Skeptic, spoke about his experiences as a science blogger. He drew a sharp distinction between science blogging and science journalism. Blogs have become an accepted part of the media in a way that they weren’t until recently, leading people to talk less about blogs as they’ve become a normal part of the landscape. He discussed a really interesting case when Science Blogs lost many of its audience in protest over Pepsi Gate, leading this audience to disperse over the media ecosystem. He draws a distinction between science bloggers (as niche content creators and often research active or with research experience) and science journalists (as generalists with a science background). Blogs offer scientists a way to communicate directly with readers (stripping out press officers) but that means they can be used to push an agenda. He warns that we shouldn’t romanticise science blogging as a pristine way of ‘getting the science out’ because it’s agenda driven. This means we can’t take social media popularity as being an intrinsically good thing, because this might mean things are being celebrated within circles we would regard as unscientific.

    Some interesting points about their policy for blog tracking which I’d like to know more about:

    • Their tracking is based on what they happen to hear about.
    • All blogs are weighted equally.
    • They are indexed by author, in order that multiple mentions of the same research by the same author will only be counted once.
    • They are filtered to ensure quality, in order to avoid counting spam blogs etc.
  • Mark 11:48 pm on March 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , blogging, , , , , ,   

    The cultural significance of blogging 

    In his Uberworked and Underpaid, Trebor Scholz offers an important reflection on the cultural significance of blogging. While its uptake has been exaggerated, dependent upon questionable assumptions concerning the relationship between users and blogs, it nonetheless represents a transformation of and expansion of cultural agency which needs to be taken seriously. From loc 3825:

    Web 2.0, to be fair, was incredibly successful as an ideology, a meme, and a marketing ploy with global effects. Already by 2004, the industry claimed that there were some 100 million weblogs. One didn’t have to be a skeptic of numerical reasoning to understand that the claim that everybody on this planet was blogging was based on shaky statistics. Clearly, some of these projections were blind to the digital divide, and overlooked the fact that many weblogs were set up but then never used again. But still, we need to acknowledge that more than a decade after its emergence, blogging had roped millions into a daily writing practice; it made them walk through their lives with the eyes of a participant, somebody who could potentially participate or insert her own perspective.

    This is reminiscent of the appendix to The Sociological Imagination, in which C Wright Mills offers practical advice about ‘keeping one’s inner world awake’. It would be overstating matters to claim blogging is intrinsically tied to the sociological imagination, but the propensity to “insert her own perspective” in a life more likely to be lived “with the eyes of a participant” is something we should take seriously, while refraining from assuming that this flows inexorably from the adoption of blogging as a regular activity.

  • Mark 1:12 pm on August 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , blogging, , ,   

    The difference between philosophy and talk about philosophy 

    A distinction I find rather tenuous, invoked by Ray Brassier in his attack on the self-importance of the speculative realist blogging community:

    What is peculiar to them is the claim that this is the first philosophy movement to have been generated and facilitated by the internet: a presumption rooted in the inability to distinguish philosophy from talk about philosophy. The vices so characteristic of their discourse can be traced back directly to the debilities of the medium. Blogging is essentially a journalistic medium, but philosophy is not journalism. Exchanging opinions about philosophy, or even exchanging philosophical opinions, ought not to be equated with philosophical debate. This is not to say that one cannot produce and disseminate valuable philosophical research online. But the most pernicious aspect of this SR/OOO syndrome is its attempt to pass off opining as argument and to substitute self-aggrandizement for actual philosophical achievement.


    Given he accepts one can “produce and disseminate valuable philosophical research online”, it’s hard not to wonder about the criteria for distinguishing between philosophy and talk about philosophy. This seemingly narrow debate is one we can expect to see much more of, in other disciplines and in relation to other topics, as social media becomes increasingly mainstream within academic life.

    • Dave Ashelman 1:47 pm on August 27, 2016 Permalink

      An old friend of mine, who is now an economics professor in the U.S. (while I’m a sociologist in Canada) recently asked me “What is it that you sociologists do in the academy?” He was genuinely interested in how society was economically organized within and between poverty groups.

      He pointed out that in economics, he can go to any blog, rich with data, bibliographies, and charts. He can extrapolate his own views philosophies from those. He pointed out that he can access working papers of the leading world economists for free. He runs a blog for Bloomberg News where economists are constantly posting things.

      Yet in sociology, there is – not much. No access to working papers, no big blogs sponsored by news organizations, and no idea who the world’s leading sociologists are. He called sociology a “secret society.” I couldn’t disagree with him. Sociology seems to be one of those disciplines that works in the shadows.

      Both economics and sociology are inherently philosophies (hence the Ph. part of the Ph.D. in both disciplines). Economics, as well as just about everything in the natural sciences (which are also inherently philosophies) receive wide public attention, and readily transmits their ideas to others in the public realm via blogs, online journals, and piles of PDF working papers sitting on servers – all complete with raw data and bibliographies. They allow others to look at their data, and form their own conclusions (and sometimes even reproduce results).

      The transmission of ideas, and the evolution of philosophy – our understanding of both the social and natural universe which has historically changed over time, does not need to be confined to paywalled academics. People really are allowed to think for themselves. The challenge is in getting the ideas out there.

    • Mark 9:05 am on August 30, 2016 Permalink

      Hi Dave, I think a slightly extended version of this would make a wonderful blog post if you’re interested?

    • Dave Ashelman 11:50 pm on September 14, 2016 Permalink

      I am interested! I just don’t know how to go about changing the Sociological world, other than applying conflict every step of the way!

      Last year I gave a talk on how sociology cannot use intersectionality when confronting neoliberalism, because neoliberals do not believe in social location; they believe in homo economicus. Economic Rational Man who has no race, no gender, no culture, and no social location. It’s embedded in neoliberal culture to not believe in such things as social intersections. That for sociology to tear into neoliberalism with things that neoliberals do not believe in is like telling a bald man why he needs to use a comb.

      After the moment of silence in the room, with angry faces staring back at me, I realized that changing the world of sociology in a direction where it can offer alternatives was going to take some heart medication.

      But I am interested.

    • Mark 8:33 am on September 24, 2016 Permalink

      I’ve heard the same point be made about sociological critiques of biological science: slinging mud at views that no one holds any more, if indeed they ever did.

  • Mark 9:02 am on April 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , blogging,   

    40 reasons why you should blog about your research 

    1. It helps you become more clear about your ideas.
    2. It gives you practice at presenting your ideas for a non-specialist audience.
    3. It increases your visibility within academia.
    4. It increases your visibility outside academia and makes it much easier for journalists, campaigners and practitioners to find you.
    5. It increases your visibility more than a static site and allows people who find you to get an overall sense of your academic interests.
    6. It’s a great way of making connections & finding potential collaborators.
    7. It can provide an archive of your thoughts, ideas and reactions which can later be incorporated into more formal work.
    8. It makes it easier for people to find your published work and increases the likelihood they will read and cite it.
    9. Its informality and immediate accessibility can help make writing part of your everyday life rather than being a source of stress and anxiety.
    10. Its a great way to promote events and call for papers. Particularly if you blog regularly and your blog is connected to Twitter.
    11. It helps ensure you can continue to develop strands of thought which, for now, don’t have any practical implications but might at some point in the future.
    12. It encourages you to reflexively interrogate and organise your work, drawing out emergent themes and placing isolated snippets of commentary into shared categories.
    13. It allows you to procrastinate for a further 10 to 20 minutes before going back to NVivo in a useful(ish) way.
    14. It helps you build a community around your ideas and interests – Kath McNiff
    15. It allows you to start a conversation that other researchers can join using comments – Kath McNiff
    16. It’s a tremendous way to access additional relevant information/sources through the connections you make – @drdjwalker
    17. It can also be a great way to increase your sample size by crowd sourcing contributions and through public scrutiny help prepare you for the peer review process when the time comes to publish your work – @drdjwalker
    18. It’s a great way to get international and cross-disciplinary input and reflections on your research – @jess1ecat
    19. It’s a fabulous way to give back to the research community by providing links and resources for other researchers, give and you shall receive – @jess1ecat
    20. Reciprocity through blogging and Twitter shares builds your profile but importantly forges lasting connections to fellow researchers – @jess1ecat
    21. It allows you to publish ideas immediately without waiting two years while things go through peer review and more peer review and wait in a publishing queue – @CelebYouthUK
    22. It’s fun – @CelebYouthUK
    23. It’s a faster way to get your research findings out. Journal/book publishing and the peer-review/editing process can take FOREVER – @ajlusc
    24. Because C Wright Mills would have probably been a blogger. If not, he would at the very least have been a fan – @ajlusc
    25. It is an exercise in disciplined writing. Stuff that doesn’t get used in the bigger thesis project, published papers, and the like, can be glossed for a blog and thrown out for ‘collision’ with others’ ideas. That’s how better ideas get formulated – Ibrar
    26. It makes you a better writer – @drfigtree
    27. It allows raw uncensored ideas to be creatively expressed before stymied by a prolonged peer review process – @DrBenKoh
    28. It allows research findings to be put out there in a format that participants can access, and are actually likely to read – Matthew Hanchard
    29. You have control of the publishing process – @DrHelenKara
    30. It’s a way to publish information about all aspects of research which formal publishing methods won’t accept, whether because it’s too short, too partial, too controversial, or for some other reason – @DrHelenKara
    31. Keeping your own blog can be a daunting prospect, but that’s not the only way: many bloggers are more than happy to accept a ‘guest’ blog on a subject which would be of interest to their readers – @DrHelenKara
    32. It helps to be up-to-date with new findings in your discipline, and often with findings in other fields – @udadisisuperior
    33. It’s a means to be FOUND. People google those words and ta-da! – @everythingabili
    34. It forces you to think of your ideas in simple language that can be easily articulated. It’s communication practice. – @everythingabili
    35. You will have MORE IDEAS – GUARANTEED. The process of blogging almost always sparks off more ideas. How could it not? – @everythingabili
    36. No need to study in isolation if you are a distance learning student, blogging is one way to network, share ideas and your studies with fellow students around the world – Lucy Bodenham
    37. Over time, a blog has helped me to develop more jargon-free and even poetic writing. I have returned to academic publication with a better language with which to express myself – Kip jones
    38. Blogging helps keep your profile out there if you are experiencing a gap between publications – Jeff Craig
    39. Help students know what their (prospective) adviser work on – @dimitridf
    40. It is free global advertisement for your programme/university – @dimitridf

    Any suggestions for more reasons? Put them in the comments box and I’ll add them to the list & note who they came from. If you’re on Twitter please include your twitter handle.

    • Dr Mohamed Saeudy 1:25 pm on February 27, 2019 Permalink

      I am really like these thoughts. I think this will be a great opportunity for academics to show the wider impact of their work outside academia

  • Mark 5:42 pm on April 9, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: , blogging, , ,   

    Why should academics blog about their research? An answer in pictures 

    Thanks to Jacqueline Bartram who drew these great cartoons as I was talking at a Hull event last yearabout academic blogging. Why should academics blog about their research?

    It provides a home for things you reluctantly cut from your publications:


    It allows you to get early feedback on ideas and try them out for the first time in public:


    It allows you to exchange early thoughts with others working on the issues that concern you:

    It allows you to share your struggles with others who are going through the same thing:

  • Mark 5:56 pm on March 26, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: , blogging, ,   

    There are many ways to keep a digital research journal other than blogging 

    At a talk I did earlier in the week, I was asked about my focus on using social media to work ideas out in public. This is something I find myself talking about a lot, not least of all because it has been such a consistently valuable experience for me. But as the questioner observed, this isn’t appropriate for everyone. For instance, many people do research that it would be unsuitable, imprudent or unethical to rehearse in this way. Furthermore, it might simply be an approach that some people are uncomfortable with and there’s nothing wrong with this.

    The question made me wonder if I overemphasise blogging as a platform for ‘continuous publishing’. My underlying point is as much about the regularity of writing as it is about doing this writing in public. I came across a lovely post by Jon Rainford recently that captured this nicely. He talks about ‘part-time studying but full-time thinking’ as something he’s been able to do through the habitual use of Evernote:

    Often it is in the midst of my day job, or during my drive to work that the things I have been struggling with suddenly make sense. This is also something that needs to be capitalised upon as often these thoughts go and fast as they come. For this, Evernote has been a life saver, acting as a multimedia notepad that is with me 24/7. Sometimes, I write a note by hand and capture it with my phone’s camera, sometimes I do the same with a document and other times I type direct into it. This mental scrapbook, however, is what I believe has been the key to moving forward in my thinking even when I’m not technically working on my PhD project.


    The way Jon is using Evernote is directly equivalent to how I’m suggesting blogs can be used. The peculiar value of blogging comes, in my experience, from the pressure it engenders to fully elaborate upon an inchoate idea i.e. you have to develop a line of thought in order to ensure others can read the post. But there are downsides as well, which I perhaps don’t stress enough.

    Tools like Evernote, as well as apps like Day One journal, offer really effective means through which it’s possible to keep a research notebook. The point is to write regularly, most of all when the inspiration strikes you. When you enjoy what C Wright Mills called ‘the feel of an idea’. Mobile computing makes this possible in a way that would have previously been difficult, allowing you to keep a file where ever you are. More over, it’s one that can so easily incorporate multimedia, allowing you to capture artefacts of the world around you as part of this process of systematic curiosity.

    Options like Evernote might be best for those whose research topics are at all sensitive. But this doesn’t mean blogging isn’t something that should be considered. After all, it’s possible to be a blogger without having your own blog. Such established platforms for guest blogging are particularly valuable to those doing research on sensitive topics because their specialised editors will be able to offer advice on potential issues the topics raise and be able to discuss any anxieties the author has about them.

  • Mark 4:19 pm on March 21, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: , , blogging, , , , , , vic seidler   

    The Pleasures of Scholarly Blogging 

    There’s a lovely extract of the Academic Diary in which Les Back reflects on the life and work of the social theorist Vic Seidler. Remarking on the vast range of topics on which Seidler has written, Les suggests that this deeply committed man “writes not because his academic position expects it but because he has something to say and communicate”. For someone like Seidler, writing is something a person does because they are “trying to work something out”.

    This captures what I see as the promise of academic blogging. It’s a platform for trying to work things out. More so, doing it in the open grants each of these attempts a social existence, one that comes with undoubted risks but also enormous rewards. Little bits of thought shrapnel, brief attempts to make some sense of the ‘feel of an idea’, come to enjoy their own existence within the world. They’re mostly forgotten or even ignored from the outset. But there’s something quite remarkable about occasions when these fragments resurface as someone sees something of value in them, perhaps when you saw no value in them yourself.

    Furthermore, it attunes you to the impulse to write because you have “something to say and communicate”. This isn’t always the case and I worry that the metricisation of scholarly blogging will prove immensely destructive of it. But there is at least for now something deeply rewarding about seizing on an inchoate idea, developing it and throwing it off into the world to see what others make of it. For no other reason than the pleasure inherent to it.

  • Mark 1:27 pm on November 3, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: , blogging, ,   

    call for contributions to the @sociowarwick centre for women and gender blog  

    An initiative from the Centre for Women and Gender in Sociology at Warwick, where the centre for social ontology is also based:

    A reminder that we are now accepting submissions to the CSWG blog. This academic focussed blog aims to promote the work of academics and students conducting research around topics relating to women and gender studies.

    We warmly welcome submissions from scholars working in, but not limited to, the following:

    Reflections on issues relating to the production of feminist research, including feminist theory and methodologies;

    Academics forging links with relevant contemporary activism;

    Issues from any discipline relating to a broad range of gender related topics, such as gender and education, politics, transgender and sexualities, feminism and women’s rights, masculinities and femininities, media and culture, and work, employment and the family.

    Submission guidelines:

    Anyone can contribute; we welcome, and actively encourage, a variety of voices.

    Though the focus of the blog remains primarily academic in nature, we are happy to accept a range of content from opinion pieces to short essays. Please note the maximum word limit of 1000 words.

    Please include references so that readers have the opportunity to carry out further reading.

    Please include a brief biography – no more than a few lines – with all submissions. Although we would prefer to avoid anonymity in order to promote transparency, we appreciate there may be instances where this would not be appropriate.

    Please email submissions to cswgseminarseries@gmail.com for peer review. If you have any further questions, please do email us at cswgseminarseries@gmail.com or get in touch via Facebook or Twitter

    With best wishes,

    CSWG graduate seminar committee: Elizabeth Ablett, Emine Erdogan, Heather Griffiths, Iro Konstantinou, Kate Mahoney, Isabel Nuñez-Salazar and Carli Rowell

  • Mark 1:22 pm on August 8, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: , blogging, , , ,   

    blogging as an outboard brain 

    This superb post by Cory Doctorow offers a philosophy of blogging extremely similar to what I’ve described as continuous publishing:

    As a committed infovore, I need to eat roughly six times my weight in information every day or my brain starts to starve and atrophy. I gather information from many sources: print, radio, television, conversation, the Web, RSS feeds, email, chance, and serendipity. I used to bookmark this stuff, but I just ended up with a million bookmarks that I never revisited and could never find anything in.

    Theoretically, you can annotate your bookmarks, entering free-form reminders to yourself so that you can remember why you bookmarked this page or that one. I don’t know about you, but I never actually got around to doing this — it’s one of those get-to-it-later eat-your-vegetables best-practice housekeeping tasks like defragging your hard drive or squeegeeing your windshield that you know you should do but never get around to.

    Until I started blogging. Blogging gave my knowledge-grazing direction and reward. Writing a blog entry about a useful and/or interesting subject forces me to extract the salient features of the link into a two- or three-sentence elevator pitch to my readers, whose decision to follow a link is predicated on my ability to convey its interestingness to them. This exercise fixes the subjects in my head the same way that taking notes at a lecture does, putting them in reliable and easily-accessible mentalregisters.

    Blogging also provides an incentive to keep blogging. As Boing Boing’s hit-counter rises steadily, growing 10-30 percent every month, I get a continuous, low-grade stream of brain-rewards; rewards that are reinforced by admiring email, cross-links from other blogs that show up in my referrer logs, stories that I broke climbing the ranks on Daypop and Blogdex (and getting picked up by major news outlets). The more I blog, the more reward I generate: strangers approach me at conferences and tell me how much they liked some particular entry; people whose sites I’ve pointed to send me grateful email thanking me for bringing their pet projects to the attention of so many people.


  • Mark 6:46 am on July 29, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: , blogging, , , fieldwork, ,   

    blogging your fieldwork 

    Pat Thompson has written a fascinating post reflecting on her use of blogging to record field notes during an ethnographic project at the Tate summer school. She stresses the ethical challenges of such an activity – particularly the need to negotiate consent with participants, including around photos, as well as the need for a framework for naming and recognition of potential harms – but argues that blogging in this context can provide a really useful ‘audit trail’: a record of what was done and in what order.

    She makes a compelling case that the resulting posts offer many advantages compared to more traditional ways of recording field notes: it’s easier to discipline yourself to do the blog post, it’s easier to link out in ways susceptible to following up later and the need to make the posts accessible and interesting (e.g. not too long) necessitates editing/filtering which itself requires valuable evaluation of the events of the day. What I found most interesting though were the advantages this can have in terms of building connections, within and beyond the fieldwork site:

    (5) participants and research partners like to read the posts each day too. It not only works for you but also works for them as a record of what’s gone on and what resources, people, organisations and “stuff” they used – so they can follow these up too.

    (6) participants know more about what you’re doing. We all read our institutional ethics forms about checking with participants and keeping them informed, but this is often not taken very seriously IMHO. A daily post goes a little way to telling people what youre doing, and…

    (7) a post can lead to good conversations with participants. if something is online, people can read it and then – tell you’ve got something wrong, or disagree with you, or discuss something further or tell you what they think. If your notes are locked away in your notebook, then this kind of responsive conversation is less easy to begin.

    (8) the telling of the events as they’ve just happened has “live-ness” which is often missing from accounts which are heavily processed long after the event has happened (see “Live methods” by Les Back and Nirmal Puwar)

    (9) blog readers may get some ideas of their own from reading about your work (I’ve just been contacted by one of my colleagues who is going to play with GIFs and zines on the back of yesterday’s post.)


    This is a wonderful example of what I’ve tried to write about in the past as ‘continuous publishing’: the advantages that can accrue from doing work in the open that once would have been done in private. Getting the ideas out there in this way, making them public, means they begin to act instantaneously – in this case, in a way that feeds  back upon the process that is being documented through blogging.

  • Mark 8:04 pm on April 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: blogging, , ,   

    Cory Doctorow’s Philosophy of Blogging 

  • Mark 1:31 pm on March 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , blogging, , , ,   

    Are academics very well-educated journalists who write badly but will work for free? 

    A few years ago I wrote a short article about the relationship between academic blogging and journalism which received a pretty positive reaction online. My suggestion was that academic blogging increasingly constitutes a ‘third space’ between the academy and journalism which facilitates translation between the two institutional spheres. It becomes easier for journalists to find relevant academics when their research is expressed in a few blog posts as well as articles in scholarly journals. However might we increasingly see academics become journalists? Not necessarily in the sense of individual career transitions (though this does happen) but rather in a blurring of the two activities that has important consequences for those working at the intersection.

    Part of me likes this: I want critical social scientists* to ‘occupy debate’ in a way that gets social scientific ideas out of the academy. However in a way it’s also rather sinister if we look at the broader transformations underway within both spheres. Is there a risk that junior academics, keen to differentiate themselves and demonstrate a capacity for impact as they strive to move beyond precarious contracts, come to be seen as a reserve army of well-educated quasi-journalists who may write badly but will work for free?

    *Maybe even ones who aren’t critical, at least if they write reasonably well.

  • Mark 11:18 am on December 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: blogging,   

    The most popular posts on my blog in 2014 

  • Mark 2:47 pm on December 12, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , blogging, , ,   

    Some thoughts on sociological blogging 

    The potential value and dangers of sociological blogging arise because of an environment in which the demands of audit culture incentivise the production of ‘unread’ and ‘unloved’ publications which are too often written to be counted rather than to be read. The risk is that sociological blogging gets drawn into the pernicious logic of these metrics perhaps with ‘impact’ being measured through the daily visitors a blog receives or the number of times an online article is shared on social media. The temptation arises in part because of the manner in which such analytics are designed into blogging platforms themselves, with all providing numerous ways to view statistics about a blog’s popularity and many third party utilities available which can extend these modes of measurement. Given a broader trend first towards ‘content factories’ and then ‘viral publishers’, as well as the domination of ‘click-bait’, we need to think seriously about the potential for the the logic of the ‘social web’ to act back upon digital scholarship in a way that leads to a slide towards banality. My own experience has been that these considerations can creep in almost surreptitiously, as a seamless extension of rather innocuous practical considerations. If one is investing time in a project that aims to provide a platform for sociological writing then a reliance upon the built in metrics for measuring the circulation of that writing is inevitable. The problems begin when a incipient awareness of the varying popularity of different kinds of writing begins to effect how they are valued.

    For example, articles bemoaning the contemporary state of higher education are inevitably very popular (presumably because they both have a broader disciplinary remit then things which are explicitly sociological and appeal to something in the day-to-day professional lives of those reading them) but should this popularity mean that writing of this form becomes particularly valued for the blog itself? It probably should not but it is easy for this slide to happen, with a concern for the blog’s popularity and reach too easily giving rise to a concern for ‘content’ that contributes to these ends. We can see a similar issue with the titles which are chosen on blogs. With even the most casual assessment of the relative ‘performance’ (my unthinking use of this term and overwhelming need to place it in scare quotes reflects the underlying ambivalence I am attempting to convey) of blog posts, it soon becomes clear that the title chosen contributes to how widely ready they are, largely through the mediating factor of how pervasively they are shared on social media. To a certain extent this can be a positive thing, encouraging the choice of informative and evocative titles, as opposed to narrowly descriptive ones. However a recognition of the sheer difference that a title can make, particularly if this is grounded in an engagement with the available data about how widely posts are shared on social media, can surely have a distorting effect. To use a recent example, I found that a post initially entitled “Gender, Reflexivity and Friendship” attracted little attention on social media but was shared extensively when given a new title “The Sociology of Friendship”. Soon after, I found myself rejecting the potential title “Performance, Awkwardness and Sociability” for a similar post (a couple of thousands of words of social theory, too unstructured for an academic article but nonetheless trying to make a serious, albeit meandering, sociological point) in favour of “The Sociology of Awkwardness”. Predictably enough this proved extremely popular and acted as encouragement to pursue similar naming conventions in future. The risk here is that a tendency within online publishing more broadly, in which often quite obnoxious headlines are generated quasi-algorithmically because of their demonstrable impact on the ‘virality’ of a post, creep into online scholarship as a proclivity for data analysis and an investment in the success of a project outweigh the high minded dismissal of these trends.

    Perhaps this points towards the emerging need for online editorship to be taken seriously as a form of academic service. It is only in the last two years, partly as a result of editing the LSE’s British Politics and Policy blog as a full time job, that I’ve begun to feel comfortable describing myself as such. Previously, I felt there was a degree of affectation about it, as if describing oneself as an ‘editor’ in relation to a blog was a pretence at seriousness about an inherently unserious activity, something which was occasionally reflected in judgements I received from other people (though inevitably my own insecurity led me to give more weight to their judgement that they probably intended). But given the likely continued expansion of sociological activity online then the role of the blog editor is likely to grow in importance over time, as a gatekeeper to opportunities for professional visibility but also as a mediating factor shaping the emergence of online norms.

    While some normative standards are beginning to emerge concerning matters such as attribution, style and format, these are inevitably fragmented and partial. The more seriously we take the role of blog editor then the more reflexively such questions are likely to be approached by those performing this function. This is important given that such individuals are amongst the few actually able to enforce standards online, albeit in a truncated domain, with the solidification of such norms otherwise being largely a matter of mimesis, as individuals observe others in their networks (or beyond them) in order to inform their own emerging practice. If we take editorship in this sense seriously as a form of academic service then we help mitigate against the tendency for such questions to be responded to pragmatically, instead creating the possibility of a ‘third space’ between academic research and journalism occupied by those who are concerned to translate academic knowledge. Either in the sense of being writers themselves who work to popularise academic knowledge by writing about it in a form amenable to a wider readership or by working with academics, whether directly on particular pieces of writing or indirectly through creating structures that incentivise certain forms of communication. My contention is that such a function is not straightforwardly academic but nor is it journalistic. Given the much remarked upon overproduction of PhD graduates, with too few academic jobs available for those awarded doctorates to pursue academic careers, it is intriguing to speculate about the likely implications of a potential funded expansion of group blogging for academic career trajectories.

    I am personally within the first cohort for whom this is a viable occupational opportunity, albeit still in a very limited way, with blogging having contributed in an important way to sustaining myself financially through six years of a part-PhD (through working full time as an editor for some time but also through more ad hoc work such as running workshops and managing social media accounts). There is obviously a sense in which I have a vested interest in the expansion of this sphere, given I enjoy this work and, if possible, want to pursue a career path which mixes my own research and social media to the greatest extent possible. It is precisely the existence of such vested interests, as well as the significance of broader institutional trends for academic blogging and vice versa, which makes it imperative that we expand discussions of online writing, as well as other forms of social media engagement, beyond the scope of the merely technical. The communicative opportunities afforded by blogging invite us to consider the purposes of such communication. My suggestion has been that they pose tacit questions of great importance which it is valuable for the discipline as a whole to recover: what is sociology for? How do sociologists communicate? How could they communicate? How should they communicate? Many of the risks which have been discussed reflect a failure to address such questions adequately, with immediacy and novelty potentially squeezing out disciplinary craft rather than acting as an invitation to rethink that craft in light of these changing opportunities.

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