The “decline” of “academic blogging”

Here’s an interesting post; please read this first.

Are personal academic blogs a thing of the past? | Impact of Social Sciences

Blogging has been the central means through which I’ve developed a distinctive outlook as a researcher, providing me with an open-ended invitation to reflect on what I’ve been reading, analysing, organising and teaching. I’ve been doing it for so long that I find it hard to imagine what it would like to be an academic without a blog. I’ve always identified with Cory Doctorow’s description of his blog as, an outboard brain that gives his “knowledge-grazing direction and reward”, enabling him to file away the things which spark his curiosity as he wanders around the internet. Blogging in this style has often been compared to a commonplace book in which readers record material relating to a common topic. In this sense a blog can be a sophisticated platform for compiling commonplace books, enhanced by the ease with which text, images and videos can be combined in a post. There are many other ways academics can use a blog, but this is the one which most obviously involves knowledge production, linking together the scholarship taking place within universities to the everyday forms of scholarship without.

I agree with the author. This blog is like an “open research manual”, but it is for the reader to collect and join the thoughts. I can clearly see the trees in the forest and the forest itself. It becomes painfully obvious that thorough research is required to put a point forward. Academia has its own issues, but I can perceive that you attract the best talent if you blog. You can use this as a discovery tool to spark a conversation or follow through a specific idea. The best epiphanies have been by writing about something completely unrelated, and it is easier to build “synaptic connections” between two unrelated ideas.

My bigger concern about the use of Twitter to drive through an “academic discourse” is the algorithmic sorting of comments and visibility. I don’t always see what I need to know, and it is the mindless endless scrolling that scares me. I remember the time when I started on Twitter and scrolled through a timeline in sequence. Once or twice, I could muster enough strength to scroll through 300+ tweets, but it was too exhausting. I gave it up.

The author mentions about the “note taking” too:

It benefited my career to be a blogger, both in terms of supporting my research productivity, as someone who has rarely been employed as a researcher, as well as in the more nebulous sense of increasing my visibility amongst academic communities. There was a virtuous circle between blogging as personal knowledge management and blogging as a personal web presence: little fragments of my thinking would circulate round the internet and bring people to a site where they could learn about me and my work. It’s precisely this relationship which feels like it’s breaking down in my own practice, as a new generation of knowledge management systems such as ObsidianLogSeq and Roam offer far more powerful ways of assembling what you’ve learned in order to recall it later.

The “second brain” concept is enticing, but for me, these processes happen in parallel. They are complementary and not mutually exclusive. You can publish Obsidian online but it is expensive. The developers have simple financing models, and the beauty of Obsidian (in addition to local backups) is that it is extensible. There are numerous use cases which can enrich Obsidian, though I need to take the deep dive. They cannot replace blogging as a medium.

The author ends on a high positive note:

The fact I’m writing this in the form of a blog post is however the best indicator that academic blogging is far from dead. There’s a thriving ecosystem of multi-author blogs, online magazines and publication projects that have vastly expanded the range of forums in which academics can publish short form content, faster than would ever be possible through the journal system and to more diverse audiences. The manner in which many senior academics will talk about ‘writing a blog’ (it’s been years and I still have to restrain myself from interjecting with ‘post’) as part of their research lifecycle is testament to the success of blogging in this collective mode. However, I can’t help but wonder if personal blogs are now largely a thing of the past, a missed opportunity by which we could have established a more collaborative, public and reflexive approach to knowledge production.

Multi-author blogs were cool! I don’t see them often, but we had one long time back unrelated to medicine. It took courage to understand the diversity of thought and be more accommodating to a different point of view. However, it works best when mutually overlapping specialities interact and the intersection of thoughts becomes enriching for the readers. Blogging isn’t dead. But it is worthwhile to spend time to nurture it.

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