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H809 : Can blogging be worthy of academic study?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 2 Apr 2013, 12:07

I did a search in my own blog knowing that somewhere I cited an academic who described blogging as 'whatever you can do on electronic paper'.

Chatting about this at dinner my 14 year old son trumped my conversation with his mother as I tried to define a blog and what can go into one with one word 'anything'.

For me there has been a slow shift from text (the weblog-cum-dairy journal thingey), to adding pictures (which have become photo / image galleries, photostreams of Flickr and concept boards of Pinterest), to adding video ... to adding 'anything' - apps, interactivity, grabs, mashups, music ...

My starting place is here.

This 'eportofolio, writers journal, aggregating, dumping ground, place for reflection and course work'.

You see, is it a blog at all? This platform, I'm glad, has its design roots in a Bulletin board.

The limitations of our OU Student Blog platform works in its favour.

I can only put in two search terms. In Google I might write a sentence and get a million links, in my wordpress blog it might offer have the contents.

Less is more.

Here I search 'blog paper' and get 112 posts that contain both words.

I'll spin through these an add a unique tag. My starting place.

But to study blogging would be like researching the flotsam and jetsam that floats across our oceans - after a tsunami.

RESEARCH

Starting with a book published in 2006 'Use of Blogs' I want to read a paper 'Bloggers vs. Journalists' published in 2005. A search finds richer, more up to date content. Do I even bother with this first paper? (ironic that we even call them papers).

I can't read everything so how do I select?

  • Toggle through the abstract, check out the authors, see where else such and such a paper has been cited.
  • Prioritise.
  • Use RefWorks rather than my habit to date of downloading papers that MIGHT be of interest.

Whilst storage space is so inexpensive it is virtually free there is no need to clutter my harddrive, dropbox or Google Docs space.

Which makes me think of one of my other favourite metaphors - kicking autumn leaves into the breeze. That or drowning in info overload, or as the Robert de Nero character in Brazil, Archibald 'Harry' Tuttle, who vanishes in a pile of discared paper ... my mind wanders. We do. It does.

I stumble in the OU Library as I find I am offered everything under the sun. I am used to being offered academic papers only. So far all I'm getting are scanned images of articles in newsapers on blogging. All feels very inside out.

Where's the 'turn off the printed stuff' button?

I fear that just as I have never desired to be a journalist, prefering the free form of your own diary, letters, and of course blogging and forums online, I will struggle to write within the parameters of an academic paper. I'm managing assignment here, so I guess I'm learning to split the two. A useful lesson to have learnt.

Serendipity

Is this a research methodology?

I am looking at a book on bloggin, 'Use of Blogs' (Bruns & Jacobs, 2006). I have it open on p.31 Notes (i.e. references) for the chapter Journalists and News Bloggers.

As I pick through these articles, papers and reviews written between 2002 and 2005 I find several of the authors, a decade on, are big names in the Journalism/Blogger debate. It's as if I am looking at a tray of seedlings.

It strikes me as easier to start in 2006 with 27 starting points when the field of debate was narrow, rather than coming in from 2013 and finding myself parachuting into a mature Amazonian jungle of mixed up printed and digital, journalism and blog content.

Courtesy of the OU Library and RefWorks I have nailed this article after a decade of searching:

Druckerman, P (1999) Ellen Levy Has Got The Write Project For the Internet Age --- It's a Year of Scribbling Down Almost Everything; Ah, Yes, It Was a Raisin Bagel, New York, N.Y., United States, New York, N.Y.

Reading this around 23rd /24th September 1999 prompted me to start blogging

Then I'd been reading blogs for a few months but had a mental block with uploading HTML files and then along came the first 'ready made' DIY blogging platforms.

The last 12 years makes amusing reading - particularly the battle between journalists and bloggers. And who has won? Is there a difference anymore? Journalists blog and bloggers are journalists and entire newspapers are more blog-like from The Huffington Post to the FT ... which within three years will close all its print operations.

To be used in learning and to be a genre to study blogging needs to be part of formative assessment

A blog therefore becomes 'an active demonstration of learning' with cumulative feedback. I've only received ONE Tutor comment in my OU blog and that was to say why was I blogging and not getting on with my TMA. This person had their head so stuffed inside primary school education of the 1960s it made me feel like tossing my cap in the air.

Why MAODE students blog (Kerewella et al, 2009) depends on their perceptions of, and for:

  1. an audience
  2. community
  3. the utility of and need for comments
  4. presentational style of the blog content
  5. overarching factors related to the technological context
  6. the pedagogical context of the course

Cited x30

REFERENCES

'Bloggers vs. journalist: The next 100 year War?' 2011, Public Relations Tactics, 18, 4, p. 17, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.

Bruns, A. Jacobs, J. (2006) Use of Blogs.

Kerawalla, L, Minocha, S, Kirkup, G, & Conole, G (2009) 'An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education', Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 25, 1, pp. 31-42, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.

Rosen, J. (2007) 'Web Users Open the Gates', Washington Post, The, n.d., UK & Ireland Reference Centre, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.

 

 

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Ten page views today, a hundred tomorrow, a thousand before the year is out?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 8 Aug 2011, 20:43

Achieving a thousand page views for a blog per day takes time if your content is all you've got; I'd like to get others up to 10 per day, then a 100; it grows on you.

A thousand takes a year, a decade ago it took a couple of weeks. You had to know what to write, and where to write it. What's changed?

Here the interest is clear. How are you getting on with your course? What motivates you to keep going? And especially share when you are stumped and about to throw in the towel.

We've all been there.

My mistake a decade ago was to do exactly this ...

Have reasons to stop, so simply cut off the water. I said nothing to The OU or anyone. I just stopped. Had I shared my dire straits I know the community would have given me a reality check and put me back on my feet.

Some of the blogs featured in my student blog here achieve 10k, even 20k a day. Though these are highly commercialised, linked to the hilt and featured in national and international press.

Andrew Sullivan is the million views a month man.

The ONE thing they all do is so, so, easy to achieve.

Every day. Something. A picture and comment will do. What's that expression, 'a penny for your thoughts' that's all they do some days. If you want tips on putting pics in here ask, it took me a few months to figure it out ... then do something quicker and easier.

Other days of course these mega-bloggers come in with serious commentary and opinion, they take a stance. These are NOT academics, they are citizen journalists with an opinion, a point of view, even a political, cultural, or religious bias. But you know where they stand. That's the point. It helps to know that you strongly agree, or strongly disagree with these people.

This is where academics stumble, or rather sit on the fence. Academics can't debate, it is like watching toothless geriatrics argue over a chicken wing that they know neither can bite into.

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In search of blogs to follow

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 15:01

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It's rare for me to miss a few days but the simple truth I am too wrapped up in the rebuild of one 'storyline' in the OU Business School website.

This and preparing another presentation, this time on 'blogging' having opened what will become a series with 'Social Media' last week.

I see three necessary phases in becoming a blogger:

  • Listen
  • Comment
  • Create (and collaborate)

'Listen' as in reading loads, being led wherever someone appeals to you, 'listening in' on the conversations that are being started and saving these sites to peruse regularly.

There were over 150 million blogs the last time I cared to seek out the statistics.

How do you even begin to find those few that you are prepared to read on a regular basis?

Clearly you cannot read everything; even in your own field of interest, unless it is the tightest niche, might have thousands of commentors.

I go for 'like minds', authors with whom you feel you could converse, those you wish to emulate, whose thoughts maybe like your own, but fully fledged.

I am currently following Andrew Sullivan a bit, but some of the many other bloggers he lists a lot. Andrew is British born and raised, though now living in New York, somewhat right-wing (has always been wedded to the Conservative Party), gay (he played the lead role in Another Country at Oxford though took a while longer to come out - at Harvard I believe.

Is his background relevant? Probably not, this is about intellect, confidence, informed opinion and a degree of early precociousness and desire to be heard.

His intellect and presumption took him to Oxford (Modern History) and then Harvard.

By all accounts, with 1,000,000 page views a month Sullivan has many followers.

He does this by

  • being well informed
  • being willing to express an opion

We look to commentators for 'breaking views', as another Oxford graduate of this same era puts it; though Hugo Dixon, a grandson (or great grandson) of Winston Churchill has a somewhat different background to that of Sullivan.

Irrelevant? Both men are a product of their intellect, so more nature that nurture in this case.

What they had in common as undergraduates was a precocious desire to express their opinion. Is it any wonder that we are drawn to what they have to say ? Even more so now than in previous eras we are in desperate need of people to filter the overwhelming deluge of information and offer some path through-out, in their different ways these too do it. All I need are other minds like these across other fields.

They make a convincing point succintly.

I'm clicking through the 60+ blogs Andrew Sullivan lists in his blogroll and find it hard not to click the 'save bookmark' option with every one of these. Nice when someone has done it for you, though I am yet to come across the UK equivalent. The idea that these are read but Sullivan regularly is also daft; look at my own blog roll (somewhere needs to tear a few off for me).

Any suggestions for the most informed bloggers to follow?

Stephen Fry is of the same ilk as the two given above, though more embedded in the performing arts than Andrew Sullivan.


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H800 WK16 Blogging by numbers

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Jun 2011, 05:30

It takes time ... a few lines every day. If building readers is what motivates you is: read many other blogs to get a feel for what you like and loathe; comment in other people's blogs and then start to write your own blog splitting your time equally between reading, commenting and blogging.

There are millions of blogs out there, getting noticed and then having something remarkable to say every day (no one can achieve that) is the goal.

I can offer tips galore, but mostly it is self-discovery and patience. It has taken over a year for my www.mindbursts.com blog to get from 2 visits a day to the heady heights of 25! And I am working hard at it.

For someone who gets 1,000,000 views a day look at Andrew Sullivan's 'The Daily Dish.'

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Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Dish

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 31 May 2011, 17:11

Andrew Sullivan, I learnt as an undergraduate, would make copies of the letters he sent to people. An Oxford Union Debating Society President, Modern History First, and actor ... It struck me as extraordinarily vain. This is 1981-1984. Letters were handwritten in fountain pen, perhaps typed.

Was I jealous? Of his mind? The roles he got? His self-confidence? A speaker who followed on the heals of William Hague (Foreign Minister) and was followed by Hilali Nordeen (Harley Street surgeon).

I recall them as I guiltily do something similar - I lift a comment I have left in someone else's blog and put it here. The catalyst of the first reading is left high and dry as I bounce away from them, back into my own mind, then spill it all out here.

THe mind is a wonderful thing, if only your fingers can keep up with this. No wonder this is described as 'talking with your fingertips',

Fascinating! And so glad I scrolled all the way through your blog to find such riches. I could spend an hour here commenting on each entry. Perhaps I will. It is extraordinarily cathartic to be out of your own head (as it were) for a while ... to be inside someone elses.

I was saying to a fellow MAODE student that I was pleased that they had  struggled with applying Jakob Nielsen to some online text they had read. I've been singing his praises for too long. I got his 2001 book on Usability when I was working in a web agency as a editor and swore buy it - kind of. Though we created the kind of websites that had few words, loads of visuals are were more like an interactive pop video!

I have never come across or found that writers pre-empty their rhetoric. I'm not saying it can't be learnt, but I think we presume too much to take a text, as if were were A' Level English students, and chop it up to decipher the mind of the author. However, I recall being shown some notes Churchill used to write his speeches, a brilliant orator of course, he had a very blocky, stepped approached to linking persuasive ideas.

However, it isn't for an academic to persuade of their thesis is it? Or is it? Surely the facts, however dry, must speak for themselves.

(54021)

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Love your memories in a blog

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 16:35

Nabakov.JPG

“I think it is all a matter of love: the more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is." Nabakov

I thought 500 page views was a landmark, then 1000. There has been steady growth to 10,000. It went crazy for a week in April with 1,000 views a day then settled back to 150-250  day. Whose counting? Basic analytics are a form of recognition, even reward for the blogger. 50,000 is a biggy that has taken 14 months to achieve. 100,000 is unlikely within the Masters in Open & Distance Education, though a MRes, another module in the MAODE (because it interests me so much) or a MBA are all of interest for later in the year and all would be blogged upon right here.

Are you saying something worthwhile to this audience?

Even if I feel the PC Screen is a mirror and I'm writing this for my benefit first as a reference I can return to later: what did I think? Where is that quote? Where was I in the learning process? Aren't I glad I've moved on! Editing old entries, bringing them up-to-date develops this. As Nabokov wrote,

Read Backwards

e-Reading 'A New Culture of Learning' backwards in a large font isolating interesting gems I may have missed. Also reading it by search word; 'play' works and is appropriate with over 160 mentions.

I liken this to panning for gold.

Once I've done this a few times typing out notes may be irrelevant; I'll know it. 'Play as the new form of learning?'

One final thought. Two decades ago I liken learning to a nurturing process, of an educator/teacher or course designer/principal sprinkling water on the heads of students buried like heads of lettuce emerging from the ground.

This no longer works for me.

What I now see are kids in a large paddling pool having fun and making up games with toys offered to them by supporting parents and older siblings.

The mantra for e-learning is 'activity, activity, activity', perhaps it ought to be 'play, play, play'; that's what you'll come away with if you read John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas 'A New Culture of Learning; cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change.'

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