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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.


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.


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


'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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Hi Jonathan

It's my third week on H817 (and with the OU), and I'm just discovering blogs beyond my immediate tutor group. In fact, I've only really just hit upon the fact that there are 4 other tutor groups doing H817!

20 minutes spent looking through them has made me think I have a very quiet group in comparison and I feel as if I'm missing out.

I've been a little surprised by the lack of blogs (visible ones at any rate) from those on H817. I'm completely new to blogging, but found I've really enjoyed it - not that anyone else seems to be reading mine. That's not a hint by the way, but as you were kind enought to visit and post once before, you are most welcome to return.

In my 20 minutes at looking through other people's blogs, I've already found lots of links to useful literature that I had failed to find, relevant to my studies. That has become my first major use of blogs, albeit, of other people's.

I also like the fact that it makes me think about presentation - picking out the relevant points, and putting sufficient context for my yet to arrive audience.

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Hi Sharif, I know how you feel and you must'nt fret. It is quite normal. To blog is to keep a diary and to do so, fo the most part in public. You are self publishing but this does not mean anyone will spot your words amingst the other 420 million blogs. Even on the OU platform which is more like a Bulletin Board. The research says it all. of those who read blogs 1% write them, this figure is sometimes as low as 0.1% , 9% will read and occassionally contribute a comment while the remaining 90% read only. Over the years I am always stsggered to meet people who rewd my blog but never mention it. Tutor forums are a mixed bag too. These are social spaces and we behave just as we would in a class or lecture hall - most people just get on with the task. They are missing a trick. To 'construct' understanding like this is to aggregate and form knowledge. Do email, or Skype on Jonathan.F.Vernon. I am considering some aspect of blogging for doctoral research so am reading all I can. I am currently reading research done on 'us' in 2009 in relation to blogging. My view is that the most important reader is me - it is a fantastic, robust, versatile and now comprehensive e-portfolio that covers every activity, and every day for some 1,500 days!! I want to write about blogging I can search what I found out and build on this. It's just electronic paper. Anything goes. People are just the same.
Design Museum

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From a management point of view you need to know who you have in the student cohort based on behaviour in the first few weeks and THEN allocated to groups. The OU ought to be more flexible for everyone's sake. There are psychometric tests that people can do, I recommend the Kirton Adapter-Innovator, but this still won't tell you who might take up blogging who doesn't blog already. Then the tutors must seed the discussion and moderate. This requires skill, time and care. The best times I have had were when there were three people who blogged anyway and another few who stuck with it through all the activities as they realised they coudl get so much from it. You will make friends with regular OU folk here who are not on your course - the creative writers are a jolly bunch and will chip in with a comment. It is a reciprocal game - you comment on other people's stuff they are inclined to pay you back. Have fun with it. Ask if you want ideas, advice or support. Find me on www.mymindbursts.com too.

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Your words have just struck me: 'My view is that the most important reader is me'

I hadn't really thought before about how I (or anyone else) could use this as more than a reflective space. But I'm now thinking it could be used as evidence of the development of thinking around certain issues - which could then be used to evidence progression against certain criteria for courses like NVQs etc.

I have a professional interest here as I assess portfolios for those on the NPQICL (National Professional Qualification for Integrated Centre Leadership) and am looking to see if I can get into assessing portfolios for Early Years Professionals. I could see blogs potentially being accepted as evidence in some areas.


More generally, I am really surprised that I am enjoying this a lot. I'm still tentative about commenting in other blogs, but just breaking that threshold. I like the rules for blogging you've added recently.

I really do think those members of our tutor group who aren't commenting are missing out, unless they are on some fabulous holiday or something. And I agree that the divvy up of learners across the tutor groups should be more 'engineered'. I definitely seem to be in a very quiet group. I'm in a group activity now, and the other three haven't even posted in any of week 2's forums, let alone this week.


Thanks for the invite to email/skype - will do in due course, as I do like to pick people's brains, and you seem to work in an area I'd like to get into.