Blogging for Historians Survey Results


Between November 2012 and February 2013 the Blogging for Historians project asked for your views about blogging practises in the humanities.  The results of this survey will form part of the eventual tool kit and it is hoped that it, too, can provide some useful data for future research into blogs and social media.

The survey was advertised on the Blogging for Historians blog, SMKE website and several other blogs.  It was also delivered via Twitter and Facebook and on several mailing lists.  The survey recruited 121 participants most of whom owned a blog of their own (84%), suggesting that the survey failed to reach or interest people who only visit blogs, or perhaps, highlighting that an increasing number both write and consume blog posts meaning that they are active on both ends of the scale.  When asked for occupation 34.6% of participants said that they were academics and 23.1% postgraduate.  A further 15.4% described themselves as early career researchers.  Only 2 participants came from the archives and library sector, and a further 24% said that they didn’t fit into any of these categories.  The survey results therefore represent academic historians and humanities scholars rather than archives and libraries, which unfortunately limits the scope of the results.

Several questions related to the potential ownership of blogs allowing us to gain a more in-depth understanding of the participant’s interests and activities.  As the table below shows most participants own or participate in one blog only, although it is far from uncommon for two blogs to be owned.  Only one person had more than four blogs (eight to be precise).

Blogs owned

Blogs     Participants        Personal              Institutional        Mixed

1                     43                                   39                           4                              4

2                     14                                   11                           0                              3

3                     4                                      3                              0                              1

4                     5                                      3                              0                              2

More             1                                      0                              0                              1

A question was also asked seeking to find out how many of the participants blogged personally, on behalf of their institution, or as a mix of the two.  Perhaps unsurprisingly most participant’s blogged as individuals.  However, only four claimed to only blog as part of their institution, which either suggests that the keenest bloggers (and thus the one’s more likely to answer the survey) are those doing it for their own purposes.  That said, a relatively small number claimed to blog both personally and as part of an institution which may suggest that a number of those asked to contribute to institutional blogs are also doing it themselves as well.  The fact that four participants stated that they only own one blog but post a mix of posts for an institution and personally, perhaps suggests something about the perceived nature of blog posts; that both personal posts can lay next to one’s that reflect a professional nature.

An overwhelming 92.2% said that they write blog posts as an individual, rather than in collaboration with colleagues, probably representing the solo nature of research in the humanities more than anything else.  What was more interesting from these results was the fact that participants who worked collaboratively on posts almost equally divided between those working within their own institution (6.3%) and those working across institutions (7.8%).  Seven participants added comments which generally noted the context for blogging as a mixture of solo and collaborative activity, but highlighting the interconnectivity of the two forms.  It would seem (admittedly from only a small number of responses) that it is not always easy to distinguish a collaborative enterprise, from personal research, suggesting the interconnection of research as personal and in relation to others.  Much of this seemed to stem from blogs that are personal but written within a professional capacity that represents the department, institution, or collaborative project.  It would, perhaps, be interesting to follow up this question with more about the relationship of the personal and the collaborative in academia, and the role that blogs might play in this interconnection.

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