This week (Tuesday and Wednesday) is the Social Media Knowledge Exchange conference. I along with my fellow SMKE scholars will be presenting about our projects in 20 minute sessions as part of a larger discussion about social media and the humanities. I’m really looking forward to this as there are a lot of interesting projects out there and a great amount of opinion and thought about social media in general. I’ll be keeping a close eye on what people have to say about blogs in this discussion, and I’m hoping that that will help to inform the upcoming online guide to blogging for historians that represents the final piece of my initial SMKE project. I’ll write up a summary for this blog as soon as I can afterwards as well.
As for my paper I’m planning on summarising some of the things that came out in the podcasted interviews and laying out some ideas for how to continue Blogging for Historians in the future. I think the session will be filmed (gulp!), but in the meantime here’s a very brief snippet from my paper (as always with these things, subject to change and last minute scribbling on the day!)
There are quite a few different guises that blogs can take. There are project blogs, personal research blogs, blogs intended to promote the work of educational institutions, and event blogs.
But there is still much uncertainty over what blogs are actually for and what use they really serve. Very little research has been done regarding reading practices regarding blogs, for example. Advice about the use of writing blog posts is, by definition, open-ended and largely left to personal opinion.
In the field of History, blogs are often declared as only promotional activities to advertise the work that is being done or an event that is being organised. For example, at a workshop on social media in January I heard many people considering or already producing a blog for that singular reason – to promote their work. One thing that I have learnt during this project is that blogs often fail if the only reason for their existence is advertisement. There needs to be genuine interest behind it.
Blogs are easy to set up and manage from a technical point of view, content is easy to upload, but writing that content and producing it at least on a semi-regular basis is the hard part. It takes commitment, but more than anything else it takes interest in the subject matter, perseverance, and a practical use.
At that same workshop there was great unease about blogging as a researcher.
“There is not enough time in the day to write blog posts regularly as well as do my research.”
“I struggle to figure out what to write on a blog.”
“I feel I ought to do it because that is the thing to do these days to get noticed.”
There is a lot of pressure especially on postgraduates and early career researchers these days to get their work noticed. Blogs are viewed as one means to do this, but because of that they often become tick-box exercises rather than something useful and interesting to both the blogger and the reader. It sometimes seems that for every successful History blog, there is a mass graveyard of dead blogs surrounding them; never updated, uncared for, and existing only as proof that blogging is not for everyone or that at the very least blogs require careful consideration and thought before it’s begun.
For more information about the conference check out the SMKE website. To follow on the day on Twitter use the hashtag #SMKE2013. For those of you attending, I’ll see you there tomorrow!