I have to admit that I have never thought much about blogging – blogging myself that is. I’ve never had a problem with the concept of blogging; I just never thought of it as something I would do. I don’t follow very many blogs on a regular basis and have a pretty strong aversion to those with a self-indulgent, “dear diary” tone. But occasionally I will run across a blog with some content or arguments that are of interest, and see something that makes me rethink what it means to blog.
Quality blogs can be hard to come by. One wonders if this is due to a lack of quality writers, ideas, or purpose. It’s probably some combination of the three. And one can certainly find a lot of things to fret about when it comes to creating a blog of one’s own. What will I say? Will it be important enough that people will want to read it? Will my comments be taken out of context? How will I find the time to post on a regular basis? Will my ideas be well-formed enough to meet the high standards I impose on myself? Will I get thrashed in the comments? Composition is agony–why subject myself to more? All of this and more runs through my head as I type. But recently I’ve come to see that blogging is an important form of social engagement, a responsibility that scholars in particular need to step up and fulfill. So what changed my mind?
It was not an immediate shift. I’ve been thinking about blogging more recently given the increase in the number of mentors and fellow graduate students that have taken it up. Seeing examples of other blogs that seek to do more than self-promote or whine is a good thing. It shows the potential for blogging as a medium for increasing communication between academia and the public as well as for increasing the digital presence of scholarly argument. Digital history and the digital humanities have contributed much to my thoughts on the topic. (What is digital history and the digital humanities? Good question. You’ll see more on both in future posts, but for now take a look at UNL’s Digital History site and this resource for aspiring digital historians.)
I count myself as one of many scholars who recognize the need for serious scholarship in and scholarly engagement with the digital medium. This is not Wikipedia or SparkNotes–it is active and purposeful utilization of the advantages offered by the internet and digital technologies to communicate scholarly ideas and arguments. This can be scholar-to-scholar, but ideally should reach out to the general public as well. Academics have a responsibility not only to their chosen fields, but also to the general public to put their professional training and well-honed analytical skills to good use in the digital medium. Much of this can be achieved with blogging.
And so it recently became clear to me, thanks to a swift kick in the right direction from Professor Douglas Seefeldt at an academic workshop, that if I was going to argue all of the above I needed to do it too. Easier said than done, particularly given my responsibilities as a graduate student–a full courseload, dissertation research to conduct, a teaching assistant’s duty to help 140 plus undergrads succeed and recognize how great history is, new territory to explore as a first-term president of the UNL History Graduate Students’ Association, and a new support group to found for first generation graduate students. Oh, and I would also like to see my husband and the rest of my family from time to time and occasionally get the laundry done. But that’s the problem with responsibility: at some point you have to accept it and do what needs to be done. So it begins with this post. I’ll do my best to post about once per week and keep it brief and lively enough not to bore you to death. Let the experiment begin.