(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali's blog has now moved to http://blog.mahabali.me

To blog or not to blog? The academic blogging question

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This blog post reflects on my reasons for starting this academic blog.

If you have followed me over the past six months or so, you’ll know that finishing my thesis seems to have started a seemingly never-ending stream of semi-reflective, sometimes academic, writing. My outlet for expressing my thoughts and ideas has been a combination of emails with colleagues, published magazine articles (e.g. on Al-Fanar), and some academic articles (e.g. this one on challenges of web-based intercultural dialogue), as well as discussion forum postings on MOOCs and lots of tweeting (@bali_maha).

I have thought long and hard about whether to start a blog (inspired initially by this post).

Here are some (but not all) pros and cons, as I see it:

Pro: I can publish whatever I want, whenever I want, without waiting for things like editing, timing, etc.

Con: editing helps make my writing better, and accessible to a wider audience

Pro: I could potentially build my own audience, possibly reach a wider (as yet untapped) audience

Con: I will miss out on audiences afforded by magazines with their own following already

Pro: I can write half­-formed academic ideas and share with the world, possibly get feedback to develop my ideas

Con: I worry that publishable ideas will therefore get lost as blog posts, and never actually make it to peer review, or that I would self-­plagiarize. How do academic bloggers deal with this?

Pro: I can stop emailing people all over the place, unless there is an idea directed at them

Con: I might miss out on sending important ideas to specific people as I start addressing the wider audience

Pro: I do not need to worry about which outlet is best for my idea

Con: this might make my blog too unfocused to be of benefit to any particular group of people; then again, there must be people out there interested in many of the same things I am; and it may be that an occasional off-­topic focus gets people interested in new things they had not thought of before.

Ultimately, though, I think it is important to be clear on my purpose for starting this blog. And this blog post is my place to reflect on it:

1. My brain works non-­stop and is full of ideas. The reason I write them is to clarify them for myself and develop them. The reason I share them is to kick-start a conversation with other people and develop the ideas further through that conversation. Oftentimes, writing these ideas on email does not result in that discussion. Some of my other writing outlets do produce such responses (e.g. My critical citizenship article on Al­Fanar which got some online comments and kick-started some face-­to-­face cooperations, and my Unveiling Prejudice article which sparked some face­-to-­face discussions; there there is also the article on the relevance of Mandela to Egypt, inspired by some facebook discussions)

2. Waiting for an idea to be developed enough into an academic, peer-­reviewable one takes time. In the meantime, I could share some ideas to benefit others right away (e.g. My tips for remote location PhD students), and interaction or response to those ideas might help me decide which to pursue (though I guess I should still be able to judge that for myself, regardless of the popularity of the ideas)

3. I would like to have an outlet for sharing links to other writing or resources that I found helpful and worth sharing. I usually use Twitter for that, but for extended reflection, a blog makes more sense

It is horrible timing to start blogging just before Christmas and New Year’s holidays, but it is the day I was motivated to do so. So I’ll take it!

More soon… but meanwhile, I’d love to hear about other people’s motivations for deciding to start academic blogs (or not!)

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Author: Maha Bali

Associate professor of practice, American University in Cairo

One thought on “To blog or not to blog? The academic blogging question

  1. Pingback: The Vulnerability of Social Media Participation | Reflecting Allowed

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