Early Career Researchers have always needed to build up a publication record to be employable as academics. However, web 2.0 offers the possibility of publishing yourself, instantly, and with little or no cost, and of finding information published freely, too. The web enables an alternative model of publishing which reverses that of the publisher filtering academic publications by peer review, to one of publishing everything and using the scholarly or wider community to filter the material by means of commenting and sharing. The Open Access publishing movement is also built on the possibilities created by the internet.
Whatever your views on these possibilities, PhD students and Postdocs in the Humanities may need to be more risk-averse than their more established colleagues in creating their publication record, and aim for the traditional high impact journals and publishers. However, there might still be some value in making your work available yourself, perhaps aspects of it which you might not necessarily consider publishing in a traditional format but which would still be of interest to others, such as the experience and practice of research rather than your findings.
We will be exploring the issues of publishing yourself through the tool of a blog. The blog is also the medium through which you will be participating in the DH23Things programme, through weekly reflective posts on the Things you’re exploring, so it makes sense that Thing One is to set up a blog. At the end of the module we’ll think about what you want to do with your blog next: keep it, change it or delete it.
Blogging is an increasingly common way to communicate ideas and information of all kinds, for lots of different audiences and purposes. A blog is a dynamic website which is periodically updated with new posts, arranged in reverse chronological order and which can also be categorised by theme. There might be a single author, or multiple contributors. Posts can be text, or other media such as links, images, video or sound. Readers can interact with the author by posting comments. You can also use blog software to build a more traditional static website if you wish (parts of this blog are used in this way).
There is little agreement yet on blogging’s place in the academic world, but blogs are certainly used extensively outside of academia to share information and promote all sorts of work, and are very useful for public engagement. Setting up your own blog for the DH23 programme will help you to explore the potential value of blogs in and beyond academic life, as well as some of the non-traditional formats or types of information you might want to make available via this medium.
Before you set up your blog, you may have some questions or reservations about blogging. The FAQs here might help to answer some of these, and trying things out yourself may answer the rest!
Instructions for setting up your blog
There are a number of platforms through which you can set up your own free blog. The DH23Things programme uses WordPress, or you could use Blogger (from Google) if you want to integrate your blog with your Google identity. We’ll include instructions for WordPress here, but you could choose any of the other platforms; there are usually clear instructions and guides provided to help you get started.
1/ go to WordPress.com (not wordpress.org – that’s something different!) and click on ‘sign up free’. If you want to know a little more about what WordPress offers, you could click on ‘features’ for a little more information.
2/ At this stage, you’ll need to think of a blog address (one that hasn’t already been taken!), and a user name. Your username can be used to set up additional blogs later on, if you want, so this is more important; your blog today could just be kept for DH23Things. You could choose to blog anonymously, with an address and username which isn’t obviously you, or you might feel that you want an identifiable presence online, in which case some version of your name might be appropriate. Fill in these details, together with a password and email address, and you’re well on the way to creating your first blog! There are instructions and a video provided by WordPress here: http://learn.wordpress.com/get-started/
3/ you’ll be sent an email to the address you provided, which contains a link to click on, activating your account.
4/ Your blog is now created, and you can explore the various settings in the dashboard. Fill in your user profile, check the privacy settings, change any default content, but don’t get too carried away playing with all the options for the appearance and other tools that your personalised blog can have! See the information at http://learn.wordpress.com/get-customized/ for more ideas.
5/ Create your first post! Look at the ideas below in the reflective framework for content, but for instructions on how to post, see the information at http://learn.wordpress.com/get-published/ and the video here: http://wordpress.tv/2009/01/15/writing-and-publishing-a-post/
6/ Register your blog with us, so we know where it is, and we can add you to the blogroll of participants and you can find each others’ blogs. See the form at the bottom of this post to register your blog.
Once you’ve set up your blog, you can write your first post. You might write about your overall aims for this programme, and the ways in which you might use a blog in your work: research, teaching, public engagement, etc. When blogging, it’s usually best to focus on a particular aim and audience, so in your post you might think about the various options and what might be of interest to you.
To get an idea of what to write about or what kind of style to use, you could try reading others’ blogs. If you don’t yet habitually read blogs, find a few in an area you’re interested and have a look at them, for ideas. Technorati is a search engine specifically for blogs, which will help you find blogs of interest. You can also search using the ‘blogs’ tab in Google.
Blog Post reflective Framework
Here’s the reflective framework for your first DH23 blog post. You needn’t answer all the questions; they are simply prompts to aid and structure your reflection, but try to address each of the four areas to some degree.
Key skills: were there any issues in setting up a blog, and using its functionality, which might limit its usefulness to you? How easy was it to find relevant blogs to read?
General: What purposes might a blog serve in the context of a Humanities early career researcher?
- What kinds of information might you share? It needn’t be your research; there might be other things of value to others such as ‘offcuts’ of your research, your experiences as a researcher, teaching tips and reflections, reviews of things you’ve read.
- Who is your audience? Would you aim to have others read your own posts, and if so, who might be your audience? Or would you keep it as a private reflective diary? Will you write for other academics, students, or the public? Blogging is different from academic writing; what tone do you feel is appropriate?
- Blogs allow you to interact with your readers through the ‘comment’ function, and this will be a really helpful part of the DH23Things programme as you exchange ideas with other participants. However, comments threads can also be abused, and depending on your privacy settings, comments might be made by anyone. Will you allow comments, and if so, how will you moderate them? How might you handle spam, malicious comments or off-topic contributions?
Digital Humanities: The digital means that you are not limited to a single presence but can occupy many spaces and identities simultaneously – your institution’s webspace and ‘the open web’, your faculty discipline and interdisciplinary (digital humanist, medievalist, etc).
- What are the issues with these more open ways of presenting yourself, and the relationships between them? Might you need different identities for different purposes, or to carve out a space for yourself outside the traditional spaces?
- What value might the blog post have as a publication? How might it relate to or challenge more traditional, analogue modes of publication?
Evaluation: How well might blogging work for you personally? What value do you think you might gain from either writing a blog, or reading/contributing to those of others? What might you gain from reading blogs as a source of information?
Integration: Blogs are not static like web pages, and it is expected that they are updated. If you decide to keep blogging after the programme, how will you deal with the need to keep managing and maintaining a blog in the long term? Might it have a fixed lifespan? Might you be able to use it as a more traditional static website or blog with others?