I’ve been giving some thought about the value I as an assistant professor find in blogging in part because it’s the current Ask a Blogger question, in part because I just gave this presentation on blogging at the Inclusive Science conference, and in part because I have some blogger meetups scheduled and chatting about why we blog is always part of those conversations.
So why do I blog?
I’ve blogged pseudonymously as well as as me, and each kind of blogging has served a different purpose. When I was blogging pseudonymously, I used my blog to find community, to keep track of my progress on my dissertation, and as an outlet for venting. (As well as a place to post my CSA photos. ? ) Now I’m blogging as me, I feel a stronger sense that I have to post about something more substantial, something that matters. I am more conscious of our readers, and I really don’t want to mess up ScienceWoman’s blog that she has built up. I want to pull my own weight. But blogging is also supposed to be fun, writing about interesting things in a voice different from my formal academic voice (both written and oral).
As my pseudonymous self, I did do some writing about my research as I was trying to figure it out, using the blog as more of a journal of my work with the instant gratification of the publish button. I could have kept doing that in my new role as an assistant professor (if I could have found time), but I wanted a larger platform to share some of what I was thinking about – I wanted to help create a voice for feminist science studies and feminist engineering online. Pseudonymously perhaps it was about process; now, it’s more about trying to have a specific message to share. The latter is also a burden which I can understand lots of academics don’t want to or can’t carry in addition to everything else they have to do.
I think there is a significant risk of egotism in academics who blog – we already have a platform (or multiple platforms) for pontificating. So why one more?
I guess I like the freedom of posting things I determine are worth posting, and not having an external gatekeeper, although I confess I self-censor. I like regularly writing, keeping those writing chops fresh. I like commentators and I learn from them. When I blog about my research, sometimes I find commentators say something that sends me down another idea path, which I find that valuable, or I feel validated by commentators that what I do is interesting or important.
But most often I find valuable the online relationships I feel I develop with readers and other bloggers. The bloggers in the “women in science” blog community blog about their personal lives as much if not more as their research: about their pregnancies and promotions, their challenges and juggling, things that make them snicker or that drive them nuts, and how they go home with themselves at the end of the day. Those posts put people’s broader work in STEM in a life context, and makes me feel like I can also carry on going on my own track.