All entries for Monday 20 December 2004

December 20, 2004

Against the division of academic and social blogging

Follow-up to Selling Warwick Blogs to Warwick from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Quick answer to Dan: opinion is divided as to whether there should be a formal division between academic and social blogging. But there are some strong arguments against it.

Firstly, here's a sweeping generalisation: people from the sciences and engineering have a more clear division between work and socialising. Is that because they work in spaces that are more formally designated as working spaces: the lab? Whereas people from the Arts do much of their work in spaces that accomodate both social and working activity. For some people, blogging is about recording and reflecting upon real-time events, which for people from Arts, may combine work and social. In fact they may not even concieve of a strong difference between the two. In the distant past, when Kieran and I first thought about the combination of social and academic in a single blog, I think we decided that forcing an artificial division on people would be wrong. Instead, they are left to make the distinctions themselves, if they want a distinction. The method through which they can make that distinction is categorisation, and if they so wish, also permissions control. Categorisation is not perfect, but it does allow for social and academic blogging to happen together in combination. A single entry may record the social and the academic aspects of an event, even when that event is more academic oriented. But as I said, this approach leaves it up to the individual.

A second, and perhaps more pressing requirement is this: we want undergraduates to develop confidence in their abilities to write about what they are doing, and implicitly, to become more confident about what they are doing. Confidence is a big issue for first years. We do not expect them to start writing academically sophisticated blog entries right away. If they can write cogent accounts of their university experience in general, then that would be good. If they then include some details of their academic activities within those more general entries, that would be better. If they go on to writing accounts of their academic activities, that would be superb. The PDP people at Warwick, whose job is to work out ways to improve personal student development, have seen blogging as a means of encouraging students to develop a joined-up whole person view of life at Warwick, and to make the transition to thinking and speaking confidently about their academic and social activities together. Forcing them to see the world as divided between academic and social activities may work against this.