Monday, 25 July 2016

Academic blogging: why?

Now that the summer is at its full swing, when being away from everyday bureaucratic work, thus having the freedom to ponder about stuff that normally is suppressed by daily duties, I started thinking about why I love blogging. Although I can easily list a hundred reasons why I should not write these blog posts, yet I just love musing about ideas that concern me most temporarily.

To begin with, let us see why it may seem counterproductive to spend time with writing up blog posts. First, blogging has no academic value, it does not count in one's list of publications, so it is a waste of time. Two, a blog post is not peer reviewed, so its contents may well be questionable. Three, this is at least a feature of my blog, that rather few people read it: it is not academic enough for my colleagues, and maybe too academic, at least topic-wise for others. And fourth, I do not publish blog posts regularly enough to attract readers. Surely this last one is a person specific problem, as I run this English and I also have a Hungarian one, the posts appear either here or there so the appearance of new posts are rather rare.

Though these counterarguments seem sound, I would still like to reflect on them. Of course these blog posts do not surface in the list of publications, and yet they are not completely valueless. The list of publications does not have a merit on its on, and I hope and believe that what is meant by scholarly value may change over time. But undeniably at the moment scholarly value remains a problem. Two, clearly the blog posts do not go through the process of peer review. Although peer review has its on discontents, I do not intend to rehears them here, first and foremost because I deem peer review a necessary and beneficial institution. But some sort of peer review is at work in case of blog posts too, even if not in the prepublication phase. Comments function as postpublication peer review, which is as important and relevant as the prepublication one. Three, the problematics of too few readers. I reckon not much more people read my other writings that are hidden behind the paywall, and a comment by Jonathan Hope means much more to me than many references by other scholars. Fourth the two-language blogging. Writing blog posts is really fun, and if it is fun in two languages, then let it be like that, I can live with maybe loosing readers because of the small number of posts per blog. Maybe in the future I will unite the two blogs, where both English and Hungarian posts will appear next to each other.

Refuting counterarguments provides insufficient reasons for blogging though. So why do I find so much fun in writing blog posts? One of the reasons is my fascination with Open Access. I reckon blogging is just contribution to the growth of Open Access content and ultimately to the cause of the Open Access movement, which is in a sense an end in itself for me. It also matters that I enjoy the process of writing up of shorter pieces. Sometimes I get tired of creating longer writings, joy is deferred so much that sometimes I sometimes get tired of that type of work. Writing up a blog post though gives much more immediate satisfaction, since I can finish a short, max. 1000-word long piece in an afternoon. And also there is no suffocating feeling of a must-do activity. Journal articles must be written, a book is under way, these are necessary parts of academic life, and I enjoy these too. But writing blog posts is really for joy: if I have an idea to verbalize in a post, and I have the free-time to work on it, then I enjoy myself this way without the pressure of a compulsory work. It is also significant that I just love putting ideas into words, as an academic and old fashioned humanist I believe in the power of words,that shape reality even if in the most remote sense.

Why I like blogging so very much is also due to the change in register. I appreciate the tense, academic style that addresses the initiate. But I also find pleasure in turning to a somewhat more colloquial style that shoots beyond the small circle of academics. This is one of the reasons why I contribute to Wikipedia with entries from my field. This doesn't mean though that I would have a clear notion of who reads my blogs. Most of the (small number of) comments on this English blog are from friends and academics, but I have no idea who reads this one without commenting. The Hungarian however is clearly read by non-academics as well, I have received comments from people I know to be outside the circles of the academia, and I am also aware of people reading the blog from all walks of life.

And a last reason lies in the fact that very few Hungarian scholars have a blog. Although there is a growing number of academics who write blog posts, still this medium is not so fashionable as it is in the Anglo-American world. There might be some cultural reasons for this difference, e.g. shyness, not so much inclination for writing etc. The cultural differences, however, do not hinder me from this activity but rather encourage me.

These are some of the reasons why I keep using the medium of blogs. They may sound weak for some people, from certain perspectives, yet they are sufficient for me at the moment.