The Dangers of Academic Blogging

As you might have noticed, we’re quite keen on academic blogging here. So it was interesting to stumble across this thoughtful post (HT Alistair’s Adversaria) reflecting on some of the dangers associated with academic blogging. This point in particular stood out and left me wondering if such a disclaimer should be common practice:

As I have learned as a blogger it is almost impossible to avoid writing something that will offend someone. It may be that you espouse a view on a matter that others reject, or you may get into a “debate” in the comments section that can be perceived as somewhere between uncomfortable and ugly. Inevitably, someone will come across your blog and you will be judged by your online persona. In a recent email correspondence with Marc Cortez of Wheaton College (formerly my Th.M. advisor at Western Seminary and a mentor and friend now) he shared this insight (shared with permission):

…many academics, and particularly those in academic administration do not understand blogs. As you know, blogs are their own genre and need to be read/interpreted in the right way. People who spend most of their time with academic journals come to blogs with the wrong set of interpretive criteria and walk away with the wrong conclusions. That potentially means that you’re putting up a lot of material with your name on it that is likely to be misread by the people who control your future.

Then he went on to say that many people don’t understand the “exploratory” element of blogs. That is why this blog has the following disclaimer on the side:

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I use my blog to “think aloud,” to have conversations with people interested in the same subjects that interest me. I don’t think I’ve ever blogged a personal credo of any sort and if someone cared to do the research it would be quite apparent that many of the things I write may not reflect my opinion several weeks from now! If the genre of blogging is not taken into consideration than blog posts will be misunderstood. For the most part, blogs should be understood as a written form of a classroom discussion, not as a position paper, not as a journal article, not as a proposal for publication, not as the answer to application questions. It is a place for discussion. Sadly, many people do not know this and their unfamiliarity with the genre of the blog may result in their misunderstanding of what you’ve written. 

There was a discussion at the recent BSA Digital Sociology seminar which touched on this, framing it around risks and opportunities attached to different career stages for academic blogging. I was interested to find someone in the audience who had the exact same sense of academic blogging that I did – as constituting a public record of your intellectual development – but was horrified at this prospect whereas I think it’s really cool:

The rest of the aforementioned series of posts is really worth reading for anyone interesting in academic blogging. Here are the links:

– Introduction

– #1, ruining your public reputation

– #2, offending potential educators/employers

– #3, irrelevant topics

– #4, Time Management

– #5, Prioritized Writing

It was refreshing to come across an extended reflection about some of the dangers which can be associated with academic blogging that was written by someone who is nonetheless enthusiastic about it. I’ve regularly encountered so much pontification about blogging that comes from a position of ignorance (though less so these days, which is probably more a function of self & social selection than it is any real cultural change) that it can be quite easy to ignore things people say about the practice. Though I think it’s important that those who believe academic blogging is a valuable activity, capable of enriching individual craft and academic life as a whole, should not be dismissive of the anxieties which can surround it for those who have yet to start.

Categories: Digital Sociology


10 replies »

  1. Thank you for sharing my series of posts and for the thoughtful interaction!

  2. have you published your paper btw? would love to read if so

  3. As you now, I am a great supporter of academic blogging. But let’s not forget that not all bloggers are the same: some are more vulnerable to potential threats and risks more than others, and this needs to be acknowledged. Women and people from marginalised social groups for example, tend to be subjected to greater harassment than white male bloggers, while early career researchers may need to be more cautious than established academics. I talk a bit about this in my recent blog post ‘Academics online: what are the risks?’


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