Got Blog? Getting Started with WordPress

wp1This week’s Digital Pedagogy workshop, “Got Blog? Getting Started with WordPress,” will occur Tuesday, September 22, from 4:30–5:30 pm, with a repeat on Wednesday, September 23 from 11:00 am–noon. The location is the library computer lab (Abell 208).

We all know what a blog is, right? You’re reading one now. Have you thought about starting a blog of your own, but aren’t quite sure where to begin? Come join us for some conversation and demonstration this week about academic blogging and the WordPress platform.

We’ll talk about the nuts and bolts of getting up and running on WordPress, but that’s the easy part of the equation. What requires more thought and consideration is answering the questions, “Why blog?” “What is my purpose?” What are my objectives?” “Who is the audience?” “Do I have something to say?” There are at least a dozen or so colleagues here at Austin College who blog or have blogged with some degree of frequency. And no doubt you read blogs from people in your field and beyond. So one learns by observing that blogging can take many forms and serve diverse purposes. Still, only you can determine whether and how blogging and other forms of online digital academic activity will fit into your larger set of practices for research, teaching, and learning.

I do think that establishing a significant scholarly presence on the open web can be a game-changer for an academic. Traditionally, scholarly work only became public through, well, “publication,” that is, the dissemination of the finished product of a process of investigation, research, and reflection. But now that the process of knowledge production can take place in an open and connected environment, we are more and more discovering the benefits of thinking and writing “out loud” and of “open peer review.” Blogging can be one vehicle by which we make our thinking visible to ourselves and others, not as a finished product, but as something that is still and always probing and provisional, searching and reaching toward greater clarity, insight, and comprehension. By opening our thought to public dialogue and conversation, we create the very conditions by which our ideas can be refined, our understanding deepened, and our expression made more eloquent.

In his post “Who is this for?,” Gardner Campbell (@GardnerCampbell), professor of English and vice provost for learning innovation at Virginia Commonwealth University, reflects on blogging as part of the practice of “observable work“:

I began blogging by understanding that this was my blog, so it was for me, but the work I do for me has the potential to be of interest to others as well. I knew that without being able to explain it, largely because my experience of reading other bloggers had made that impression on me. This is his blog, or her blog, and they write out of their own experience, narrating their work, wondering aloud, bringing things to light the way a good late-night conversation will….

[F]or a scholar to commit to trying to work things out for himself or herself in public in this way can be very daunting. My longing for connection finally overcame my fear of humiliation, though that’s a constant struggle. More to the point, I discovered very quickly that working things out for myself in this way, with the fresh provisionality of the thinking still clinging to the thoughts, had the magical property of bringing other people who were doing the same thing into a distributed conversation that took on a life of its own far beyond anything I could have imagined.

I don’t try to work everything out here. I recognize the difference between personal and private, and I need that difference to exist. But to a greater extent than I had ever dreamed, working things out for myself with a questing, probing, sometimes halting voice brought me to a community where collegial inquiry and most of all connected learning became the norm, not the exception. Something like what I’d always thought a university could be.

Blogging can be part of a broader approach to academic work known as “open notebook scholarship.” Historian Caleb McDaniel (@wcaleb) asks, “What would happen if scholars worked to make every part of their research process more public, not only at the point of final publication, but at every point along the way?” In his blog post, “Open Notebook History,” McDaniel explains his rationale for conducting research on open platforms:

Open-source blogging platforms, curation tools, bibliographic software, and micro-blogging platforms enable historians to easily share information about our research as it happens. As Chad Black noted a few years ago, “we now have the possibility to construct and curate our research materials and process archives, what I call … the ‘Papers of You,’ in real time, and make it immediately available to those without the resources to gain access to our eclectic collections.”

The advantages of such a practice have already been well-articulated by the proponents of something called Open Notebook Science, a movement that recently received positive attention in the prominent journal Nature. Open Notebook Science (ONS) is the practice of putting one’s entire lab notebook online, so that other researchers have access not just to a scientist’s publications, but to the underlying data, methods, and experimental results that drive research projects forward.

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about how blogging might fit into your professional practice. Join us this week to follow up and learn more.

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