Category Archives: Structures

Portrait of the Scholar as Blogger

By Anamaria Dutceac Segesten October 14, 2010 11:00 pm EDT

I return to one of my favorite subjects, blogging in the academia, but this time with a focus not on the students, as in my previous post, but on the scholar herself. I believe that blogging may be a useful tool for those of us involved in the process of creating (and communicating) new knowledge.

How so? Because of the nature of blogging itself.

Blogging = Reading + Writing + Linking + Commenting

This concentrated definition (which I borrowed from Kosmopolito) summarizes very well the way blogs work. And this fits very well with the way scholars work as well, doesn’t it? We read or see or listen to other people’s work, be it in the news or at the movies or in academic journals. We react to these inputs usually by making a note (at least a mental one, to self) and then connect through references to others’ writing, which we implicitly comment on (think of the mandatory literature overviews of every book or article). Blogging functions not so differently from the way an academic article does. So if the two are so close, why bother?

Blogging has some unique qualities. I will enumerate them briefly:

  1. Blogs allow for timely reaction to events. They are a comment on things almost as they happen.
  2. Blogs are more creative as they have no “submission guidelines” to follow.
  3. Blogs allow for easy and fast cross-referencing and checking of sources through linking.
  4. Through links, bloggers can create and develop networks of writers with similar interests.
  5. Quick feedback is possible through the “comment” function.
  6. Comments foster open dialogue and the direct interaction between the author and readers.
  7. Communication beyond the narrow circle of academia is possible on the Internet.

Taking into account these great opportunities available for the 21st century academic, I wonder how many of us actually use them? Well, at least some. In her recently published PhD dissertation at Lund University, Sara Kjellberg discusses the functions of the academic blog. Included in her research were interviews with scholars from two fields of knowledge: physics and history. For both hard and soft sciences, she concludes that blogging is a useful way to communicate research results and to engage in conversations with other people who share one’s interest.

Among the blogs written by scholars, there are a couple that I very much enjoy reading. My choices reflect my areas of interest, and are included here just as proof of the existence of scholar bloggers and examples of how one can go about doing it in practice. As I am comfortable with several languages, they may appear somewhat strange to you at first, but not after you have tried Google Translate! In Swedish I like to check out Peter Englund’s blog. Englund is the Secretary of the Swedish Academy of Sciences that awards every year the Nobel Prize, and a respected historian and writer in his own right. In Romanian I read the blog of Vladimir Tismaneanu, professor at the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. In English I often check the posts by Timothy Garton Ash on the “Comment is Free” section of the British daily The Guardian. Garton Ash is professor of history at University of Oxford, also active at Stanford University and as a consultant for various European bodies. Also in English, another blogger with spot-on writing (and a great dose of humor) is Sean Hanley, lecturer at University College, London.

Perhaps you realized that throughout this post I was avoiding the inevitable question: do I blog? Hmmm, I guess you know the answer. Not YET, but I will. Just give me some time to finish grading those exams, giving these lectures, going to the 3rd meeting of the day…

Some resources for those who might want to get going with their blog immediately:
Blogging: A short introduction for academics by Kosmopolito
I am a blogging researcher: Motivations for blogging in a scholarly context – Sara Kjellberg
On how to use hyperlinks (and the implications thereof) – Julien Frisch
A directory of academic blogs by discipline – The Academic Blog Portal

Anamaria writes from Lund, Sweden. She is one of the founding members of the editorial collective at University of Venus.

C.A.R.D.

Critically Argued Research Document

In the programme specification it says that a student should: Document and manage a complex, extended project as well as reflect on the critical and creative processes involved, and the professional context. This seems to be a good starting point for a discussion for how the researched document should function.

The Critically Argued Research Document that will be a part of the Final Major Project needs to do a number of things and all should be made clear in either or both the practice and the contextualising document.

1. The Contextualisation of the Practice [Literature Review]

2. Relate Practice with theory through Research. [Research Strategy]

3. Articulate the relationships between research and practice. [Learning Log/Critical Analysis]

4. Argue the case for the artefact, product or system in a professional context.[Analysis of Project]

5. Document the evolution of the project from the outset. [Learning Log]

6. Evaluation of the final presentation of the practical project. [Written Analysis]

The form this ‘document’ takes and its position in relation to the ‘practice’ element should be negotiable. It could be a web-site, a film, a traditionally written text etc, but no matter what form it takes it has to implement of all of the above elements. If the students have a clear understanding of what their overall project must achieve then there could be an opening up of the relationships between practice, theory and research.

Manifestos?

‘Manifestos contracts that the undersigned make with themselves and with society. As with all contracts, manifestos imply certain rules laws and restrictions. But they soon become independent from their authors. At this point, a masochistic relationship begins between the author and the text itself, for the manifesto-contract has been drafted by the very person who will suffer from the restrictions of its clauses. No doubt such carefully devised laws will be violated. This self-transgression of self-made laws adds a particularly perverse dimension to manifestoes. In addition, like love letters, they provide an erotic distance between fantasy and actual realisation. In many respects, this aspect of manifestoes has much in common with the nature of architectural work. It plays on the tension between ideas and real spaces, between abstract concepts and the sensuality of an implied spatial experience. (B. Tschumi, preface of Architectural Manifestoes, London, 1979).

Look at the link:

http://caad.arch.ethz.ch/teaching/nds/ws98/scrip/text/st-text.html

for more useful information about STRUCTURE AS TEXT and Hypertext and hypermedia…

The term Hypertext was coined by Theodor Nelson (A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing and the Indeterminate, 1965, Proceedings of ACM 20th National Conference), who proposed the idea of a computer system able to perform `nonlinear writing’. A similar idea had been proposed twenty years earlier, before the birth of the digital computer, by Vannevar Bush. He invented a machine called `memex’ (i.e. memory extender) which was able to record articles, pictures, sketches and notes, and to connect the different informations with associative links. The basic idea of associative indexing, according to Bush, is that “any item may be caused at will to select immediately and automatically another. This is the essential feature of the memex. The process of tying two items together is the important thing.”