I mentioned yesterday that my students are using a specific note-taking format for the readings I assign. We’re reading The Storytelling Animal, and on the first day of class I assigned one chapter from the book along with instructions to complete something that resembles an annotated bibliography entry, including a proper citation at the top, a summary, and then questions/connections, quotations, and keywords. It’s not fun, but it is useful. When I took ENGL 326, a Research Writing course, the instructor had us do these for the articles we read pertaining to our research projects. I was working on my senior thesis, and so had a considerable amount of material to read and sort through. Having to do these weekly entries forced me to really understand the material I was reading, and it helped me to synthesize it in such a way that I could return to it easily and have an already established list of significant points that I could use in my own paper. The entries also helped me make connections between the texts I was reading, which is why I’ve included “connections” in the questions portion of the format. So, that said, I’m hoping to use the same format again for the materials I’m reading this semester, and since I’m required to blog for ENGL 516, I’d like to share those here occasionally, albeit sometimes in synthesized form.
This week, we were assigned “Every Mad Scientist Needs a Tower, a Monster, and a Telegraph Wire: Blogs as Research and Pedagogy Laboratories for Graduate Students” by Kennedy and Mueller. I thought this was especially great, because Derek Mueller is a professor of mine, and he encouraged me to begin this blog in the first place as an undergraduate student with (personal) blogging experience. As I said in our class discussion this week, I had no idea at the time I began this blog that it would play such a significant role in my academic career. This is a place/space that I am immensely proud of. The text itself is in manuscript format; it is (will be?) a chapter in a book that has not yet been released.
In this chapter, Kennedy and Mueller make a case for blogging as a means of professional development for graduate students. Both authors used blogs as graduate students (which I believe is how they met), and therefore use their personal experience as rationale. What I thought was most effective was the way in which the authors laid out two lists of items: “aspects of professional ethos” and their practical advice to bloggers towards the end. As someone who is prone to make mountains out of information only to find myself buried somewhere beneath it, having things presented to me in list format is extremely helpful. Kennedy and Mueller also use several phrases that are quirky and memorable, including the “faux dyad” (10) of personal/professional and work/home, as well as describing the conventions of blogs-as-genre as “gestures” (12), which would include practices like hyperlinking in-text to external information or sources, leaving comments, ping backs, a list of blogs you follow, or even re-blogging which I don’t believe they touched on but I feel applies in this case, especially considering the role that Twitter plays in circulating blog posts (I share mine on Twitter every time I update). A few of my classmates noted that reading this chapter helped them understand why our instructor has asked us to blog during this course; I can speak from experience that, as Kennedy and Mueller claim, a blog is an excellent avenue into joining the conversation, because scholarship is, after all, a “series of ongoing conversations” (Olson, qtd. in Kennedy and Mueller, 12).
This reading was assigned at the same time that I came across this blog post on Developing Writers: Writing for Self and Others in an Era of Shared Social Realities. That guest post by Julie Warner discusses the blogging practice(s) of teenagers and how they resemble that of a diary – including personal thoughts addressed to no one in particular – yet including details that show clear evidence of a public awareness. Warner points out that the authors are clearly aware of genre conventions, as well as a sort of social code (ways of being, thinking, and participating) that the teenagers followed. In this case, the teens were blogging for themselves, according to Warner, yet they chose to do so in a public space. What connected for me was in the questions Warner posed at the end, particularly the last one in which she asks, “Is digital media causing the constructs of public and private writing to collapse?”
Kennedy and Mueller discuss the potential pitfalls pertaining to privacy (alliteration!) when it comes to blogging professionally and/or personally, but as another classmate pointed out, they give little attention to what it means to write in a public space beyond the security and potential job interference. This classmate asked, “Who owns the blog? Why is it free?” I offered a personal response: recently, I’ve noticed ads appearing in some of my posts. These are video ads, and unless I want to pay $30, I’m stuck with them. I’m not certain what happens if I purchase the domain for $18; I don’t know enough about copyright and content ownership yet to know what my options are. Still, I’m realizing that these are essential questions, especially for someone who plans to use their blog professionally. Do I want an ad of girls in bikinis in a hot tub at the bottom of my post? How do they select these ads and where to put them? Who does own my content?
I appreciated the reading we had this week, and I appreciate as well the opportunity to link it to my concerns about blogging in general. I would appreciate any and all feedback about the ads (whether or not you see them, where, what are they) and what is gained by paying for this space – though, I have to confess, it bothers me that I have to pay for an ad-free experience.