Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading and thinking about blogging quite a bit. During this time I’ve had several productive conversations about my blog and the American Sport History group blog that I hope to have up an running early this summer. Many of the thoughts I had and ideas I was reading came together for me in yesterday’s live-Tweet of the OAH panel on blogging “Is Blogging Scholarship?” (much of which has been Storified here). Historiann (Ann M. Little) was a member of the panel and wrote her own blogpost about it here. As response to this conversation, I felt it appropriate to reflect on why I blog, how I use it, and what I’ve gotten out of it.
This blog started as a space for writing and thinking. I’ve tried to update it regularly — which has tended to be every other month, though I always say I’d like to write more often. I also started this site as a place to house pieces of my professional portfolio. I’ve tried to collect bits and pieces of my digital humanities and public history work, share some of my reading lists, and publish a relatively up-to-date CV. It’s essentially serves as a landing page for my professional identity and networking to for people to see what I’m up to.
As I Tweeted this morning, I tend to use my this space to historicize current events, play with ideas, ask for help or feedback on projects I’m working on. In many ways I approach this space like I would a conference papers. For me, it’s a good way to start the writing process and/or organize my ideas. This aspect of the blog has worked remarkably well for me. I’ve actually turned a couple of the posts into conference presentations. My writings here have also started conversations that have led to me rethinking and radically changing my dissertation topic.
Perhaps it’s all the psychology and education classes I took as an undergraduate, but self reflection has always been important to me, and when I began was a key part of this blog. I always find reflection to be incredibly useful and rewarding, but also scary because it is intensely private yet can come across as egotistical or self absorbed when made. It’s hard to strike a balance in this type of writing, and is perhaps safest not to publish. I still do it from time to time, because I think they’re worthwhile.
There is risk in blogging. I know it first hand because it has created a few bumps in the road for me. Without going into detail, I’ve learned that it is crucial that we become self aware of not only what we write but how we write. It’s important to be very cautious about certain subjects and to read and reread everything we write to gauge the tone and perspective of the writing. Although blogging tends to be fairly conversational and personal, it still requires careful editing and attentional to detail. This goes for all types of writing we do on our blogs because you never know who’s out there reading.
By and large, this blog been had a positive influence on my professional life. Though I don’t usually receive many on-site comments, this blog has worked remarkably well in tandem with Twitter in starting conversations and creating new connections. Besides getting amazing feedback about my dissertation project, I’ve also been interviewed on Canadian Radio, and invited to join a variety of projects because people have found me through this blog.
My own experiences blogging — both good and bad — offer instructive examples for the larger discussion on whether or not we should blog AND how we should go about blogging. Group blogs have become extremely popular lately and offer a more structured and refined approach to blogging. Earlier this month ProfHacker wrote about How to Run a Group-Authored Blog that has helped inform that way I’ve gone about planning and organizing my new venture. I’ve also drawn ideas from my friends and colleagues who contribute to the U.S. Intellectual History and Religion in American History blogs.
As I launch the American Sport History group blog later this summer, I’m unsure what will become of this space. That blog is focused more on responding to current events, reviewing books/films, discussing teaching ideas with sport, and offering an avenue for younger scholars to share and solicit feedback on their research. I’m hoping that it will be a catalyst in developing a vibrant online community of sports scholars. I hope to keep writing here, though the new blog will be duplicate some of the things I post here my many of my scholarly interests lie outside of American sport. This space may evolve and diversify into my interest areas. For example, I see myself returning to discussions of my exploration in the digital humanities. As I prepare to teach my first class this fall, you can expect to see a post or two about my experiences planning and implementing my syllabus. Regardless of how this space develops, I’m committed to blogging and think it’s a worthwhile endeavor for graduate students and scholars to network, test ideas, and reach broader audiences.