On academic blogging

Some recent online articles weighing the pros and cons of academic blogging and academic publishing more broadly led me to reflect on my own reasons for blogging over the past 4 1/2 years.

One of the concerns academic bloggers have mentioned is that the writing they do for their blogs does not count as academic research: the posts are not peer-reviewed, so they will typically be counted as professional service rather than research in tenure and promotion assessments, even though blogs–being freely accessible online–are likely to reach a wider audience than a typical academic journal article. As one blogger noted, any time spent writing her blog was time not spent writing a peer-reviewed essay or a book that would “count” as research. And this is certainly something I have considered as well.

When I started this blog in 2009, I had a lot more time on my hands: I had just finished my PhD, was getting ready to teach three courses in the next academic year, and was looking forward to finally being able to write short posts in a single sitting, rather than trying to plow through a major project like a dissertation. Not unexpectedly, I posted much more actively than I did last year, for instance, when I taught five courses, wrote three journal articles and edited the book review section of another journal. But I still enjoy blogging, even if I don’t have as much time for it. And, in case any other academics are trying to decide whether it’s worth starting a blog, here’s a few reasons why I continue to post articles on this one:

  1. First, this blog has helped me connect with many people I would probably not otherwise have met: other researchers, of course, but also graduate students and non-academics from around the world. Over the last four years, several thousand people have visited the site. Some bloggers, of course, can attract that many visitors in a much shorter period, but I don’t have the time to write content more frequently and to promote the website more efficiently. And I’m happy with my readership figures: without this blog, I would not have been able to reach several thousand people who were otherwise interested in the topics I write about.
  2. Second, the blog is a great way to archive things I’m likely to want to look up again later. For instance, because I try to write about the conferences I’ve attended, I’m able to go back months or years later and double-check who said what at which event. I can also review what I was doing in my classes a few years ago and what I thought about it at the time. Without the blog, I probably wouldn’t have that kind of information at hand, since my conference notes would likely have ended up somewhere among the many stacks of papers covering my desk and filing cabinets.
  3. If, like me, you integrate your blog into a website (and WordPress allows you to do so very easily), you can also keep your CV up to date and provide links to (or full versions of) your articles. I realize that you could also do this via sites like Academia.edu, but I like having my own site, which gives me more control over the layout, structure, and kind of content I would like to include.
  4. Finally, with a blog, you can post material you’ve had to cut from longer papers but wouldn’t be able to develop into another full-length article. You can also work out ideas for projects you might later develop into a larger project, or reflect on topical issues that you’re never going to have time to develop into a full-length article. If you use your blog in this way, as I sometimes do, it becomes an extension of your writing activities, fodder for new work, and a platform to test out new ideas rather than a side-project taking you away from your “real” research.

These are my primary motivations for blogging, but I’m sure other bloggers could add more reasons to this list. In case you’d like to read other blogs about translation written from an academic’s perspective, here are a few of the blogs I follow that are written by people who are or were actively involved in Translation Studies:

Know of others? I’d be happy to update the list.