Which one are you?
Alex Marsh of the University of Bristol prefers to see himself as a "blogger who is an academic." He asks a good question: "When does academic blogging begin and end?" At what point does "academic blogging" cease being academic blogging and become something else?
Here is a taste of Marsh's insightful post at the blog of the London School of Economics and Political Science:
I am an academic. In that world I am Professor and the head of one of
the five Schools in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law at one of
Britain’s leading universities. And I am a blogger. In this world I
write an individual blog on politics and policy-related issues. The blog
is currently ranked in the top 100 UK politics blogs by ebuzzing. Many
people arrive and depart my blog without knowing I’m an academic. I
don’t hide the fact. It’s there on the About page. But I don’t give it
any particular prominence. Similarly, I don’t mention it on my Twitter
Of course, these two identities – academic and blogger – overlap
considerably. But they aren’t entirely congruent. And that can set up
tensions. My academic research career was largely built on researching
and writing about housing markets, regulation and housing policy in
England. That is a field in which there is currently plenty of debate,
activity and inactivity. It is a policy area that requires rethinking.
So there is plenty to write about.
But if I only blogged about housing then my posts would be relatively
few and far between. And I rarely report directly on research – either
my own or that of others. More frequently I write op-ed commentary. Is
that “academic blogging”? And, if I’m honest, sticking to housing would
rather defeat the object of setting up the blog in the first place. I
wanted a place to talk about whatever was on my mind. So I also blog
about closely related issues such as the welfare state and rights,
social security and welfare reform, and land use planning. There is
plenty to say about the substance of policy in these areas, the
processes of its formulation, and the discourses that accompany it. This
territory is entirely comfortable, given my research profile. It is
congruent with my role in academia. But that probably doesn’t account
for half of the posts on this blog.
Some academic bloggers leaven the mix by interspersing their
‘academic’ posts with more personal posts about family, biography or
travel. I’m not at all averse to that approach, but it isn’t really my
style. So I tend to look in other directions. After all, the blog
monster needs regular feeding somehow. So I blog about a range of issues
that interest me including macroeconomics, banking reform, industrial
policy, transport, public sector restructuring, and the methodology of
economics. Only on the last couple of these topics have I ever
contributed anything relevant to the academic literature. I’d like to
have written more, but c’est la vie.
I have been thinking a lot about this topic. On one hand, The Way of Improvement Leads Home has been successful because I have credentials as an academic historian. On the other hand, I write about a lot of things for which I do not have any specialized training. For example, my thoughts on politics are often tempered by a kind of caution and prudence that comes with being a historian (or at least I like to think they are), but in the end I am expressing my opinions just like everyone else. Sometimes, especially when it comes to my Springsteen-blogging, I probably sound like little more than a wild-eyed fanboy.
So help me sort this out. Is The Way of Improvement Leads Home an academic blog or a blog written by a blogger who happens to be an academic? What do you think?