Blog Research and References

A great list of Blog Research and References compiled by Kaye Tramell who has a blog here and also teaches a course on blogging and online journalism at the University of Florida which has an interesting site and blog. Student’s create and maintain their own blog and contribute to a class blog. She emphasises that “students will not only report through the Web, but report on online society as well. ” This again points to the way blogging in journalism education can provide an integrated model of theory and practice.

NYU Journalism’s ReadMe

Another J-School firmly at the forefront of web-based journalism is NYU. They even have a dean who blogs.
ReadMe
is their ezine produced by their digital media students about digital media. The introduction to the latest issue has this to say:

For us, ReadMe provides an opportunity to learn the craft of digital journalism by doing it. ReadMe takes advantage of the Web’s status as the only mass medium with low barriers to entry, in terms of start-up money and technical expertise. ReadMe enables student journalists to experiment with a radical new model that thrives on interactivity, blurring the line between writer and reader in a way that traditional media do not. Ours is a generation that gets more and more of its news from a computer screen. Fittingly, the computer has affected the way we do journalism. We conduct interviews in online forums or through e-mail, use search engines and databases to research stories. Of course, with such powerful tools comes increased responsibility. Online, idle rumors spread with viral speed, and it’s often difficult to tell fact from fabrication.

Of course, the Internet is more than just a news medium or the Mother of All Reference Libraries; it is its own world, with its own culture. Netizens strike up relationships online, hold protests, and defend their rights to free speech, all at Net speed. This new culture demands a new kind of journalism. ReadMe is a step in that direction.

Blogging and J-Ed

A recent project at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism shows the potential of blogging in journalism education. Their Presidential Reporting Project blog covers the current US presidential campaign. It includes recent posts by students blogging from the Republican convention in New York. They have produced a range of reports on the blog that would be recognised across the spectrum of news, features and commentary as well as using blogging’s linked based features. However they didn’t just stop there.

They established a second blog to help them reflect on what they were learning from the project. This second blog looks particularly at the lessons of integrating new mobile blogging technology, such as sending pictures from your phone direct to your blog. This blog is an interesting mix of process reflection and practical tips.

This integrated project shows two aspects of how blogs could be used in journalism courses:

Action learning – using blogs as a publication site to hone reporting and writing skills.

Research and reflection – using blogs to reflect on the processes and technology of journalism.

One of the things we are fond of saying as journalism educators is that we aim to integrate theory and practice. It seems to me that blogging provides an excellent form for this integrated practice. It is a form of published writing so it encourages students to hone their writing, communicative and research skills but the journal form also encourages a reflective openness.

Berkely has been experimenting with blogs for a while and received quite a bit of news coverage when they first began to “teach blogging”.

More on conversation

Another interesting comment on blogging conversations with a great set of links that follows a more rigerous academic analysis of blogging conversation.

Very interesting discussion (very hesitant to use that word given the nature of the post) on this public address about conversation in blogging. the participants are discussing why some posts become full fledged conversations and some do not. one reason mentioned in the comments section was time constraints. tpc, however, stated that for him, blogging is not so much about conversation as it is about learning by both reading and writing. this topic is of great interest to me because if my thesis proposal is accepted (cross all of your virtual fingers) i will measure not only how conversations are formed (through language, cognitive blending, etc.) in blogs, but also the distance they can travel before they become incoherent. it is very related to the question that lilia asks, what makes a conversation work in blogs?

And a further link on “An argumentation analysis of weblog conversations

I will come back to the issue of conversation versus publication when I post on journalism education and blogging. I don’t think they have to be dichotomous.

Conversation

Tanja asks some interesting questions about “the conversation” of blogging in her comment on my post below.

Let me float a few things in this conversation about conversation. I think conversation has to be understood in at least three different ways in this context:

1. The intrapersonal conversation with the self that Wrede talks about that I have already referred to.

2. The direct conversation through comments and interaction from other readers.

3. The wider conversation of the blogsphere that each blog contributes to through the linking process

Seen together these three elements are something of what I mean by “distributed conversation” and “cumulative conversation”. The conversation of a blog is not isolated to a particular post or a particular thread of comments. I am not trying to say everything about “conversation and blogging” here. I am continuing what I have already begun in earlier posts as well as responding to some of Tanja’s questions.

Because I have conceived this as a research project that aims to gather together information on blogging as well as model its processes I also did something else before I wrote this post. I googled “conversation and blogging”. This led me to the “distributed conversation” about conversation and blogging in the wider blogsphere.

Here are some samples. Mark from the McLuhan project has this to say:

Blogs are an instance of “publicy” – the McLuhan reversal of “privacy” – that occurs under the intense acceleration of instantaneous communications. Our notion of privacy was created as an artifact of literacy – silent reading lead to private interpretation of ideas that lead to private thoughts that lead to privacy. Blogging is an “outering” of the private mind in a public way (that in turn leads to the multi-way participation that is again characteristic of multi-way instanteous communictions.) Unlike normal conversation that is essentially private but interactive, and unlike broadcast that is inherently not interactive but public, blogging is interactive, public and, of course, networked – that is to say, interconnected.

Another blogger re-posted this earlier post in the comments section of Joho the Blog

“Every writer is a reader, every reader a writer. Conversation; moving a coversation forward becomes the central point in blogging. Who happens to be speaking it – perhaps not as important.”

So here we are entering into different conversations. At one level we are connecting as individual writers and bloggers, at another level we are conversing/interacting (both as readers and writers) with broader discourse, such as the ideas of Marshall McLuhan.

I think from an educational perspective it is the dynamic, interactive, open-ended, searching and linking aspects of the conversation of blogging that make it a wonderful teaching and learning tool. It is in this sense that the conversation of blogging could take on some of the attributes that Tanja refers to in the quote from Theodore Zeldin. I believe that weblogs can contribute to the emergence of “new conversational banquets”.

Tanja also asks the interesting question about what this might mean specifically in a journalism education context. I will post on that later.

Washington Post on blogs and “memogate”

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz has this take on the Dan Rather story.

One of the bloggers who helped to break the story has this to say about blogging:

The secret, says Charles Johnson , is “open-source intelligence gathering.” Meaning: “We’ve got a huge pool of highly motivated people who go out there and use the tools to find stuff. We’ve got an army of citizen journalists out there.”

Kurtz puts it this way:

In the last two years, the blogosphere — a vast, free-floating, often quirky club open to anyone with a modem and some opinions — has been growing in influence, with some one-man operations boasting followings larger than those of small newspapers.

Many sites are seething with partisan passion, often directed at the media. But they are also two-way portals for retired military officers, computer techies, former IBM Selectric salesmen and just about anyone else to challenge and fact-check media claims….

“One of the things about a blog is we sometimes act as a clearinghouse for information from readers with an interest in an esoteric area,” says Scott Johnson.

Bloggers also have the advantage of speed. Several major newspapers quickly began questioning the Guard documents, but they lagged behind the online critiques.

Weblogs and Discourse

Oliver Wrede provides a really excellent framework for thinking about weblogs in higher ed in this detailed conference paper.

He begins be emphasising that blogs create a particular form of authorship:

Weblogs are not special because of their technology but because of the practice and authorship they shape. And it is a practice that will require a weblog author to be connected to processes, discourses and communities.

He goes on to specifiy this:

Weblogs combine two oppositional principles: monologue and dialogue. A reaction to a statement is not only directed to the sender but also to unknown readers. Very often the weblogger gets feedback from unexpected source: new relations and contexts emerge. This (assumed) undirected communication developes to an open and involving activity.

Weblogs not only enable interaction with other webloggers, they offer a way to engage in a discoursive exchange with the author’s self (intrapersonal conversation). A weblog becomes an active partner in communication, because it demands consistent criteria for what will be posted to a weblog (and how). This »indirect monologic dialog« of weblogs allow to conduct communicative acts that otherwise would only be possible in very particular circumstances.

The whole paper is really worth a read and I will come back to it.

Blogging as new journalism

AndrewSullivan was one of the first mainstream journalists to relaunch himself as a blogger. This is an interesting comment from a 2002 essay.

Bloggers are perhaps among the first writers to have the medium direct them rather than the other way round. Most non-blogger web journalism is still a little like television in the 1950s. To begin with, television simply plonked radio show formats on the air, before they figured out what the new medium could do best. What many magazines and newspapers now do online is somewhat similar: they just put on a screen a pixilated version of what they already do on paper. But what bloggers do is completely new – and cannot be replicated on any other medium. It’s somewhere in between writing a column and talk radio. It’s genuinely new. And it harnesses the web’s real genius – its ability to empower anyone to do what only a few in the past could genuinely pull off. In that sense, blogging is the first journalistic model that actually harnesses rather than merely exploits the true democratic nature of the web.

Web poaching: an approach to learning

My experience with this blog has led me back to some reflections on approaches to learning. The reigning deep versus surface paradigm worries me for several reasons.

Firstly I don’t like the essentialism inherent in the metaphors. It sounds too much like saying: good and bad learning or real and false learning. Similarly dividing approaches to learning up into two competing paradigms buys into the type of dichotomous thinking that leads to what these critics themselves would label “surface” learning. I know the research is pretty buoyant across studies but with the broad sweep of their terms I suspect it might be a case of seek and ye shall find. But thats another story…

I think a range of other terms used in tandem and in combination provide a richer way forward: connected learning, interactive learning, meaning-making approaches, focused learning, rote learning, memorisation, atomistic learning, assessment-focused learning etc.

In a simple sense blogging could be seen as encouraging a “surface” approach to learning, in that it entails fast skating across the surface of the web. And there is a sense in which it is still not regarded as a serious learning project by many for this very reason. However my recent experience would suggest that it can provide a very focused, meaning-mapping experience of learning.

1. It is continuous and cumulative – the blogger commits to post over a period of time.

2. It is transparent – it is not committing to get it right all at once.

3. It is reflective.

4. With linking as its heart and soul it creates networks of connected ideas – it is focused but interdisciplinary.

5. It creates a learning environment – the sidebars create a context for continuing expansion of the project

6 It is interactive and invites commentary from others.

7. It creates subjective and personalised maps of meaning but always measures these against the work of others.

If I had to choose some kind of metaphor for this approach to learning I might use Michel de Certeau’s notion of the reader as a nomadic “poacher” (Practices of Everyday Life: 174). gathering up meaning from the fields of others. Interestingly in this analogy de Certeau is contrasting “accumulative” writing with the more fluid process of reading.

Writing accumulates, stocks up, resists time by the establishment of a place and multiplies its production through the expansionism of reproduction. Reading takes no measures against the erosion of time (one forgets oneself and also forgets), it does not keep what it acquires, or it does so poorly, and each of the places through which it passes is a repetition of the lost paradise.

In a way blogging brings together these economies of reading and writing.

Staying up way too late as a research method

I got quite carried away with this project, chasing down leads on blogging and ended up leap frogging from one site to another into the early hours of the morning.

It’s an interesting but cautionary tale. We all know how easy it is to get lost in either our email or web-surfing, I suspect blogging can become an extreme version of that. But at another level it has left my head buzzing with a range of interesting ideas and practical leads.

In this post I’ll give an idea of the range of thought and practices that I came across. I will use some of this for more detailed reflection later.

I discovered that academic blogging is a very hot issue at the moment and that there are many very different approaches to academic blogging.

First there are the personal blogg journals of individual academics. There’s an interesting list of some of these here.

Here’s an excerpt from Professor Dyke who describes her blogg this way: “A Writer and Professor Talks Smack About Writing, Publishing, Teaching, Misadventures on the Tenure Track, and the Perils of Being the Only Single, Non-Student Dyke in Smalltown-Collegeville (a.k.a. Bumfuck-Egypt) U.S.A.” As you might imagine from that its a quirky take on everyday life. Here’s a recent taste:

Was one of those days where I came home thinking: I love my job! I love my students! I love teaching! I’m a good teacher! In fact, I’m an all-around good doobie , now that I think about it!! Of course, there’s always those days where things just seem off, your students appear to be bored shitless, you feel awkward and inarticulate and uninspiring, and you just want to go home and crawl under the Bad Professor Rock and never ever enter the classroom again because you suck, you suck, you SUCK !! But then there are days like yesterday which always remind me how much I like doing what I do.

. . . it was like butter !!! My undergraduate workshop was talkative and engaged, and the period flew by like nothing. And then, in my night graduate seminar, the discourse was lively, very intense, intelligent, and fun !!! “Thanks, I enjoyed it!” one student said on the way out of the classroom. “Great class!” said another student as she exited. “Class was absolutely great!” wrote yet another student in an e-mail.

And so today, I now feel thrilled and exhilarated, in an arms-spread, bow-of-the-ship, Leonardo DiCaprio-esque, King-of-the-World(!) kind of way!!

It’s simple reflection that, as academics, we can all relate to.

Interesting aside: I guess I was drawn to this blogg in the list I came across because it was detailing the experiences of a fellow gay academic. So bloggs can link academics with particular academic identities whether these are disciplinary identities or broader identities around, race, faith, sexuality or gender. Or academics at different stages of development. But the initial link is not enough, once I got there I also responded on a personal level to her quirky style. Lots of questions to unpack here.

Another fascinating set of bloggs are the well established blogg communities that play host to groups of academics who share a similar world view or who are interested in a set of disciplinary ideas. Two reall good ones are Crooked Timber and Kairosnews.

Both have lively discussions. Crooked Timber has an extensive list of academic blogs in a wide range of disciplines. Kairosnews is “A Weblog for Discussing Rhetoric, Technology & Pedagogy” and is particularly interested in how to use the web/blogs for the teaching of writing.

Kairosnews arose out of Kairos Journal which is a refereed online journal devoted to the same topics. The current issue has a fascinating article: “When Blogging Goes Bad: A Cautionary Tale About Blogs, Email Lists, Discussion, and Interaction

Steven Krause details a bad experience of trying to get writing students to blogg. He questions whether email lists are a better more direct way of encouraging collaborative discussion amongst course members. Here’s a taste of some of his ideas:

Blogs, on the other hand, do not foster this sort of dynamic discussion as well. The jury is still out, of course– blogs are still quite new, and as I hope I’ve made clear, my classes’ failure with blogs had as much to do with my poor structure of the assignment as it had to do with the technology itself.

Nonetheless, while blogs are interactive and dynamic texts in the sense that there is a dialog between bloggers and their texts, the dialog is not the literal sort that is fostered and promoted by email exchanges. Email posts to mailing lists are drafts or works in progress, they are conversational in their direction toward an audience, and more often than not, they demand a literal response. Blog posts are more finished, are more personal in that the audience is the writer as much as it is a potential reader, and while readers might “respond” in some sort of metaphoric way, they are not as likely to write a direct response to the writer. …Finally, to the extent that collaboration is fostered by the “interaction” and “discussion” characterized by the exchange of ideas and the give and take of a group of writers, I think that email offers a much better opportunity for collaborative writing. After all, blogs are in their most basic sense electronic journals; more often in not, they are spaces for publishing highly individualistic writing. …

If you have a piece of writing that you want to “deliver” or “publish” as a more or less finished text, put it on a blog. If you have something to say to a particular audience in order to enter into a discussion with them, put it on a mailing list.

This article generated a lot of discussion and some good ideas on the Kairosnews blog.

One of the interesting aspects of this discussion was that I stumbled across references to different technologies for building and managing blogs. A number of the contributors to the discussion about Krause’s article made the point that certain blogg formats are set up to encourage collaboration and community whereas most of the free online stuff like blogger.com do not do this very well.

One of the Kairos regulars has a site devoted to a blogging/content management system software called Durpal which he has preconfigured into a set of “skins” that can be downloaded and used for classes. He has designed them for writing courses. Like a lot of this stuff it is all freeware.

I even came across an interesting discussion about whether academic blogging should be counted as a publication for promotion purposes.

In response to a quip in a law professor’s blog, wondering whether his dean would give him credit for his blogging, a dean from another university posted a fascinating and detailed response that concluded:

Bottom line: While no replacement for writing articles and books, and no one is going to get tenured or promoted through blogging (at least not today); but what I’ve called a serious blogger would get a big plus on the positive side on the ledger from me when it gets to merit review time! Failing to reward it would be failing to recognize that blogging is not just another new communication medium; it is a new way to do scholarship.

Metablognition

A participant in a recent conference on blogging and education coined the term metablognition to describe a new educational paradigm for blogging:

I selected the term metablognition for this course because I like to think about weblogs as another layer of thinking for teachers and students. There are class discussions, private conferences and conversations, interactions with all types of texts, response journals, all sorts of formal and informal writing assignments that take place in the classroom. What if we were to consider the blog as another part of our classroom brain, another lobe where different elements of our learning and teaching are synthesized, questioned, rejected, combined, altered etc.? Think of it as a digital zone of proximal development. Bruning coined the term metacognition to describe the knowledge that people have about their own thought processes. If we value our students understanding of themselves as readers, writers, historians, scientists, mathematicians and citizens of the world, I think we have to find real, structured places and moments for them to step aside from the daily work of learning to get a larger perspective. And, even more importantly, we need a space where students and teachers can lable those perspectives with words and images. Since blogs are asynchronous, and easily accessible and transformable, they are the best avenue that I’ve seen for this sort of awareness to develop in classrooms. How many times do you drive, or walk home from school and for a brief fleeting moment you think you have it all figured out, something has happened in the classroom that was truly wonderful, and you sort of float for bit, reveling in the joy of doing something well. For me, unless I talked to a colleague, or wrote an email message, or jotted something in my journal, that moment was gone forever, swallowed by the other zillion concerns about grades, absences, floppy disks and the little blue squares in the lesson plan book. And, as I’m finding at this very moment, technology has brought us a fairly simple tool to hold on to those moments.

Blogging form and content

Stephen Downes and the many bloggers and educators he quotes in his excellent recent article Educational Blogging confirms and extends my thinking on blogging.

What I love about blogging as both a reader and writer is the linking process. It creates a rich depth of ideas that is almost endless. Meg Hourihan quoted in Downes’ piece helped me think about this in a slightly different way when she talks about this as “distributed conversation.” One of the weblog’s characteristics is both that this conversation is distributed across a community of readers in tag team but also it is distributed across posts in each blog. Blogging is a cumulative conversation that may begin with a link in one post and then be developed a couple of days later and then developed further after others have made comments.

Both Downes and Hourihan emphasise that the blogging provides a format and a process not just a type of content. Blogging is not just online writing.

As another one of Downes’ sources, Will Richardson, writes:

Blogging starts with reading. It’s easy (at least for me) to forget that sometimes. I know that I’ve articulated the blogging process in that way many times before, but it still does seem very writing centered to me. But as Ken accurately points out, “blogging, at base, is writing down what you think when you read others.” And maybe that explains the disconnect I’ve been feeling between the act and the tool of late. The tool requires writing. (There is no blog without writing.) The act requires reading. (There is no blogging without reading.) Without reading, you’re just writing, not blogging, and that’s a pretty heady distinction (at least in this head.) And that really does change the expectations we have of our students, I think. They can use a Weblog to write, but in a different way they can also use it to blog, and in doing so they can develop an important skill that is not as easily taught with pen and paper or even the Internet and a word processor.

Ken Smith who is part of both Richardson and Downes’ blog conversation grounds what this conception of blogging might mean for educators:

And maybe that means that links are vital for new bloggers for a completely non-constructive reason. Instead of assigning students to go write, we should assign them to go read and then link to what interests them and write about why it does and what it means, not in order to make a connection or build social capital but because it is through quality linking (not the flaccid A-list stuff I spoofed above) that one first comes in contact with the essential acts of blogging: close reading and interpretation. Blogging, at base, is writing down what you think when you read others. If you keep at it, others will eventually write down what they think when they read you, and you’ll enter a new realm of blogging, a new realm of human connection.