Yet again, I’m finding it difficult to maintain a regular writing habit because I’m struggling with releasing ideas before they are entirely formed. I suppose this is the obvious tension for traditional academics for whom the publication process has been a rigorous and long-winded affair in which ideas are gradually honed down to being the next step in a logical progression, or if they are too divergent, become embedded in a cocoon of qualifiers to ensure the mainstream has time to accommodate a shift in direction. Traditional published ideas already have a stamp of approval from a subset of academic peers.
Writing regular opinion pieces in a blog is really a bit more like a seminar series of the sort that I remember from 15 – 20 years ago, where discussion was robust and every concept was open to examination by a passing parade of academic colleagues, many of whom were outside of the specific area of research, and some of whom were expert in the areas immediately adjacent to the topic under discussion. Although for the most part, the atmosphere was collegial before and after presentations, during the actual seminar itself, it would be rare to hold back on contesting the contestable.
The difference I see between a seminar and a blog piece is probably timeframe and longevity – a seminar is restricted in time and location, and participants need to be able to react and interact in real time. In contrast, a blog piece might be stream-of-consciousness, but reaction to it might be prepared in meticulous detail giving an unfair balance to the argument. The lack of contextual information on the type or timeframe of a blog article / commentary leaves me feeling more vulnerable and exposed by a blog article than I would in a F2F situation with similarly constructed material.
Then again, the attraction of blogging is the fact that high quality generalist F2F academic interaction seems to be becoming rarer, especially in the cross-disciplinary domain, but I want to ensure that my ideas are still available for peer review in some form. To be honest, I’m not quite sure who my appropriate peer group is in the mix of cross-disciplinary genres that is emerging as my current “voice”.
My other ongoing problem is deciding where to write things. It is increasingly a problem for me that I work as an academic in a faculty academic support area. Although I am employed as an academic and am therefore expected to have expert academic opinions, my academic views are often at odds with the service policies of my faculty / university. I am less and less confident that dissenting views are well-tolerated in corporatised academia and if my academic expert opinion is at odds with current policy, it is more likely that expression of my opinion will be construed as subversive rather than as my academic obligation to share my expertise.
As a result, I have four blog sites – my work blog, my edublogs-hosted blog, my personal blog and my taekwon-do blog, and increasingly I am tempted to write things on my personal blog to ensure that I am not offending anyone (or more accurately, if I am offending anyone, I’m not doing it in their workplace). Interestingly, the content of my taekwon-do blog (now replicated on my personal blog) is probably the most relevant and informative with respect to my expertise in pedagogy, cognitive science and principles of teaching and learning, and most of the stimulating ideas have come from watching a committed, passionate martial artist teach the mental, physical and ethical components of his discipline to students from 5 – 50+ in a way that is accessible to all of them. This is true cross-disciplinary cross fertilisation of ideas.