Why We Blog, Part 1 of 4: The gnovis Blog, Past and Future

It’s been just over a year since I wrote the very first gnovis blog entry, "Making the Case for a gnovis Blog," in which I argued that academic blogging offers, for both readers and writers, an opportunity to narrow the gap between pure critical theory and contemporary "real world" issues. While I’ll still happily defend that particular argument, my own views on academic blogging have become considerably more nuanced.

This post is the first in a series of four, exploring "Why We Blog." Over the next two weeks, you’ll hear from each member of our New Media team – Margarita Rayzberg, Jed Brubaker, and Trish Fancher. In addition to introducing themselves, they’ll each present their own opinions on the value (and pitfalls) of academic blogging.

For my own part, the greatest flaw in my reasoning a year ago was my atomization of participants into readers and writers. Blogs are inherently participatory and discursive, and the line between readers and writers is fuzzy at best. Whether commenting directly or responding in another post (onsite or offsite), every blog reader is a potential contributor, and the quality of a blog is immeasurably enhanced by their participation.

Whether commenting directly or responding in another post … every blog reader is a potential contributor, and the quality of a blog is immeasurably enhanced by their participation.

This was, unfortunately, an area of weakness during gnovis’ first year of blogging. We posted to our blog 80 times last year, but those posts received only 51 comments, and more than half of those came from our own staff.

That’s hardly the rich intellectual discourse we had hoped for.

In part, we were limited by insufficient staffing — the blog was always a second priority for our editorial staff — but we also failed to fully embrace the discursive quality of the blogosphere, to engage with existing blogging communities, and to build a community of our own. We were posting, whenever we found the time, but we weren’t really starting conversations.

Over the next year, all of this will change. With a talented and dedicated three member New Media team, you’ll see not only an increased number of posts with more refined and consistent voices, but you’ll also see a sustained effort, online and offline, to engage with our readers, with other CCT bloggers, and with the greater blogosphere.

Working with gnovis’ peer-reviewed journal, I’ve come to appreciate the private discourse that takes place between authors and reviewers. The peer-review process doesn’t simply tighten up a paper in preparation for publication — it is also a moment of scholarly growth for both parties, as they are forced to confront the limits and holes in their intellectual experience, and resolve the weaknesses in their arguments.

My hope, for the next year, is to see that same quality emerge on our blog, such that it becomes a place that is not for simply posting ideas, but instead a place to explore, develop, and interrogate ideas. My hope is that it will propel the discourse, instead of merely chronicling it.

I look forward to the coming posts from my gnovis colleagues but, even more, I look forward to the comments that they provoke.

Brad Weikel

Brad Weikel received his MA in Communication, Culture & Technology (CCT) from Georgetown University in 2009. His thesis, "From Coding to Community: Iteration, Abstraction, and Open Source Software Development" argued that programming practices, particularly iterative workflows and abstraction models, can help explain both the success and struggles of open source software. His work was a technocentric complement to prior explanations from economists, lawyers, and political and cultural theorists. While writing his thesis, Brad blogged about his topic at OpenCulture.cc, where he has since continued blogging, more broudly, about collaborative production and the commons at large. Brad was Managing Editor of gnovis during the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 school years, and Creative Director in 2006/2007. He is currently the Web & Communications Coordinator for EarthRights International.