Tag Archives: blogging

Work Product Blog

Matt Wilkens, post-doctoral fellow at Rice’s Humanities Research Center, recently launched Work Product, a blog that chronicles his research in digital humanities, contemporary fiction, and literary theory.  Matt details how he is working through the challenges he faces as he tries to analyze the relationship between allegory and revolution by using text mining, such as:
•    Where and how to get large literary corpora. Matt looks at how much content is available through Project Gutenberg, Open Content Alliance, Google Books, and  Hathi Trust and  how difficult it is to access
•    Evaluating Part of Speech taggers, with information about speed and accuracy

I think that other researchers working on text mining projects will benefit from Matt’s careful documentation of his process.

By the way, Matt’s blog can be thought of as part of the movement called “open notebook science,” which Jean Claude Bradley defines as “a laboratory notebook… that is freely available and indexed on common search engines.”  Other humanities and social sciences blogs that are likewise ongoing explorations of particular research projects include Wesley Raabe’s blog, Another Anthro Blog, and Erkan’s Field Diary.  (Please alert me to others!)

Why blog?

Now it’s time to blog about… blogging. It’s a popular topic in blogs, mentioned between 1000 and 6000ish times per day in blogs indexed by Technorati.

English posts that contain Blogging per day for the last 30 days:

Technorati Chart

But how many blogs are actually read? According to Derek Gordon, Technorati’s vice president for marketing, over 99% of all blogs get no hits at all. No hits. Of course, some blogs–technology-focused blogs such as Engadget, political blogs such as the Huffington Post, quirky blogs such as Boing Boing, celeb gossip blogs such as TMZ, makin’-money blogs such as Blog Tips to Help You Make Money Blogging ProBlogger–claim thousands of readers and exercise a powerful cultural influence, at least as measured by Technorati’s authority index. I don’t think that any academic blogs currently rank in the Technorati top 100, but the CASCADES project at Carnegie Mellon does include several blogs by academics (faculty, librarians, researchers) in its Top 100 blogs for unit cost case and population affected objective function. The study’s title indicates how abstruse its formula is for generating the ranking (it seems to be based on number of links to and from the blog), and, as Bora Zivkovic notes, the analysis is based on old data. Still, I was heartened to see that several blogs by academics were included in the Top 100, including ahistoricality, The Volokh Conspiracy, Science Blogs and See Also. Examples of lively group academic blogs include PEA Soup (Philosophy, Ethics and Academia) and Cliopatria; MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program even highlights blog entries by its members on its home page.

As an avid reader of blogs (mainly focused on librarianship, digital humanities, and new technologies to make academics productive, like by reading more blog entries), I believe that blogging is an appropriate medium for academics. Granted, the only peer review comes through the comments that readers leave, and entries typically lack the polish and formality of an academic essay. Still, to rehearse by-now familiar arguments, blogging allows scholars to share cutting-edge research and to engage the community in discussion. I find that I typically have more “a-ha” moments when I read blogs than when I read other academic publications–perhaps because the shorter form of the blog is easier to digest (especially for someone like me, whose attention span has, I fear, been reduced by hopscotching from link to link), but also because blogs push out new information so quickly and enable commenting and linking.

So why am I blogging? In a sense, I regard blogging as a sort of virtual dissertation group. I finished my dissertation in large part because of the support of my diss group. Thanks to the group, I had deadlines, regular feedback on my work, and a community that was invested in me finishing. I hope that blogging will be a sort of virtual dissertation group–that is, I hope that blogging will force me to write often and express myself coherently, and that I will exchange ideas with and learn from other folks interested in digital humanities, book history, American literature and culture, etc. Since I am studying digital scholarship by attempting to do digital scholarship, I figure I should experiment with blogging, an important mode of digital discourse–and, in some cases, a form of digital scholarship. I want to make my research process transparent and reflect on the different tools, collections, and methods I’m using, and blogging seems like the best medium for frequent, open reflection. Of course, I also hope to contribute to the conversation about digital scholarship. I plan to re-work some of the ideas put forward in this blog in longer publications.