Blogging the City: Research, Collaboration, and Engagement in Urban E-Planning. Critical Notes from a Conference

Blogging the City: Research, Collaboration, and Engagement in Urban E-Planning. Critical Notes from a Conference

Pierre Clavel, Kenneth Fox, Christopher Leo, Anabel Quan-Hasse, Dean Saitta, LaDale Winling
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/ijepr.2015010104
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Academic blogging has typically been a form of digital scholarship that is under-utilized in academia. Although there are both costs and benefits to blogging at different stages in an academic's career, blogs can provide a rewarding platform for bringing research and academic perspectives to a wide-reaching and broader audience. This note explores the different experiences of each of the co-authors in terms of using blogs for their scholarly communication. The experiences and lessons gained are of particular relevance to urban planners, sociologists, and anthropologists, who study the social, economic, and historical elements of the city. The findings suggest that the motivations and approaches of scholarly blogging are diverse but overall add value to the academic community. Moreover, each testimony in this note provides examples of the benefits of blogging for research, collaboration, and engagement.
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Social media have transformed how scholars in all disciplines share ideas, consult and collaborate with colleagues, and disseminate their research findings (Bonetta, 2007; Quan-Haase, 2012). Not all academics, however, are embracing the move toward digital communication with the same enthusiasm. Some argue that established, traditional means of publishing—via print books or journals—are more meaningful and allow for better quality control than digital counterparts (Hurt & Yin, 2006).

Despite these criticisms many academics are utilizing social media for connecting with collaborators and students, discussing important topics, obtaining feedback, and disseminating their research findings. In a widely cited blog Dave Parry, Chair of Communication and Digital Media at Saint Joseph’s University, argues that social media has become an essential part of scholarship “[n]ot because social media is the only way to do digital scholarship, but because…social media is the only way to do scholarship period” (Parry, 2010, para. 14). This opinion is widely shared by social media advocates. They see these tools as playing a central role in their scholarly practice—not only as a means to connect to other scholars but, rather, as a means of “networking across sectors throughout the entire research process” (Sprain, Endres, & Petersen, 2010, p. 443).

There is no single definition of the term social media. A wide range of different tools are aggregated under its rubric, including microblogging, blogs, social networking sites, and video sharing and streaming websites (Hogan and Quan-Haase, 2010). Despite this proliferation in social media tools, blogs have perhaps played the most central role in scholarly practice. Most scholarly writing on academic blogs notes that academic blogging is a distinctly different form of communication than traditional academic writing. For instance, blogging historian Juan Cole (2011, p. 666) writes:

I consider blogging to be a genre of writing, which can be endowed with academic attributes, even if it is not like the genre of the academic article. A blog entry is intended to intervene in a debate raging in the blogosphere, and it is best if it is dashed off quickly, incorporating as much original thinking and analysis as possible, and based on the best information, given the constraints of immediacy.

One of the most comprehensive reports on blogging, conducted by Nielsen Reports in 2011, shows that there are more than 181 million blogs on the Internet (Nielsen Online Reports, 2012). The same study estimates that 6.7 million users publish blogs on blogging platforms and another 12 million publish blogs on social media platforms (Nielsen, 2012). While blogging has often been dismissed as a pastime activity for teens, in recent years this perception has certainly changed. A report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, & Zickuhr, 2010) shows that between 2006 and 2010, blogging has moved away from being a medium primarily utilized by teens for self-expression toward a tool for exchanging credible, accurate, and current information among all age groups (Scale & Quan-Haase, in press).

Moreover, academic blogging is distinct from other kinds of blogging. While the content of academic blogs varies from discipline to discipline, three common benefits can be seen across academic blogging as a whole. These are (1) interactive communication; (2) timeliness and personal tone; and (3) broad dissemination of research results.

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