Category Archives: Writing

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A Guide to Blogging for Academics

Blogging can be a great way to find a broader audience for your academic research. Moving research out of the ivory tower and into the public sphere has the potential to address some of the most pressing social problems.  In the words Patrick Dunleavy and Chris Gilson of the London School of Economics, “Blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now.”

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                               Image by Chris Lysy FreshSpectrum

On the fourth anniversary of my blog,  Sociology Source, I want to share some of what I’ve learned about making research in my field of sociology accessible to a broad, public audience. Throughout my teaching, my work on Sociology In Focus, and the one-off projects like the “Doing Nothing” video, I’ve been developing my skills at communicating highly complex ideas using language that most people without specialized training in sociology could easily understand. The guidelines that follow are designed to help your scholarly work find it’s largest audience.

1. Talk to Me: Acknowledge the Reader.

EXAMPLE: Many scholars today argue that when sharing your ideas with your audience the use of the third grammatical person places distance between the two parties whereas employing the first and second person delivers a reading experience that is superior in it’s intimacy with the reader.

  • Write as if your reader is in the room with you.
  • Show don’t tell. Don’t be afraid to slip into a narrative to allow your reader to experience the event first hand.

2. Just Say It: Don’t lead with a disclaimer or qualifier.

EXAMPLE: I don’t want you to read this and think I am trying to be mean. I’m also not trying to say that this applies to all forms of writing. As I said above, these are just my opinions.

  • Your first sentence exists to entice the reader to read the second sentence. Your first paragraph’s job is to intrigue your reader so they are compelled to read the second. And so on and so on.

images-1                                                   (Image Source)

3. K.I.S.S. : Keep it Simple Scholar

EXAMPLE: Academic writers who use jargon and esoteric language are often preoccupied with communicating their cultural capital to their peers and because of this they sacrifice what could be a learning opportunity for a lay audience.

  • Mercilessly destroy jargon. If you absolutely have to use a piece of jargon, don’t just define the term. Introduce the term to your reader using an anecdote or other illustrative tool.
  • The greater the pre-requisite amount of education a reader must have to understand your reading, the smaller your audience will be and the smaller your impact will be.

4. Get in & Get Out.

  • Keep it succinct. If possible, keep any blog post to less than 500 words.
  • Oh the hypocrisy! This blog post is 790 words long!

5. No, It’s Not All Important

  • Only present the reader with information that is essential for them to understand your larger points. “Kill your darlings” as the saying goes. Delete non-essential information.
  • As an academic, you have an expert’s mind, so to you it’s all essential. Try to remember back to when you were a novice to your subject and how you saw your subject as a beginner. Then, write to answer the questions of the reader with a beginners mind.

6. If You Have Something to Say, Say It

  • Say something compelling, intriguing, challenging, inspiring, evocative, poignant, or otherwise interesting.
  • If what you write is something that you sincerely believe and something that empirical research can back up, then take the risk and hit publish.

7. Don’t Let Perfection Be The Enemy of The Good

  • Focus on clearly communicating your ideas. It’s more important that you share your ideas with the world than it is to make sure your writing is 100% error free. Get in the public arena and mix it up with people.
  • Your writing isn’t etched in stone. Remember that unlike print, you can immediately change errors as your readers point them out to you.

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                                                      (image source)

8. Scholarly Writing vs. Public Writing

Not every scholarly publication needs to be written so that a the general public can read it. There is value in scholars writing for peers in academic journals in ways that are highly technical and complex. However, as academics we need to cultivate a community of scholars that are highly skilled in communicating esoteric research into texts that can be read by a general audience.

You can download my full Guide to Writing Online here. For more tips on academic blogging (and some terrific drawings), see the Illustrated Blogging Advice for Researchers, created by Chris Lysy.

Happy blogging!

PalmerPic_350-331~ This post was written by Nathan Palmer, a sociologist at Georgia Southern University and founder of the blog SociologySource.org. You can follow him on Twitter @SociologySource.

 

Illustrated Blogging Advice for Researchers

I really think that you should blog. That whatever is getting in your way, you should shove it aside and just write something.

But let’s be honest, my advice is insufficient. As my last couple of posts went up I could just picture some of you saying, “well sure, it’s easy for you, you draw cartoons.”

So I sought out a little help (or rather, a lot of help). Today’s post features expertise from (and cartoons inspired by)…

  • Seth Godin (sethgodin.typepad.com)
  • Beth Kanter (bethkanter.org)
  • Henry Jenkins (henryjenkins.org)
  • Robert Kosara (eagereyes.org)
  • Jessie Daniels (racismreview.com/blog)
  • Nathan Yau (flowingdata.com)
  • Lisa Wade (thesocietypages.org/socimages)
  • Ewen Le Borgne (km4meu.wordpress.com)
  • Tom Murphy (aviewfromthecave.com)
  • David Henderson (fullcontactphilanthropy.com)
  • Jane Davidson (genuineevaluation.com)
  • Molly Engle (blogs.oregonstate.edu/programevaluation)
  • Jara Dean-Coffey (jcdpartnerships.com/towhatend)
  • Bonnie Koenig (goinginternational.com/blog)
  • Stephanie Evergreen (stephanieevergreen.com/blog)
  • Karen Anderson (ontopoftheboxeval.wordpress.com)
  • Pablo Rodriguez-Bilella (albordedelchaos.com)
  • Chi Yan Lam (chiyanlam.com)
  • Ann Emery (emeryevaluation.com)
  • Sheila B Robinson (sheilabrobinson.com)
  • Molly Hamm (mollyhamm.wordpress.com)
  • Jamie Clearfield (jclearfield.wordpress.com)

The Questions

I asked two questions, other than the slightly leading nature of the questions (woops, I’ll do better next time), I provided no direction on response length or style, so the responses varied greatly.

1. What’s been your biggest blogging challenge (finding the time, picking good topics, the technology, etc.)?

2. What piece of advice would you give (or have already given) to an evaluator or researcher interested in starting a blog?

Advice and challenges change over time, so it was important to me to reach out to bloggers with a wide range of experience. This post would not exist without the expert help. I’ve thanked each blogger, but if you get anything out of their advice, please send them your own appreciation.

***

A little admin before we get started…I’ve been considering putting together an online workshop on blogging for evaluators and researchers.

The basic approach would involve walking through content development, helping you set up the technology, and talking about strategies for reaching an audience. The workshop would take place on the web and include video tutorials and practical lessons.

I would want to do it right, so this would take a lot of work on my part, and I’ll only set this up if there is enough interest. So if you are interested, sign up here to let me know.

Jamie Clearfield

On challenges

I’d say the biggest challenge for me is actually hitting the publish button. Getting an idea that I think is worth writing about is challenging for sure – but I think the bigger issue is believing in the idea enough to actually put it out on the web. The first blog post sat as a draft for a bit and finally it was a “rip the band-aid off” moment…

Hit the damn publish button

Advice

I think the best advice I’ve gotten and would give is to just keep things simple and believe – believe in your ideas and experiences and that there are people who are reading. Don’t over think things too much and have fun.

Jamie Clearfield Advice

Molly Hamm

On challenges

Biggest blogging challenge: Keeping up with all of the information from other bloggers in the field while finding time to create your own contributions. I find that it can be easy to get so involved in following other conversations that you forget to add your own two cents! So you may feel as though you are actively participating in blogging and other e-communities while your own blog sits in silence (yes, I need to update my blog!)

Embarrassing story, blog journal

Advice

Create a regular schedule for blogging and stick to it. This is something that I really need to work on, but I think it’s important to set a realistic writing goal for your blog (number of posts per week, month, etc.) and then reserve a specific day/time per week/month where you commit to writing on a regular basis. This will ensure that you take the time to gather your thoughts and put them out into the blogosphere.

Also it’s useful to have handy a notepad (tdigital or Post-it!) to jot down inspiration/ideas when they hit. Especially useful to write down ideas as you’re sifting through other blog posts, tweets, reports, websites, e-learning, etc. This allows you to constantly use available information to inform your own writing (reading with a purpose that is actually connected to your blog!)

Molly Hamm Advice

Sheila B Robinson

On challenges

My biggest challenge is content. I have lots of ideas that spring to mind, but my challenges lie in:

a.) having enough “meat” to go along with an initial idea to flesh it out and write something I think will be relevant, interesting, helpful or useful to someone, and

b.) having the confidence to put it out there – I hold back sometimes thinking about the fact that lots of people are blogging about similar ideas (after all, the “hot topics” are of interest to lots of us), and wondering if I have enough of an original spin on something to create a viable post.

Blog diet program

Advice

I would give someone the same advice I received (from someone you know VERY well!) [ed. note: she’s talking about me :) ]

a.) Just do it! You have virtually nothing to lose. I overcame the concerns about “what if I won’t have enough time or enough content, or enough visitors,” etc. by coming to terms with the fact that if I write something, there it is and it’s fine.

If I don’t have time or content, I simply don’t post. If the blog goes by the wayside and I decide to move on to other projects, I’m OK with that. Holding myself to a weekly schedule didn’t work for me for very long after all, and I’m OK with that. It may very well work for others, so I would advise them to try a schedule and see how it goes.

Blogging is somewhat like dieting – you may have to try different strategies; some may work for a short time, or a long time, or not at all, and you have to be willing to change your strategies based on your results. And your expected results are unique to you. Some people diet to lost weight, some to alleviate a health problem, some to feel better. Some people blog for fun and because they enjoy writing; others do it to build a reputation or clientele, or to sell their products.

b.) Some posts will be more interesting and receive more traffic than others, and so be it. Whether you’re Seth Godin, or Sheila Robinson, traffic will ebb and flow and I’ve learned that that is not what it’s all about for me.

Sure, it’s fun to watch the numbers and I get excited when I get more traffic and people are paying attention to my work. Who wouldn’t? But neither am I crushed when a post fails to generate much interest. It’s all fun for me, and the evaluator in me finds it interesting to look at my data and think about what people like and want to read. But I have nothing to sell right now, so my goals may be different from some others.

Sheila Robinson Advice

Ann Emery

On challenges

At first: Nor having anything to write about.

Now: Having way too much to write about.

Live Blogging a Meeting

Advice

Include an image with every post. Images make your content more share-able (aka a mini version of your image will show up when you and others link to your post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, etc.)… which means more views and more appealing, interesting posts.

Get creative. Avoid those generic stock images. Go for screenshots, photos you took yourself, videos, sketches, and cartoons.

Ann Emery

Chi Yan Lam

On challenges

My biggest blogging challenge… probably has to do with finding the time. It takes a real commitment to sit down and produce something of a ‘blah’ quality, let alone something of a ‘wow’ quality. It’s challenging because blogging isn’t particularly accorded any value within academia. (Can it really go no my CV? No.)

I wrote this post for you

Advice

1) I kept a blog for more than a year before gaining any traction. The turning point for me was when I started the 5×52 project. I let go of the idea that I had to write full-length scholarly ‘high-quality’ posts.

I realized that the blog could be a space for my thinking. Instead of insisting on writing for an audience, I wrote for myself. I guess what this boils down to is this: Blogging is simply a platform. There are many successful models of blogging. The important thing is to make blogging goals consistent with one’s goals. Don’t Emulate. Create.

2). I really buy into the whole concept of digitals scholarship. It starts with the belief that no research is good unless communicated. Building on that, I believe that all academics/researchers should engage in knowledge dissemination. For a practical field like ours, it makes sense to engage in digital scholarship — blogging, tweeting, etc…

Chi Yan Lam

Pablo Rodriguez-Bilella

On challenges

Being regular and constant has been my biggest blogging challenge. Some (good) months I can write two or three times what I write in others (bad months). I have also tried to have at least a “light post” each week (smartly call “Viernes Light”), but the issue of regularity has also been present there.

I cannot say that I can´t find good topics to pick, usually the problem has been that there are several good topics I would like to write about them.

I was spam

Advice

Writing a post is usually lot of work, but don´t forget to let the world know about it! You should become a good friend of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and find the smartest way to post in each of them.

For instance, in LinkedIn you should carefully select the groups more appropriate for your topics, and be careful to not spam every group with your messages (you will receive some warnings before being expelled for not following the etiquette).

Pablo Rodriguez-Bella Advice

Karen Anderson (ontopoftheboxeval.wordpress.com)

On challenges

I’ve been blogging for a couple years now and I’d say the fire burns out for me at times and I can’t think of anything fresh or relevant.

Blogger's Block

Advice

Don’t start, it becomes quite the addiction. (lol)
look outside of evaluation for inspiration and tips…places like problogger.
Make efforts to engage and partner with bloggers online and offline.
Consitency is king
Find a niche…quick, you don’t want people guessing what they’ll get from you all the time.
Subscribe and comment on other Eval blogs
Have a larger purpose for your blog, what mark do you want to make, what’s the ‘end goal’?

Karen Anderson Advice

Stephanie Evergreen

On challenges

Opening myself to criticism. Blogging was originally just an outlet for me but as it grew and got attention I realized the world includes people who like to argue and Internet trolls.

Troll Armor

Advice

Choose topics you want to learn more about and use the blog as an excuse to bone up on your skills or knowledge a bit.

Stephanie Evergreen Advice

Bonnie Koenig

On challenges

I haven’t had any particular blogging challenges. Perhaps because I came ‘late to blogging’ compared to many of my colleagues and friends, I asked for a lot of advice before I started blogging and mostly knew what to expect (and perhaps challenges to anticipate).

Heed my words

Advice

Blog when you have something useful to share – don’t be bound by specific timelines and feeling like you ‘have to write something’.

Bonnie Koenig Advice

Jara Dean-Coffey

On challenges

I think it is probably two things:

1) Finding a concentrated amount of time (at 2 to 3 hours) to focus in on a topic and then move in to writing a strong enough drive that requires no more than 30 minutes to refine, and

2) Creating a range of voices that speak to our approach, our experiences and reflections that resonate with a variety of audiences and which compel others to take risks, have confidence in their inherent knowing and to strengthen their intentionality.

There it is behind the couch

Advice

Spend some time looking at other people’s blogs and the blogs they read. Find ones that speak to you in terms of perspective and tone.

Ask yourself a few questions (I have a couple worksheets) such as:
a) why do I want to write,
b) what do I want to write about,
c) who is my audience and what interests them,
d) what is my perspective/voice (expert, trainer, synthesizer….) ..etc.

And now, just write. Make yourself a schedule and commit. It doesn’t get any easier unless you practice. Oh, and part of the value I find in blogging is disciplined reflection on my own practice.

Jara Dean-Coffey

Molly Engle

On challenges

My biggest blogging challenge is what to write…there is so much; yet is it timely, needed, wanted? I have to remember that evaluation is an everyday activity…however obscure. (I ignore the technology unless something goes wrong; I am, after all, a technopeasant.)

The peasants are blogging

Advice

Starting a blog—be passionate about your topic; if you are, you will always be able to write something even if it doesn’t seem timely or needed. (chocolate torte, anyone?)

Molly Engle Advice

Jane Davidson

On challenges

Definitely finding the time! Patricia and I started strong but seem to have been so swamped with other things that it is difficult to get much up on the blog. But, we would rather do good stuff less often than just fill the space for the sake of it.

Personality Removed

Advice

The blogs I love the most are the ones where the bloggers’ personalities and senses of humor shine clearly through. Write good, thought-provoking stuff, but don’t be shy about putting your own signature spin on it.

The nice thing about blogs is that people deliberately opt to tune intoyou – unlike discussion lists, where we have to be conscious of chewing up too much of the airspace. Don’t swamp people with too much content, but make whatever you put out there fun to read! And a cute cartoon will do wonders as well! ;)

Jane Davidson Advice

David Henderson

On challenges

Finding the time is a good excuse, but I am too intimately aware of my stupid internet browsing habits to justifiably argue I don’t have time to blog.

I think more challenging is not to psych myself out. I will regularly start posts all to decide that whatever “insight” I’m writing about feels so plainly obvious to me, that it wouldn’t be valuable to anyone else, and then scrap the post all together.

Too busy mindlessly surfing the web

Advice

There’s a lot of crap and dubious advice out there. I always encourage folks who want to start blogging to not be afraid to elevate their posts above the all too common nonprofit blogging dribble.

I like to think about blogs as light version of a research report or paper. In this framing, blog posts are not totally absolved of the constraints of substantiating arguments and citing sources. The best bloggers are those who I learn from. To that end, I’d advise new bloggers to think about blogging as (at least in part) a teaching platform.

David Henderson Advice

Tom Murphy

On challenges

For me it is still getting over publishing and putting myself out there. Even when I am doing more of a reported story than a blog/opinion I feel a sort of resistance to publishing and the vulnerability that comes with it once it is out there. The other stuff is relatively easy for me at this point, but there is that fear of rejection or failure that immediately follows hitting the publish button.

Handling Vulnerability

Advice

Think of it as an extension of what you are already doing. You are reading and pulling together a lot of information and resources about what you know best. Blogging is a public way to gather that information, make a few notes and share with others.

The benefits are that people will interact with you. It can foster connections and potential suggestions/opportunities that may not have existed prior. Also, there is the fact that there is evidence showing how blogging about research can lead to more citations and reads of published works. As long as the person does not say anything improper, blogging is a great support for a researcher’s work.

Tom Murphy Advice

Ewen Le Borgne

On challenges

Originally it was the discipline to get at blogging and to carve out time for it. It took me 2 years to become a regular blogger but at some point it clicked and became a bit of an addiction – of the nice type though!

No, more recently I find that the challenge has been to precisely reverse the engine and to perhaps blog a bit less but really aim at good quality posts – the wow posts you mentioned. I sometimes post a piece that I know I’m not too happy with – but it’s sometimes difficult to resist the instant gratification of getting a post out there and seeing the reactions.

Toddler Blog

Advice

First off, to find out that they are not alone in this and to look at other testimonials and experiences from other researcher/evaluator bloggers (it’s likely to be much more convincing coming from their peers than from any other source), then to think carefully about the focus of their blog and its relation with their organisation/clients etc. This can become a thorny issue so it deserves a bit of thinking.

The rest is just fly and fly higher, trial and error, reflection all along the way, engagement… and fun! My personal motto if ‘fun, focus and feedback’ and I think it suits blogging pretty well :)

Ewen Le Borgne

Lisa Wade

On challenges

Thinking big picture, one of the biggest and most exciting challenges is change. Adapting to unexpected change started right away.

When we started blogging six years ago, the idea was that it would be a place for my sociology instructor friends to swap images we were using in teaching. As more and more people started reading who weren’t sociologists, we had the opportunity to adapt the site, making it a place for anyone interested in sociological commentary. The result was a lot more work and responsibility, but the reward was proportionally exciting.

Technological change has also offered both opportunities and new demands. When we started, blogs were just blogs. As the years have gone by, the importance of being on Facebook (especially) and Twitter (secondarily so) and the fun possibilities of things like Pinterest have emerged. Now it isn’t just Sociological Images, it’s Sociological Images and its auxiliary sites. These are now all part of the day-to-day work and reward of the site.

Finally, my own career has changed in ways that I never anticipated. The blog has made me more visible as a social commentator and I’ve had wonderful opportunities to speak to journalists, write for well-known outlets, and travel for public speaking.

Together, the rising readership, expanding reach of the site, and the new dimension to my career has required me to adapt many times over. It’s been a fun, but wild ride.

Digital Media Conglomerate

Advice

Academic blogging is, I believe, win-win. As a community, the more we share each others material and try to draw attention to each other, the more social science will become a go-to way of thinking about social problems.

So, if you’re interested in starting a site, think about all other sites as your friend. Borrow their content, let them borrow yours. Talk them up and refer people there. Link and link again.

When we all do our best to draw attention to social science as a lens, more and more people will visit all of our sites. When they do that, the policy makers, voters, and Thanksgiving table debaters all become better able to understand our world and help others understand too. And that’s a wonderful thing.

Lisa Wade Advice

Nathan Yau

On challenges

The biggest challenged with FlowingData is probably maintaining the right balance between academic and casual. If I get too technical, I confuse a lot of readers, but I can’t get too casual, because I might oversimplify concepts that are actually complex.

Minimum Viable Explanation

Advice

It’s really easy to start a blog these days, so you might as well try it out. Some researchers might be worried that the general public will misunderstand findings, but it’s a great chance for you to explain what you do and involve yourself with groups of people who are excited about the same stuff as you.

Nathan Yau Advice

Jessie Daniels

On challenges

I would say that the biggest challenge with blogging has to do with time. And, by this, I don’t mean “finding the time” to blog, but more to do with pacing.

I’ve been blogging at Racism Review since 2007, along with Joe Feagin, the blog’s co-founder (and, long ago, my dissertation chair). Ours is a scholarly blog, so we’re always trying to take some current event or news item and reflect it through the research literature to add a new dimension. The pace of how quickly things happen online and the pace of how slowly scholarly research happens are really at odds with each other. I often find that by the time I’ve really thought deeply about some item rippling through Internet, the moment of when that is ‘new’ has long since passed.

The other challenge that has to do with pacing is thinking about the long haul. We’ve been blogging since April, 2007 which, according to my math, is a little over six years. When we first started it, we tried to blog every day. Posting every single day is a pretty daunting pace to keep up with over a long period of time. To help ease that burden, we’ve tried to enlist as many ‘guest bloggers’ and additional contributors as possible, but sometimes cajoling other academics into blogging presents its own set of challenges. In general, I think we’ve done pretty well keeping it up given that Joe and I have very busy academic lives beyond the blog.

Academic vs blog timing

Advice

I get asked for advice about blogging fairly often and my biggest advice is to figure out what your particular niche or formula is. As I mentioned, at Racism Review, we try to connect current events having to do with race or racism to solid academic research. Having a really very clear, specific idea at the outset about what your contribution will be makes it much easier to get started and to maintain it over time.

Jessie Daniels Advice

Robert Kosara

On challenges

There is an obvious answer here and there is a somewhat deeper one. Of course it’s a challenge to find the time. I could do other things. I could read. I could sleep. I could go for a run.

I think the biggest challenge has been to find the right direction for this blog. After almost six years, I’m still not sure where this thing is going. I keep changing direction. Sometimes, somebody tells me they do or don’t like something. But I don’t have a clearly defined audience like a fashion blog or a technology blog or similar.

It’s not that there aren’t enough good topics, there are more than I could ever write about. Rather, the question is what do I think I can contribute to? I don’t care about just posting links to interesting stuff, others do that already and I can’t bring myself to just summarize what somebody else has done for a link posting.

The challenge is to not let that paralyze you. I keep a list of topics in my todo program, in a folder. When I don’t know what to write, I look through those and pick one. You need to keep writing, and you need to try things to see if they work. A simple posting today, a little visualization project next week, then a book review, etc.

To summarize it in a word, perhaps the biggest challenge is consistency. Consistency in topics, style, and frequency.

Which way to go

Advice

I have three pieces of advice.

1) Don’t worry about the technology. Don’t tinker. Just write.

2) Pick an audience to write for, but don’t get too focused on that. Your audience might change. People you wouldn’t have expected to read your blog will read it. Be prepared to go outside the box and change direction accordingly. But to write reasonably well, you need to have an idea of who you’re writing for.

3) Hang in there. Nobody will read your blog at first. Nobody. After a year, you might have a few readers. Don’t give up. A blog doesn’t just explode onto the Internet (unless you’re incredibly lucky). It’s going to take time. If you give up after a few months with just a few readers, you will never get more.

Robert Kosara Advice

Henry Jenkins

On challenges

Before I started blogging, the biggest concern I had was whether I would have the time to keep up with my blog. The advice I got from Cory Doctorow (Boing Boing) was “make the time.” And he was right.

Reflect and Blog

Advice

For me, a key is integrating the blog into the broader range of activities I am doing, so I am always looking for ways to use the blog in my teaching, my research, my recreation life, my friendships. You need to decide going in how often you are going to blog and stick to it like you would do any other deadline.

On any given day, there is always going to be something more pressing than blogging, so if you do not think of it as a responsibility to yourself and your readers, you will slow down and eventually stop. I think of it as like a journalist putting out a daily edition, i.e. it’s a deadline that must be met.

I put it out at a consistent time on a consistent day and I can count on my fingers the number of times I have missed a deadline since I started my blog in 2006. When I need to take a break, I announce that I am doing so and give myself permission for downtime, but I do not miss a deadline arbitrarily on a day in, day out basis.

Given the complexities of my life, this means I am planning further and further ahead, so I have a fall back if a piece of content fails to materialize. For this to work, I end up balancing between topical issues and ever-green content that I hold in reserve in case I am facing a hole on any given day that needs to be filled.

Henry Jenkins Advice

Beth Kanter

On challenges

I’ve been blogging for ten years now. I love it. I look at it my personal learning time and I try carve out a half hour or hour every day to write about something. This reflection time is so important. But, with that said, what’s hard is to keep up the discipline so I make the time to reflect and write every day. Sometimes with a busy speaking schedule and client work, it is hard to do.

My biggest challenge is when I get bored … when my muse goes into hiding. Sometimes, I’m so excited new developments or new angles on topics that I’ve been writing about – but there are some times that ennui creeps in. What I do is allow myself to write about a slightly different or adjacent topic or recruit guest bloggers and take a break.

Trolling your own posts

Advice

Look at your blogging time as a form of professional development and a commitment to write something regularly. Don’t get caught up with making it perfect either …. a blog is different from writing a research article.

Beth Kanter Advice

Seth Godin

On challenges

Decide on the audience you want and ignore everyone else.

Speaking just to us

Advice

Write every single day. If something you write spreads to the audience you care about, and if it changes them in the way you hope, write more like that.

Seth Godin Advice

Discussion

Are you a blogger, if so, what are your biggest challenges? Have any advice to share, or reiterate?

Not a blogger, why not? What’s holding you back?

Let me know in the comments.

~ This post is by Chris Lysy and  originally appeared at FreshSpectrum; it is re-blogged here with permission.

Jessie Daniels in NYTimes Dialogue on the Meaning of ‘Race’

Many of our efforts here at JustPublics@365 are focused on getting scholars to share their research outside of the walls of academia, particularly through social media and big media. Workshops in our MediaCamp series, such as “Op-Ed Pieces and Pitches: Framing Research for Public Audiences” and “Being Interviewed on Camera: Big Media for Academics,” aim to do just that, and we’re excited with the various successes that we’ve had.

hand

cc-licensed photo “hand” by flickr user JUNG HEE PARK

I’m delighted to report on another success, this time from my colleague Jessie Daniels. Jessie, one of the Co-PIs of JustPublics@365, had a letter co-written with Joe Feagin published in this past weekend’s New York Times as part of the “Sunday Dialogue: The Meaning of ‘Race'”. Coming on the heels of the George Zimmerman trial, Jessie and Joe provide a necessary reminder of the shifting definitions of race and their ramifications within our culture. Congratulations to Jessie and Joe for exemplifying what JP@365 is all about.

Full content of the letter is below (original NYTimes link):

Mr. Hodge raises an important question about how to simultaneously destroy the myth and remedy the harm of the myth of “race.” But Mr. Hodge, like almost everyone else, is operating routinely out of a particular way of seeing that filters and distorts everything about “race.” It is what we refer to as the white racial frame, and extensive social science research demonstrates the myriad ways that laws, politics, culture and social relationships are embedded in it. It makes whoever gets considered “white,” by definition, all right.

Who is and is not considered “white” shifts and changes. In 1916 hearings on an immigration bill before Congress, social science experts of the day testified that southern Italians were a different “race,” decidedly not “white,” were incapable of assimilation, and therefore should be barred from entering. So, indeed, “race” is in one sense an “arbitrary … classification imposed on a continuum of physical differences,” but it also systematically and consistently works to the advantage of some (mostly whites) and to the disadvantage of those classified as “others.”

The harm of white racism is real, and takes the lives of black and brown on a daily basis, decade after decade: Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, James Byrd Jr., Yusef Hawkins, Emmett Till and so many others. The danger in trying to dismantle the myth of “race” before we are ready to remedy the harm of racism is that we will do neither.

JESSIE DANIELS
JOE R. FEAGIN
New York, July 18, 2013

The writers, professors at CUNY Graduate Center and Texas A&M University, respectively, are the co-founders of the scholarly blog Racism Review.

“Reading the Riots” : Academic-Journalism Partnership

Partnerships between academic social science researchers and journalists hold great promise for addressing inequality.  At a meeting earlier this month at the London School of Economics (LSE), Professor Tim Newburn of the LSE discussed the Reading the Riots project. This project was run jointly with The Guardian with the aim to produce evidence-based research that would help explain why the rioting spread across England in the summer of 2011. The slides are below and the full podcast of the event is available.  It’s definitely worth a listen to hear Newburn describe the opportunities and challenges of this unique academic-journalism partnership.

As Newburn describes, one of the key opportunities the partnership with The Guardian provided traditional academic researchers is reach.  The readership of The Guardian far exceeds that of any academic publication by several orders of magnitude and that’s really a game-changer for social science research.  At the most basic level, it means that academics need to think about who they want to speak to (and with) when moving beyond the narrow scope of other specialists.

Among the challenges that Newburn enumerates are the radically different pace of work for academics and journalists.  Journalists are trained to write quickly to meet deadlines.  Academics, well, we like the sound of deadlines as they “whoosh” passed and are accustomed to a much, much slower pace of producing writing (aside: I think this is part of why blogging proves so challenging for many academics).

Newburn also points to some of the interesting methodological issues that arose during this collaboration. He observes that academics and journalists are often engaged in the same practices (e.g., interviewing people, analyzing data), but that academics are often mired in contemplating “how” we engage in these research practices. (Following Newburn’s remarks, the podcast of the event continues with an interesting discussion about “impacts,” something that we’re very interested in here at JustPublics@365.)

In our own academic-journalism partnership between The Graduate Center and the CUNY J-School, I’ve been delighted and amazed at the success of this collaboration around creating the MediaCamp workshops. These workshops offer skill–building in media and digital media  combine research and digital media for the public good. We haven’t yet attempted collaborating around a specific research topic, such as the Reading the Riots project, but perhaps that will be next.

What Newburn’s Reading the Riots project and our own MediaCamp workshops mean to me is that there is a new kind of space opening that combines the best of both research and journalism.  In this hybrid space, academics and journalists will increasingly collaborate, borrow and remix methods from both fields, and at least potentially, reach wider audiences beyond the narrow range of specialists. Perhaps most exciting to me, is the idea that academic-journalism collaborations could be an innovative way to address issues of social inequality.

Legacy vs. Digital Models of Academic Scholarship

There are far-reaching changes happening in higher education today, and I think we need some new – or a least, borrowed – terms for talking about these changes.

Journalists and scholars of journalism talk of “legacy” news organizations  — such as The Philadelphia Inquirer (now defunct).  The Philadelphia Inquirer, like other legacy news organizations, was based on print publication and relied on newsstand purchase or home delivery option for economic viability.  Ultimately, it wasn’t able to make that succeed as a business model (see C.W. Anderson’s excellent Rebuilding the News. Anderson, @chanders on Twitter, is a CUNY colleague).

In contrast, there are many news organizations that are increasingly “digital” in the way they both gather and report the news, and the way they make money. Most notably, The New York Times now includes remarkable digital content, such as Op-Docs and Snowfall; and, it relies on a digital subscription model in addition to print sales. To be sure, there are lots of differences between academia and the news business, and I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting an easy parallelism between the two. I do, however, think that this language may be useful for framing how we think about some of the changes in higher ed.

2054107736_e231ed3572_o(Flickr Creative Commons)

LEGACY ACADEMIC SCHOLARSHIP.  What I’m calling a “legacy” model of academic scholarship has distinct characteristics.  In broad terms, “legacy” academic scholarship is pre-21st century, analog, closed, removed from the public sphere, and monastic.  I think that this is mostly going away, but only partially and in piecemeal fashion.   What did the legacy model of academia look like?

Yale_card_catalog(Wikimedia Commons)

Within a legacy model of academia, the only option for publishing was in bound volumes or journals. We typed words and paragraphs on paper. We had to use white out to make corrections on things we typed.  In order to “cut and paste,” we would literally cut sections of paper, a paragraph at a time, and then paste them with glue or tape in different order. We would go to libraries to find and read information.  We would use card catalogs (like the ones pictured above) to look things up.

In order to measure or demonstrate the impact of our research (at least in sociology), we used something called the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), which tracks the number of times a particular work by an individual author has been cited by others in the peer-reviewed literature. So, for example, if I published an article then the SSCI would list my name and then underneath my name track all the citations referencing that article. In effect, the SSCI is a method for counting citations as a measure of academic success. The more citations in the SSCI one has, the bigger success as an academic.  In many sociology departments, it was common practice to rely heavily, if not exclusively, on the SSCI to assess a scholar’s prominence in the field.  Tenure and review committees would actually use rulers to measure the number of inches beneath a scholar’s name within the SSCI as a way to assess impact. This crude metric of counting the number, and number of inches, of citations is characteristic of 20th century legacy academic scholarship.

408971482_c87bc0325f_b (Flickr CreativeCommons)

DIGITAL ACADEMIC SCHOLARSHIP

To be sure, academic scholarship is being transformed in the digital era.  In contrast to the 20th c. legacy model, the emerging, 21st c. model of academic scholarship is digital, open, connected to the public sphere, worldly.

To state the obvious, there has been an expansion of digital technologies.  For some, this has been transformative because it is so different than the analog way of doing things. For others who were born after the digital turn, these ways of doing are simply the way things are. Whichever group you fall into, these digital technologies have already begun transforming scholarly communication.

Simply put, the shift from analog to digital is about code, coding information into binary code of 1’s and 0’s. When this happens, it fundamentally changes how we can manipulate data.  That is, information (or ‘data’) is easier to move around, edit, analyze in digital form then it is in analog.  Think for a moment about the difference between “cut and paste” when it involves paper scissors clue and tape versus the simple keystrokes of control-x and control–v.  This illustrates a key difference between analog and digital.

The shift from analog to digital and the explosion of different sorts of technologies are already affecting how we do our jobs as academics. Rather than comb through a card catalog, we look things up on Google Scholar.  The whole notion of a “library” is now one that’s digital, distributed, like the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which is a real game-changer when it comes to libraries in the digital era. While physical libraries remain crucial, the expectation among academics for how we use libraries has changed.

As scholars we increasingly expect, and even demand, that there are digital tools within those libraries that we can use from any location, at any time.  In fact, most graduate students and faculty I know would be outraged if they could not access their library at any time from any place. In many ways, libraries have led the digital turn in higher education and it is where academics have most embraced the digital.

Digital technologies have changed how we keep track of things we have read, citations, and bibliographies.  With tools like Zotero, we can create bibliographies, keep track of citations, and share them with others who have similar interests.

Digital technologies have changed how we write.  Technologies such as Commentpress (a WordPress plugin) make it possible to write collaboratively and make peer-review an open, transparent process.  Several people in the digital humanities have used this technology to compile entire books for well-regarded academic presses.  One of these is my colleague, Matt Gold, who issued a call for papers for his Debates in the Digital Humanities, and in 14 days he had collected 30 essays, which garnered 568 comments, with an average of 20 comments per essay.

The volume went from call for papers to a bound volume in one calendar year, a remarkable achievement for an academic book.  Kathleen Fitzpatrick, another digital humanities scholar used Commentpress for her book Planned Obsolescence.  Reflecting on this experience, Fitzpatrick writes that these new platforms are changing the way we think about publication, reading and peer review.

PEDAGOGY IS CHANGING, BECOMING MORE OPEN

Digital technologies are changing how we teach and making them more open. We think nothing of emailing students. Some faculty hold office hours through IM, Skype or Google HangOut.  At many institutions, Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Blackboard & Moodle are commonplace. And, some professors are teaching in ways that are augmented by blogs and wikis.  To the extent that these new technologies allow sociologists to reach a wider audience, these are also forms of public sociology.

In 2012, The New York Times declared it the “year of the ‘MOOC’.”   MOOC is an acronym for Massive Open Online Course coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier, to describe an innovative approach to teaching that fostered connection and collaboration, and was intended to promote life-long learning and authentic networks that would extend beyond the end of the course.

MOOCs have garnered a lot of media attention in the mainstream press, and in the higher ed press, and there is even talk of revolution. This hyperbole surrounding MOOCs is both misguided and misplaced.  What is perhaps most puzzling about all this is that there is nothing new, much less revolutionary, about the technology here. Some speculate that the attention is due to corporate players entering the field of online education, such as Coursera, which is backed by Venture Capitalists, and is partnering with elite academic institutions, like Stanford

Our own JustPublics@365 version of a MOOC, the POOC, is one that is participatory rather than massive and is closer to Dave Cormier’s original conceptualization.  Our goal was to create something in keeping with the roots of CUNY as a public institutions, truly serving the public through education that’s open and available to everyone. We made sure that all the videos, the real-time livestream as well as the edited, archived videos were open to anyone that wanted to view them (without registration).

Likewise, we wanted to make all of the readings available to anyone that wanted to read them, even if they didn’t have a CUNY login and even if they weren’t registered for the course on our site.  This sort of commitment to openness is one of the major distinctions between our efforts and the large, corporate MOOCs, which among other shortcomings, are not very “open.”  As it turned out, making all these readings truly open turned out to be an enormous amount of work which fell on the shoulders of our heroic librarians.

We are still at the beginning of understanding how digital technologies will transform pedagogy in higher education, but it seems certain it has and it will continue to do so.

SCHOLARLY PUBLISHING IS CHANGING, NOT YET OPEN

Part of what’s changing about scholarly publishing has to do with changing views of copyright.  It’s beyond my scope here to fully explore copyright, but Larry Lessig explains a great deal about copyright and how current laws don’t make sense in a digital environment in this TED talk.  If you want to understand more about copyright, there’s no better place to start than with Lessig.

There is a lot wrong with academic publishing, much of it having to do with who holds the copyright to the work we produce, and more people are seeing that now.  What’s wrong with scholarly publishing? This infographic explains it all.

Problem infographic3 (Image credit: Les Larue, Content credit: Jill Cirasella)

The way the system of academic publishing is set up is this:

  • Faculty are paid to do research & report results, then we
  • Give away this writing and copyright to publishers.
  • Publishers make HUGE profits, they do this by
  • Selling our work back to libraries at enormous and rapidly increasing costs.
  • Finally, the very often people who might benefit from reading our work can’t get to it because it’s locked behind a paywall.

As academics, we tend stash our research in places like JSTOR, where most people outside the Ivory Tower can’t get into. Some people have even begun to argue that it’s immoral to hide publications behind a paywall. A few scholars are marking a reasoned case for open access, such as Peter Suber’s book Open Access. Still others, like Jack Stilgoe, are simply dumbfounded at how stupid the system of academic publishing is.

HOW WE MEASURE SUCCESS IS CHANGING

All these changes in scholarship, pedagogy and publishing mean the ways we measure academic success are changing, too.  We are shifting from 20th century ‘metrics’ to 21st century ‘altmetrics.’ So, for example, Jeff Jarvis (another CUNY colleague) has 123,667  Twitter followers. That’s a kind of “altmetric” – a measure of his reach and influence. Increasingly, book publishers, even some employers, look for evidence of your reach on particular platforms before awarding book contracts, even some jobs. This is less prevalent in academia, but it is on its way.

Not only are there new methods and ways of thinking about measuring impact, but it seems that old methods – like “citation counting” I described earlier with the SSCI – are broken.  As the altmetrics site describes the situation:

“As the volume of academic literature explodes, scholars rely on filters to select the most relevant and significant sources from the rest. Unfortunately, scholarship’s main filters for importance are failing…” 

So what are altmetrics?  These are a “new, online scholarly tools allows us to make new filters; these altmetrics reflect the broad, rapid impact of scholarship …”

It might be useful to think about the way scholarship is changing in the digital era – as a shift from 20th c. models of creating “knowledge products” – to  21st century model of creating “knowledge streams.”   With products – you count their impact once – with “knowledge streams” – you can also count various aspects of distribution – such as number of downloads, unique visitors to your blog, number of Twitter followers – which can have a much wider impact.

These new, digital knowledge streams (and measurement) don’t replace the “knowledge products” of traditional, legacy models of academia, rather they augment the traditional ones.  For example, when you write submit a paper to traditional, peer-reviewed journal you want to think about optimizing the title of that paper for search engines.  As another example, a peer-reviewed article that gets mentioned on Twitter will get more citations in the traditional peer-reviewed literature

LEGACY TO DIGITAL CHANGE IS PARTIAL

There is not a complete transition from a “legacy” past that is behind us, and a “digital” present or future. The legacy and the digital are imbricated, that is, they overlap in the here and now.  This can play out in painful ways. For example, on tenure and review committees – where reviewers are tied to legacy models of academic scholarship and those up for promotion are engaging with digital models of scholarship.

A DIFFERENT SORT OF CHANGE: AUSTERITY

The politics of austerity mean that the funding landscape of higher education is changing.  We are also living in a global (certainly US, UK + Western Europe) context of ‘austerity.’

Oct20-austerity-placard(Image Source)

Of course, ‘austerity’ is a convenient lie that says we’re out of money but reflects the reality of economic inequality and that the rich and super-rich will not invest in public goods and services.

Political attacks on higher education in the US are changing the landscape of funding.  There is a Republican war on social science.  Sen. Coburn managed to prohibit any monies for NSF-funded political science unless it was somehow “promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States.”  He also tried to put the ax to NSF’s political science funds once before, but that failed in the short run, but in the longer run, the tighter definition allowed him to argue that the funds could exist, “as long as they weren’t squandered.”

There is a different political landscape in the UK, where there is an overall commitment to funding higher education.  The Research Excellence Framework, or REF shapes these discussions in the UK.  The REF means that the funding is tied to demonstrated “research excellence,” part of which relies on evidence of “impact” on wider publics.

Back in the US there is no longer any broad commitment to funding state-funded public institutions of higher ed, at least when you look at data from state budgets, like this one from Georgia and this one that explores the overall trend in the US:

CPBB_Higher_Ed_Cuts_Tuition_Relationship(Image from The Atlantic)

You really don’t need much more there than the dramatically, downward-pointing arrow to know that this means faculty have to be more entrepreneurial in securing their own funding for research (much like journalists are now considering ways to be entrepreneurial as a response to changing business model in news.)

And, of course, there’s very bad news in academia regarding the way we hire (or don’t hire) faculty.  An estimated 73% to 76% of all instructional workforce in higher education are adjunct faculty.

Given the grim prospects for legacy tenure-track jobs in the academy, it is inevitable that many people with PhDs are going to do other things with those skills.

Increasingly, given the grim political economy of “austerity” and the many, many under-employed PhDs, I think that the affordances of digital technologies will create more and more entities like the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research.

COMMERCE vs. DEMOCRACY

In academia, as elsewhere, we’re faced with competing forces of commercialization versus democratization as Robert Darnton, of DPLA noted in a recent talk at the Graduate Center.

The political economy of austerity, up to and including slashes in funding to public institutions of higher ed, the adjunctification of the academic workforce, and the attacks on funding such as the Coburn amendment, point to this broad conflict between forces of commercialization and forces of democratization.

Sometimes academics conflate the “commerce v. democracy “ struggle with the transformation from “legacy” to “digital” forms of scholarly communication, and I think this is unfortunate.

Given this context, what are academics to do to resist the forces of commercialization?  I argue that owning the content of your own professional identity is key to this…  For most faculty, their “web presence” is a page on a departmental website that they have no control over and cannot change or update even if they wanted to.  “Reclaiming the web” means owning your own domain name and managing it yourself, a move Jim Groom has put forward for students and I argue should be the default strategy for faculty.

Too often academics, who are a contrarian lot, want to resist commercialization by refusing the digital. This refusal is misplaced and reflects a misunderstanding of the forces at play here.

Owning our own words, “reclaiming the web,” and our own professional identity online as well as offline is just one step.

Another step for academics, especially that handful with tenure, is to say “no” to publishing in places that don’t allow you to own your own work by retaining copyright.

A further step for academics, and especially for those in my discipline of sociology, is to use blogging to open up a space between research and journalism in ways that are creative, interesting, and contribute to an engaged citizenry.

In sum, the current state of affairs in higher ed looks something like this.  On the one hand, we have the grim political economy of “austerity,” declining support for state-funded public education and attacks on other funding mechanisms like NSF. On the other hand, we have these amazing new opportunities to do our work in new ways, and make that work open to wider publics.

We are caught in the middle of the colliding forces of commercialization and democratization at the same time institutions of higher ed are making the transition from “legacy” to “digital” modes of operation.

Resisting digital scholarship in order to forestall the forces of commercialization is a mistake that too many academics make.  Instead, we as academics need to embrace digital scholarship in ways that help foster democratization.

For Whom Do We Write?

C. Wright Mills once wrote about being at a party of sociology grad students at Columbia who were working on the PhDs. “After they’d introduced themselves, I’d ask: What are you working on?” It would always be something like ‘The Impact of Work-Play Relationships among Lower Income Families on the South Side of the Block on 112th St between Amsterdam and Broadway.’ And then I would ask: Why?”

C. Wright Mills(Image of Mills from here)

Mills called the tendency to conceive of one’s work in narrow terms “abstracted empiricism.” In contrast, he believed that the task of sociology should be to encourage public discussion of things that really matter. He called for a bigger, bolder sociology, one that would take on the big issues of the day, in a fashion that was engaging, and that would help people living in an increasingly complex world to make sense of their lives.

I remember that when I first encountered Mills as an undergraduate, he had an enormous impact upon me. I was captivated by his idea of a “sociological imagination” that would allow individuals to see the connection between personal troubles and public issues, biography and history.

But is it possible to channel Mills’ spirit to reimagine sociology, and sociological writing, today?

As sociologists we write to convey ideas, change the way people think, and influence public opinion. We also write to assert our scholarly authority and to advance our careers. But there’s a tension between these two sets of goals. We advance our careers by publishing in peer-reviewed journals, and by speaking to others like ourselves–not by influencing the broader public.

But these goals were not always at odds with one another. In 1895, in the first issue of the American Journal of Sociology, founding editor Albion Small described the goal of the journal as follows:

[This journal will] attempt to translate sociology into the language of  ordinary life . . . It is not . .. essential to the scientific or even the technical character of thought that it be made up of abstractly formulated principles.  On the contrary, the aim of science should be to show the meaning of familiar things, not to construct … a kingdom for itself in which, if familiar things are admitted, they are obscured under an impenetrable disguise of artificial expression.

Writing in sociology journals, at least through the 1940s and 1950s, was essayistic, dialogical, and marked by the author’s presence. But over the next few decades, it came to resemble natural science journals—with growing attention paid to literature reviews, charts, and tables, and methodologically driven articles–what Ben Agger calls “secret writing.” Professionalization went hand in hand with an emphasis upon quantitative analysis of empirical “facts” and an aspiration to a natural science model; sociological writing came to emulate the scientific journal article.

Mills feared these trends. The use of specialized language, addressing concerns that are mainly disciplinary in origin—the “private” as opposed to the “public” intellectual would, he believed, lead to intellectual introversion. Rather than valuing small incremental increases in knowledge, we should do “big picture” research, he believed. He saw sociology as an activist project and believed that a sociological imagination could “counter the drift toward conformity, homogenization, and instrumental rationality.” Critical, publicly engaged sociologists, he believed, could lead the way to a better society.

Today the field of sociology is larger and more decentralized than it was even in Mills’ day. Hierarchies of prestige are reflected in the rankings of academic journals and graduate departments. When competition for employment and promotion is fierce, greater rewards accrue to those who adopt professional identities that conform closely to hegemonic understandings of the discipline. Since academic advancement is securely mainly through publishing and communicating with other experts, professional intellectuals have little incentive to translate their work to broader publics. When professional gatekeepers pronounce upon the student who is and isn’t doing important work, and indeed, who is and isn’t doing “sociology,” students and faculty internalize these standards and receive rewards for adhering to them.

Over the past decade, those who are looking for an alternative have gravitated toward what some call “public sociology.” Public sociology is not a specialty, a set of theories, or a methodology: it is a way of thinking about one’s work that shifts conceptions of audience, and values the importance of clear communication.

I’ve written about some of these issues. See, for example, “Discipline and Publish: Public Sociology in an Age of Professionalization,” in Bureaucratic culture and escalating world problems: Advancing the Sociological imagination, edited by Knottnerus JD, Phillips B (2009): 156-71.

I’m also co-authoring a primer for those wishing to do public sociology, and in periodic posts I’ll share some of this work in progress.

~ Arlene Stein is Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University, and co-editor of Contexts, a quarterly magazine of the American Sociological Association. This post is a re-blog from here.

What does it mean to be a “Digital Scholar”?

This post was originally published on the GC Digital Fellows blog

After reading Erin and Alice Lynn’s latest posts, I began to wonder what a “successful” digital scholar looks like.  Should success be measured by the scope of one’s digital presence?  Should it be measured by how much one’s research is cited on the web?  Or does it instead have something to do with how many digital tools one has created for / incorporated into their research?

This is a tricky question to answer; just trying to find a simple definition of ‘digital scholarship’ is a task unto itself.  Some argue that we should refrain from attempting to define digital scholarship in the first place, while others argue that digital scholarship should be defined loosely so as to incorporate diverse approaches.  If we can’t even decide how to define digital scholarship, how can we determine if one is a successful digital scholar?

I can’t say that I have an answer that could unify or encompass everything that may fall under ‘digital scholarship’, and I won’t try to offer suggestions here either.  Instead, I’d like to suggest that readers of this post reflect on problems they’ve encountered in academia (trouble finding others who share your research interests, institutional limitations on your research, difficulty gathering and assessing data, limited publication options for your topic, etc), and think of ways that these obstacles could be overcome using less traditional means.  What do I have in mind by ‘less traditional means’?

Although it is difficult – and perhaps unnecessary – to strictly define digital scholarship, it is not difficult to become a digital scholar; approaching traditional scholarship from a new angle is all that’s required.