Blogging in academia: an experiment

My namSam Miles profile pic London fieldse is Sam Miles and I’m a doctoral PhD researcher based at Queen Mary, University of London. I am in my third of four years here, and my research is funded by Queen Mary and Goldsmiths on behalf of the ESRC.

 I study the ways that locative media – by which I mean the ‘apps’ that people use on mobile phones – might change how we interact with the city. Spanning human geography, technology, and sexuality and space studies, my project explores dating app use among non-heterosexual men in London, England. You can read a little bit more about my work here.

For a while now I’ve been considering starting a blog to function as a discussion place for the more informal thinking that clusters round my academic work. It’s something we’ve often discussed in the Culture, Space & Power research group in the Geography department at Queen Mary. What do good academic blogs look like? What is the balance between work and personal writing? Does anyone ever read blogs? All these are valuable questions: perhaps the best way to put them to the test is to put my money where my mouth is (figuratively, because I am basically a penniless PhD student, etc) and start a blog for myself.

I’ve seen so many blogs come and go that it seems only fitting to hold myself to some rules.

  1. I promise not to write ‘Wow, it’s been ages since I last posted!’ and ‘I’m going to make a real effort to update this more.’

Either write, or don’t, but lamenting your irregularity just highlights that irregularity. I’ll try hard to remember that things get busy and one of the great things about a busy period is that it generates interesting thoughts and findings to reflect on in a blog later. Equally, I’ll only post when I think I have something interesting to say (alas, if only media pundits would obey the same rules).

  1. I will strive to make discussion of human geography, technology, queer theory and academia accessible and interesting.

It’s really interesting to think about the ‘angle’ of material written for consumption: how can academia ensure impact for a wide range of audiences, and when is the correct tone actually high level, critical writing rather than chatty informality? I tend to the latter, but wonder if the former, rather than being stuffy as I often suspect, is in fact necessary to show real academic rigour. In short: how can the often competing forces of academic convention and audience accessibility match and interact?

  1. I aim to highlight the work of other people liberally where I think it is interesting and valuable, especially where it can foster collaboration.

I know it gets thrown about like a swiftly decomposing buzzword, but I truly do think collaboration is the key to healthy, generative research. There are people whose work I truly admire for its clarity, its value, and often its shrewd sideways look at the debates in hand. I want to celebrate this work and pass it on to my own audience. I think there’s a lot of talk in academia about collaborative working and yet people can be very protective of their work, as well as private. Does academic culture promulgate this ten
dency? Possibly. Should it? That’s something I want to explore further.

So those are my three pledges – things I’ve learned from reading other good blogs in the field. It’s not all work and no play – I’ll be sure to showcase great recipes from my friend Emily, and share pieces urban planning – my pleasure du jour – your way when I can. Let me start with this old BFI video from 1973 introducing Milton Keynes as Britain’s newest ‘new town’. Fascinating viewing!

Milton Keynes

Until next time, thanks for reading.

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3 thoughts on “Blogging in academia: an experiment

  1. Well set! I like the tone and style. Knowing you a bit I’m sure many very good things will be posted here. This makes me reflect that I should make mine public as well. I hope you are doing very well Samito 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: 2016: A Year in Review (Darker than your Facebook version) | sexuality and the city

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