Does Blogging Change the World?

This week’s theme was “Connected Learning,” although most of the articles (and one video) focused on blogging.

So here’s my thought on that topic: I hate most blogs.

Scott Rosenberg of Salon noted in 2009 that blogs changed everything, and he’s right. With free blogs available to anyone with a smart phone and access to McDoanald’s free Wi-Fi, there’s a lot of digital ink being spilled.

But I’m not sure how much is truly being said.

Many times, it feels to me like the types of blogs being written are personal journals. Before the internet, young girls would write about their latest crush on the pages of their pink diaries secured with gold-plated, easily-pickable locks; now these same teen girls have any number of free platforms to air their angst.

I don’t agree with Seth Godin when he says “if you’re not good at (blogging), but you stick with it, you’ll become good at it.” Some people will never be good writers and yet, there will be people out there who encourage them so they continue to throw some drivel on an empty blog post page each week.

Blogging has become the new “oversharer” – that one person at the party you avoid at all costs because you know they’ll draw you into a conversation you can’t get out of for 25 minutes. They’re somewhat of a trainwreck, but you can’t (or don’t want to) look away.

All that said, I think there can be a number of positives for having a blog. I have had 2 personal blogs and 1 (now 2) classroom blogs in my life. And I totally get why people do it. It feels good to write, it feels good to connect, and it feels good to feel like someone (even if it’s just 1 someone) read your blog post and got something out of it.

I’M NOT ALONE ANYMORE! THERE’S SOMEONE WHO FEELS LIKE ME! SOMEONE WHO UNDERSTANDS ME!

Blogs create community. Whether it’s a personal community (people sympathized with me as I tried to plan my lesbian wedding over the course of a year), or a public community (a Sociologist who blogs about her research on racism), people are connecting.

This is a good thing.

Another good thing that happens, especially with professional or academic blogs, is that the blogger creates an impact outside of the insulated circles in which they usually live.

Tim Hitchcock notes on his blog on the impact of blogs in the Social Sciences that “there is every hope that we can rebuild the humanities as a wider public discussion, able to more effectively reach beyond the academy.”

Not everyone has access to, or can understand, articles written in academic journals. Blogging about research offers a way to break down hard subjects, explore them at a more personable level and allow individual readers outside the academy to respond. In short, blogging can provide a way to create a quick impact.

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Overall, I’m torn on the usefulness of blogs. They can be good if you’ve got something important to say, but can easily turn into a oversharer’s diary of sorts.

I don’t believe in blogging as a class assignment just for the sake of doing it. Many times students don’t understand the material they read for class and it’s not fair to make them take the public risk of publishing their thoughts. Also, blogging isn’t a new technology, so doing it “just because” is dumb.

I do think there is value in sharing research with a wider community through a blog, especially if the research can be explained in an understandable way. I’ve learned a lot of neat stuff from reading blogs on subjects in which I’m interested, but I’ve also had to filter through a lot of non-useful writing to get there.

Again, I’m torn.

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