What is a blog and what does it mean for academia and academic publishing?
Kieran Fenby-Hulse works at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Brighton as a Research Officer. Between 2005 and 2008, he was the editorial assistant for the Cambridge-published journal Eighteenth-Century Music. His principal research interest lies with understanding the relationship between music and narrative and he is currently exploring the impact digital media has had on how we listen to and understand music.
I was recently invited to participate in a panel discussion on single and multi-author blogging models as part of the Transforming Objects Conference held at Northumbria University. The task of trying to consolidate my thoughts on blogging was interesting as it forced me to wrestle with some very difficult questions, such as what is a blog, who am I writing for, and perhaps most pertinently, how does blogging help me to understand and write about music?
One of the reasons I started blogging was that the digital format enabled me to incorporate sample music and video clips to aid with my discussion of music. One of the joys of writing a blog is that by embedding links and references to other websites, readers can listen to the music or movie clip being discussed whilst reading the text. Blogs, then, encourage intertextual connections. Embedded links and hyperlinks mean that references can be made to other posts, external websites, other bloggers, and that video and sound clips can be imported from sites such as YouTube and platforms such as Spotify.
As well as having an intertextual element, blogs are essentially open narratives. Posts are constantly added to the site and older posts can be revisited, revised, and reformulated either as new posts, updates, or edited versions of the older posts. In this sense, the blog is an interesting literary genre as it resists the notion of the finished “work” and allows for change, revision, and expansion.
The open nature of a blog’s narrative also stems from the fact that readers can engage and add comments. I am particularly fond of using my blog to discuss ideas on the periphery of my discipline and to encourage discussion and debate by suggesting unusual connections between different works and art forms. I feel the opening up of a space for readers to ask questions and discuss ideas is one of the most interesting elements of blogging. The blog is not a space to simply broadcast ideas, but a place to learn, network, and engage with a variety of audiences.
The idea of an open and ever-expanding narrative is something I believe could be of great benefit to academic publishers. Blogs encourage dialogue and discussion, which perhaps stands in contrast with the often hermetically sealed format of the journal article. By bringing together blogging and journal publications, there is the potential for blogging to open up the conversation, for ideas to be discussed, and for new ideas, connections, and networks to be developed both inside and outside of academia.