Other gubbins

New(ish) kids on the blog

BlogOn Twitter the other day my attention was drawn to the revised version of Patrick Dunleavy’s thoughts on the matter of academic blogging. For the small number of you who perhaps may not be familiar with Professor Dunleavy he is not only one of the UK’s best known political scientists but also one of the prime movers behind the London School of Economics’ suite of hugely influential blogs on policy, social science and impact.

Professor Dunleavy takes the view that:

in research terms blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now.

Yet, he also takes the view that single authored blogs like this one, while very much dominant at the start of the whole blogging thing, are not really where the action is in contemporary blogging, academic or otherwise.

There are good reasons for that. Perhaps most compelling is that, while solo blogging allows you the freedom to do what you like and means the blog has a distinctive voice, it takes quite a lot of effort to keep feeding the blog monster. You’ve got to find topics and time, in amongst everything else, to come up with the posts.* If you don’t enjoy sharing your thoughts with a largely indifferent world reasonably regularly then the whole exercise will feel like a chore, and you won’t build much of an audience.

But there is also something about the way online academic content is consumed that is important to the equation. If you’re going to keep an eye on a range of online material then you may well have to do something clever with twitter lists, do some work with a feed reader, or be happy with the erratic arrival of plenty of emails from the blogs you subscribe to. There is considerable appeal in the idea of bringing material on related topics together on one site. The work of curation then occurs on the supply side not the demand side.

Clearly, the Multi-Authored Blogs at the LSE, with the benefit of strong editorial support, have done this with tremendous success in relation to blogging on politics in Britain and beyond. But you can find other blogs in the same field doing something similar on a smaller scale – either associated with particular academic institutions or journals. And there blogs such as Pieria or Guerilla Policy operate a slightly different model: seeking out and bringing together high quality content published elsewhere on the web and reblogging it.

But Prof Dunleavy also identifies the group or collaborative blog as an intermediate form, with a small group of authors being responsible for most of the content, alongside the occasional guest post. While I know of a couple such blogs that I look at occasionally, there isn’t one squarely addressing issues that I’d see as pretty central to my interests.

Until now, that is.

A few days ago I came across Critical Urbanists, which launched a couple of weeks ago. It has been set up by a number of academics following a gathering of the European Network for Housing Research back in the summer. The editors and authors are a mix of colleagues who are already known as bloggers, some who have an online/social media presence but who haven’t perhaps been hugely active under the solo blogger model, and one or two who are quite possibly making their first serious forays into the blogosphere.

The blog lists three “core objectives”:

  • To promote online debate and discussion about urban social theory, policy and practice
  • To provide an open and inclusive platform for these debates, offering a more instant medium than traditional academic publishing
  • To encourage contributions from scholars at all career stages, and from those outside academia, who are concerned with our broad thematic focus. We especially welcome contributions from early career academic researchers

If you’re interested in the sort of stuff I blog about then you should definitely check out Critical Urbanists. Given the roster of authors involved it is likely that some of the posts are going to be more critical than anything I produce.  Well worth keeping an eye on. Indeed, given the blog’s objectives they might well be interested in a guest contribution or two.

Good luck to everyone involved with Critical Urbanists.


* For example, I drafted most of this post on my phone using Evernote, while sat on a crowded train/bus back to my flat. Just in case you were wondering.

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