Why We Blog

By Caroline Winter

The debate about the role of social media in academia that took over my Twitter feed a few weeks ago (read about it in The Guardian and in Forbes) has prompted me to think about the role of blogging as well, particularly for graduate students, who are perhaps especially concerned about being seen as “serious academics.”

One of the greatest benefits of academic blogging, in my view, is that it’s public facing. Anyone – inside or outside of the academic world – can read about our work. As grad students, we probably think of blogging as a way to to disseminate our work through our professional networks. But reaching a general readership is crucially important, too.
I’ve long been interested in public-facing humanities research, but I had an opportunity to engage in it this past spring when I participated in my institution’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. I represented the Faculty of Humanities in the finals, where I competed against speakers from the faculties of Social Studies, Science, Law, and Engineering. Although someone else took home the grand prize, it was a hugely rewarding experience, in part because of how the judges reacted to my talk (watch it here!). They said that this snapshot of my research had made them think in new ways about familiar things, and made them want to know more. And, since my research project is a hermeneutic one, prompting people to understand something in a new way is precisely my goal.
We’re about to kick off a new year of blogging here at the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus. We’re welcoming several new writers and several returning ones.  As you read our posts over the next year, I encourage you to share them with your academic network, of course, but also with your friends, families, and colleagues living outside of academia. In the context of the seemingly endless debates about the value of the humanities, being able to share the work we do in the reader-friendly format of the blog post is a way to tell those living outside of the ivory tower about what we do and why it matters.