Thursday, September 3, 2009
Academic Bloggers: How to Present Your Brilliant Ideas?
Location: Real Life Office...Should Be Working in Second Life!
I'm taking a break from slapping up more walls at the House of Usher to consider a reading that I assigned, Dustin M. Wax's short but informative "Nine Signs of an Effective Blog Post." My first-year students are just beginning their first blogs at this blog-client's site.
So many blogs, including this one, contain posts that ramble or do not follow Wax's advice. I began to wonder how Wax's rules might not fully apply to academic bloggers.
My students will be writing, from an academic perspective mostly, about their lives as writers and their use of Web 2.0 technologies and virtual worlds. How do we change Wax's advice under those conditions?
Academics & Blogging
Wax's Point 8 "The post is believable" and Point 9 "The post asks for some action" need a little modification in academic settings.
First, experience has taught me that academics can enjoy the play of language (call it "the sound of their own voices") more than truthfulness.
This does not mean an outright lie (the "Sokal Hoax" excepted). Sometimes the words are more believable or compelling than the truth behind them. This habit leads to larger words, clever and conditional turns of phrase such as "XYZ may be true, yet if ABC were to occur."
As for demanding action, I'm not so sure either, unless "keep reading my blog" counts.
Academic articles usually ask readers to consider an idea in a certain way by presenting the results of research. Now there, I'll grant, is a sort of truth that carries weight in Academia.
Wax claims that "Because you do have an action in mind, even if you’re not making it explicit." Some academic writing merely engages in the play of ideas. Many posts at "In a Strange Land" have followed that philosophy for humorous ends (Pappy Enoch's posts) or for sharing the mere beauty and cultural-insights of a setting in virtual worlds (my road-trip entries).
Like most genres of writing, blogs can take many different forms. For instance, my friend Olivia's "Virtually Olivia" is mostly photographs and very little text, yet it is compelling because she is a very talented photographer.
New Genre, New Rhetoric?
It seems so. Blogs are developing a rhetorical style all their own, and it will branch off into many styles over time. Yet the classical appeals of logos (an appeal to reason) and pathos (an appeal to emotion) remain common tactics.
Famous bloggers employ ethos (an appeal based upon one's reputation) as well. For SL, if Tateru Nino, Vint Falken, or Hamlet Au write it, those who know their work tend to give it more credibility than when the brilliant, if cranky, Prokofy Neva pens a similar claim.
I've noted how when Au makes a mistake, he's quick to correct it and make that note right in the blog post with a thank-you to the reader who spotted the error.
That aspect of the rhetoric of blogging likewise has recently developed; when one's blog is as widely read as New World Notes, ethos can be a dangerous thing. We expect Au, Falken, and Nino to be experts on SL. When they slip up, their large readerships catch on quickly.