‘ACADEMIC technocrats are pushing fusty colleagues to the brink of information technology adventure with their latest research toy – the blog’. wrote Lisa Mitchell in 2006.
The blogosphere is doubling every five-and-a-half months, according to United States blog tracker Technorati. About 75,000 new blogs emerge each day, and 43 million blogs have been set up worldwide.
While ordinary folk drive the blogging phenomenon through citizen journalism and mass vanity publishing, educators are latching on to its research potential: efficient tracking of thought processes, instant publishing and distribution of ideas worldwide. Online, it seems, reputations can rocket among peers.
Academics wondering whether they should venture into cyberspace should consider its reach, says Adrian Miles, a senior lecturer in new media in the school of applied communication at RMIT University.
“I have about 1000 readers a week, and that’s a very small blog. I know other people who have major academic blogs and I would expect their readership to be between 5000 and 10,000 a week,” Mr Miles says.
“Even if I get published in a major international journal, realistically, maybe 100 people would read my article.” Mr Miles’ blog – VLOG 3.0 – is about video blogging.
Essentially, a blog is a more flexible version of a discussion list or online forum. Users self-publish their thoughts and ideas on the net with free, easy-to-use blogging software (more complex software is available for reasonable fees) and visitors log in to respond, creating threads of discussion that can be archived but accessed at any time.
In August last year, former Deakin University academic James Farmer founded edublogs.org, a blogging site for educational professionals. Edublogs now has 10,000 users, of whom he estimates 70 to 80 per cent are US academics.
Mr Farmer was recently appointed online community editor at The Age.
“If you want a successful academic career, you have to impress a large number of readers and have a great deal of credibility, and that only comes from peer-to-peer review, which is people reading and recommending and subscribing back to you,” he says.
Tracking engines help bloggers map the number of readers and links to their blogs to confirm their level of blogging authority.
“Generally, the articles that have been published online have about 10 times more references from other papers (or blogs) than the articles that have been published in just paper,” contends Mr Far