Doing this blog has really got me thinking about the nature of academic discourse. It particularly hit me yesterday when I was checking the proofs of a paper that will be coming out in Computers and Education soon on our LXP learning experience work. Whilst reading through the paper a number of things came to mind. The paper took a particular stance on the work – weaved a specific narrative – which is of course what papers are supposed to do. It grounded the work in the wider literature and fore grounded certain aspects of the data to support the chosen narrative. It presented a coherent story (well at least I hope it did!). This was in stark contrast to the reality of the research process. In my mind I could remember the messiness of the real research process, the various blind alleys we went down as a team, the panic at different points (will the technology work? will we be able to recruit any students to the study? will the data generate anything useful in terms of our research questions?). Another ‘view’ on the LXP project is through various conference presentations – these also weave a particular story, for example for a lifelong learning conference I considered the implications for lifelong learning, whereas at EUROCALL 2007 I concentrated on the findings from the Language learners. So although presentations, like papers, weave a narrative, because the medium is different (i.e. a slide presentation with pictures, audio and video alongside a verbal presentation as opposed to a textual paper) the message is different too. I have also blogged about aspects of the work and blogging seems to offer an alternative style of voice, one which is much more reflective and ‘of the moment’. So the function and nature of the three media seems to be:
Which of these is a true representation of the research? Which is real academic discourse? In the old simple world, academics were recognised and rated primarily by their textual output – ‘the seminal text’, ‘the paper published in the best journal in the field’. And indeed that of course is still the primary mechanism for the Research Assessment Exercise (don’t get me started on that one again). But now increasingly the blogosphere is offering an alternative style of academic discourse, which you could argue is potentially a counter-culture to mainstream academic publishing. It has its own federated peer-reviewing mechanisms, such as cross-referencing between blogs and indicators of esteem such as the technorati authority. Increasingly academics are taking note of this new communication space – however one could argue that the uptake is sadly slower than it should be, I can’t believe it has taken me this long to recognise the value of blogging. In welcoming me to the blogosphere George Siemens wrote
It’s great to see research-focused academics entering the blog space. We need a edublog ecology which runs the full breadth from practical application to theory and research.
I wholeheartedly agree with him and hope that in time, more researchers take the plunge and communicate their findings and thinkings through blogs as well as via papers and presentations.
Coming back to the question of which represents academic discourse – to my mind it’s all three – in different ways writing a paper, giving a presentation and blogging all help me to formulate and take forward my thinking on a particular topic, a means of meaning making and transformation of the raw ‘data’ to new understandings – surely that’s one of the cornerstones of what being an academic means?