Identity Development in Blogging — The Whys and Hows?

As I am starting to get personal, public, and formal academic feedback about my (working and developing) research design (both here on my blog, directly to me, and in my university’s Virtual Learning Environment), I am slowly narrowing it down.

I am thinking about how I work all various elements together (transformative learning, adult education, critical theory, teaching and learning, virtual identity, etc.), and it occurred to me that many of the people I speak with on Twitter and whose blogs I read are all sharing a similar experience to me — we are (or recently were) doctoral (or even graduate) students. I find myself interested in reading those blogs about people who chronicle their research interests, learning, struggles, and journies through graduate and doctoral work.

  • Why do this via a blog?
  • What is learned in the process?
  • How does it feel to be public with your thinking?
  • How do you learn about yourself?
  • Where does this fit with your identity development?
  • What troublesome knowledge do you learn along the way?

I wonder what it would be like to identify and interview some of these folks to inquire what they learned about themselves through blogging their educational experiences, why they did it, and how it influenced their research?

I wonder if there is a research problem and question in here?

18 thoughts on “Identity Development in Blogging — The Whys and Hows?

  1. Hi– I didn’t blog my experience because I didn’t think to! It’s a great idea and I wish I’d thought of it. I was encouraged to, and did, keep a journal, which I did find useful. It helped me formalize my thinking, keep up with ideas, and served to support the audit trail of when I did what/when I had a new thought/when I refined an idea. In retrospect I wish I had done it publicly and asked for input/comments rather than have it as a document only for my own use.
    Best,
    Jane

    1. Jane-

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Too bad nobody else was able to share elements of your journey with you.

      If you had to do it again, what can you imagine doing differently?

      Jeffrey

  2. I’m not a natural blogger. I struggle to write often on a blog and so only update sporadically. However, when I do, it tends to be about my PhD research. Like Jane, I keep a journal and I’ve found this to be invaluable. Part of my thesis has autoethnographic parts and this is where the journal has been great. It has allowed me to reflect on my personal journey, which has given me reflection on the larger phd research (the two are always intimately connected I guess).
    Re. blogging though (and tweeting) I think that I like to try and make some of my research transparent and make it available for feedback at the very least. I’ve been working with storytellers in Scotland and have been used to getting feedback from them in person and via email. Posting on blogs and twitter is a natural extension. If there’s no response then nothing is lost, but if you get insightful comments then there is much to gain. I suppose it’s trying to tap into the larger consciousness. Although most of a PhD is individual and has to be self-defined, any pointers you can get along the way are bound to help.
    Debbie

    1. Debbie-

      This is quite interesting; thank you for sharing it. I know you have been updating your site, and am looking forward to reading along with and sharing your progress, even from afar. Did I mention I am traveling to Scotland after my residential in March?

      Have you gotten any insightful comments using the methods you have been using to share your work? This seems to be the way my research may be progressing . . .

      Jeffrey

  3. I did it for my MPhil…and will do it again for my PhD. Maybe I should have started…maybe in a way I have already, although having changed PhD research topics recently brought me back to square zero where my doctoral research is concerned…which is not the same to say that my learning ventures up to know (in trying to find my feet) were useless. No, no, no…they were quite helpful and I still engage with the topic I wanted to do research on in my 1st year: Informal Teacher training… ( as a follow up of my previous research project)

    Blogging…once you start it for real, you do not stop. Nevertheless, sometimes you might need to take a break. That is what I did, not really because I was tired of blogging, but because I needed a break from myself …stay away from my research for a minute or two, and try to figure out what it meant for me. I am back, and slowly writing again in public. As I said last week at the Online Educa Berlin Conference, where I presented about the Digital Storyteller, my blog is where I voice my opinions for others to read and comment on. It is where I write a story in progress…and story that is mine, but equally a journey that in shared with many more. Blogging not only enables me to learn what others think about the topics I am interested in, it also helps me to learn about what I know… does this make any sense….? What I mean to say is that while writing I discover things (thoughts, ideas, conclusions) I never thought I could come up with…the process of writing is one of self-discovery, of maturing of ideas and of exercising my critical thinking in a progressive way.
    Not less important is the fact that while doing so I benefit from the ‘reactions of the community/ the networks’… those who read and share their comments with me. They too constitute valuable lessons…even if/when we sometimes disagree or share different point of views.
    Finally, blogging is possible my most private, yet public, window into my inner world, which both ‘stranger’ and friends have access to.
    And your blog’s title says exactly what I feel about my blogging venture: it represents a silence voice which I need to hear…and which needs to be heard. By making it available to others, it is amplified to an extend that otherwise would not be possible. (I am very quiet in conferences, I like to take it in, to listen and then reflect and ask the questions in my thinking corner…I guess this is my blog!

    Great post..I will have to blog more about it later! 😉

    1. Cristina-

      Thank you for your musing here; I find the writing style akin to my own at times. I was able to relate to how I at times also have to step away from my own blogging. To come for air, or to process what I am thinking and learning and experiencing, as well as to just try to find myself again after some intense experiences.

      I hope you begin your blogging again, as it will be great to catch up with you there again, in your own voice.

      I have found that when I really struggle with some areas of my identity and thinking, that my blogging either really takes off or, depending on the issue, it ceases altogether, as I try to understand myself even enough to blog.

      I am wondering if you will recount your experiences with your shifting research interests there?

      Jeffrey

  4. Hey Jeffrey,

    Blogging is a difficult topic. It often (implicitly) holds different purposes. Probably its main distinctive characteristic is that it can make your learning visible to the world. It is social. It creates the possibility for others to read your thoughts and to interact with you on that. For a great deal, this is a process of profiling. Show the world who you are, hope others connect and share your content. Learn through the network, the interactions.

    Great, I would say, but yet the main pitfall lies in this networked characteristic. Where do we draw the line between writing for personal reflection and writing for networking? From the advantages networking has (professional profiling, receiving feedback, etc.) i sometimes tend to write for an audience (as expert) instead of writing for personal reflection at the times i find that necessary. At the same time, when i dont do that it could be that i dont blog for a while and loose the audience.

    joost

    1. Joost-

      You are raising an interesting point — do we write for ourselves or an audience (or both). You may have a particularly hard time with this, as you regularly consult, and from that perspective your online identities may blur from a client’s perspective.

      When you blog for yourself, how do you navigate how much or how little to share?

      Jeffrey

  5. This is very interesting, and I believe that you have most of the answers you are looking for in this little piece of text. I am confident that there is both research problems and research questions hidden in the text. I can see some possible questions.

    Identity development through blogging – that is, development of identity as a researcher, the way I understand your text. As I see it, posting entries about research during the process, getting feedback, like comments, suggestions, and critique, is part of an interactive narrative.

    Identity construction through blogging as part of professional development.

    Narrative inquiries can be performed in two ways: the researcher can analyze already existent narratives, or he/she can analyze any text, looking for narrative traits. In this case, it would be the last option which is appropriate.

    What are the stories about identity that are being told in the blogs, openly or between the lines, how do these stories develop, what problems regarding research identity, self confidence, uncertainties, professional knowledge and insight do the blogs reveal?

    It could be ok to interview the bloggers who want to be part of this research project, or just read the blogs, or both. It would possibly feel ok for the blogger to be asked about taking part in the project, even if the project is just to read the blogposts. All text reveal a lot, you know, if you know how to look. Narrative research is great in this respect.

    There is no problem in connecting critical theory to a narrative project. On the contrary, since the material on a blog tends to be quite personal, and narrative analysis will emphasize the personal traits, as a communicative experience, there will be a need for some sort of theory to lift the material into another sphere, connecting the research with more generalized themes, categories, or theories.

    The fact that these experiences is done in a virtual world, and the person owning the blog is a virtual person, an avatar, could call for some theory to highlight this virtuality. Connectivism, by George Siemens, is one possibility. Google this, and you will be introduced to a new world.

    For narrativity, I can recommend the book “Narrative Research on Learning. comparative and international perspectives. Edited by Sheila Trahar, Symposium Books, 2006/2009. You can find it here:
    http://www.symposium-books.co.uk

    This book offers a lot about different perspectives on narrative research- theory, comparativity, ethics, method etc. And as I know, you have already read Clandinin & Connelly.

    The design could be narrative research in virtual space, based on reading of blogs (and possibly interviews), focusing on the construction of research identity through blog experience.

    This just a suggestion. You are of course free to use it, or not use it. Ask questions if you want to.

    Good luck!

    1. Vigdis-

      Wow, where can I begin?!

      Just ordered the book you recommended; thank you for it.

      Interesting with your comments about Connectivism. I read the text on it and have studied it a bit since, and while I do like the networked and community of practice elements to it, I can’t help but feel that the individual and his or her experiences get somewhat lost in the theory. In some ways it seems to take constructivism and then remove the personal application (and responsibility), putting it instead into the network. Perhaps I will need to re-examine it at your suggestion?

      I appreciate your confidence in my having several areas of research already, and know I need to get this cleaned up and approved by my department within the week . . .

      I have not been able to read your blog in some time (my limited language abilities), and am wondering to what extent my area(s) of interest are being developed recently in your own work and blogging? Interested to hear how you find yourself situated in this right now.

      Jeffrey

      1. Hi Jeffrey,

        I do agree with you about Connectivism. Would it be possibe to combine this perspective with the concept of “social presence”? This concept has been developed and discussed by many researchers in the field of e-learning. I guess that you are familiar with it? If not, there is an article that is informative, which I can recommend (and if you need more, I have a lot of references): “Presence: Concept, determinants and measurement” by Wijnand A. IJsselsteijn, Huib de Ridder, Jonathan Freeman, and S.E. Avons. They shortly define the concept of presence as “the sensation of ‘being there’ in a mediated environment” – and then the personal is important, and the network a mediator.

        Lately I have come to wonder a lot about the constructivism paradigme. I guess I have always thought of myself as a constructivist, perhaps with a touch of poststructuralism. Now I wonder what is really constructed, how it is constructed, and by what means, and also the question about reality, where it is, if it is (of course it is, to some extent, but to what extent? Who decides?). Are there other ways to think about language and mediation other than as constructions? What are your thoughts about this? I know this is a large question, probably connected to a personal ontology, and I do not expect an immediate or extended answer…

        When it comes to my blogging, I can assure you that all my posts on research are and will continue to be in English. I use my mother tongue only when I write about issues concerning politics in my own country, or about literature or language. This means, as you may have seen, that it’s been a while since I last posted anything about research. Nothing new there. The reasons behind are several, but mostly it has to do with these facts: a) I do not feel that it is appropriate to reveal, at this stage, the results or issues from the project I am working in, as it involves a lot of other people, some of them young and vulnerable, and b) I have been so new to the project, that it has taken a long time to become familiar with the theoretical foundations on which the project is built. Summary: I have not been able to focus on and single out things to blog about. But some of my areas of research are touching yours, and it would be great to blog about it. It will come, and I will give you a notice.