‘Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?’*

In some ways starting a blog is worse than starting a new piece of writing using traditional media.  Not only do you have the blank page/screen taunting you, but at least I know how to use the more traditional media.  I know how to pick up a pen or pencil and make a mark on a piece of paper, and I know how to use word-processing software. I’ll let you into a secret – I’m using Word to draft this initial piece just to get over the hurdle of getting to grips with new technology whilst trying to order my thoughts.  I can’t multi-task. And Word kindly checks my spelling and grammar for me.

I have several motivating reasons for wanting to do this; all of which have converged nicely at this point in my life.  Firstly, I am in the processing of doing my PhD on a part-time basis with the Open University. It seems as though I have been doing this for ever, and still have for ever to go.  The opportunity to blog about the research presents a good opportunity for me to inject some life into it.  Life as a part-time PhD student with the OU is often a lonely one, and by blogging I hope to encourage discussion and dialogue with others in a way that is not accessible through being co-located with fellow PhD students.

Secondly; digital tools, web 2.0, social media, blog sites; call them what you will – they form a central part of an empirical project as part of my PhD research.   My next blog instalment will talk more about my research.  In short, my PhD research is about the ways in which part-time or amateur crafters and makers use such technologies as part of their practice to promote their craft and communicate with others.  Understanding more about the process of interacting using such technologies will, I hope, provide valuable insights into this aspect of my work, as well as providing some data as a reflective participant observer. More on this anon.

Thirdly, I am proposing to include an ‘auto-ethnographic’ element of my work.  I’ve put this term in quotation marks as the term, like most others in the social sciences, it is a contested and debated term (a potential theme for a future blog post perhaps?) but essentially I’m interpreting this to mean that as both a researcher and amateur craftsperson, I will develop my own dual purpose blog as part of my data collection strategy, and will write reflectively on this.

Finally, I have been given an opportunity to participate in the ‘Digital Tools for Research’ programme run by the University of Warwick Library.  In my other life (i.e. when I’m not a PhD student) I work in the Research Support Services department at Warwick, and I support researchers in the Social Sciences, particularly in Warwick Business School, Economics and Politics and International Studies departments. I hope that my participation in this programme will help me in my ‘professional life’ by giving me an insight into the type of support that is available to researchers in the University to help them raise the profile of their work using digital media.

For now, at least, the process of constructing a blog doesn’t seem to be that painful.  It is greatly helped by the resources made available through the programme on the ‘Publishing on the Web’ module, so my thanks go to the course organisers and authors for that. The main thing that the course materials encourage you to do is to think strategically about your blogging and to get your thoughts and activities into some sort of order. For me it has generated lots of ideas for future posts

My main challenge to work through in the forthcoming weeks is that there is so much useful information out there about establishing and maintaining a blog, how to you filter what’s useful, and where does the reading and absorbing of information end and the active, participative process of constructing a blog begin?

*Richie, L. (1984) ‘Hello.’ Can’t slow down. Detroit; Motown. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hello_(Lionel_Richie_song)

In the true spirit of academe – I am duty-bound to cite my source appropriately.

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