on blogging and research

a few days ago, i promised you the fourth instalment of the report on our little research project that explores the thoughts of people who view images of nude or scantily clad anorexic women.

i need a bit more time with that, and today i’d like to share with you my reflections on why.

it has something to do with the tension between blogging and research.

blogging is personal, transparent, just-in-time.

research is impersonal, filtered, and time consuming.

of course, this characterization is simplistic but by and large, i think most people would agree.

so when research occurs in the context of blogging, the blogger (me) finds herself pulled by opposing forces.

as this blogger, even though i point out that this project is not very scientific, i feel my academic training and passion for research shine through. so i just cannot / don’t want to bring myself to write a little piece that just glosses over and perhaps distorts all the interesting and useful information contained in the raw data – after all, only a short while ago, i criticized exactly that!

as a researcher, i also refuse to pull some conclusion out of the hat. as a blogger, on the other hand, i often and comfortably dance on the edge of immediacy (“i have 30 minutes, let’s see what i can cobble together.”)

as a researcher (back to the first hand again), i need time to think, to let ideas and impressions ripen. i guess at some level i must have thought that because this was “just a little not-very-scientific project”, and on my blog to boot, this maturing process could either be left to the side or be dealt with swiftly.

what’s a blogger to do? what’s a researcher to do? one could argue that this situation is not much different from scientific reporting – both the report writing that one engages in after a research project and the reporting that happens in the media ABOUT such projects. and to some degree that’s true.

it’s still different, though, when this happens in the context of blogging. personal, transparent, just-in-time. the fact that it was i, no-one else, who conducted this little study, is much more direct and palpable than even in feminist research, which is already quite centered on the personal. the fact this piece of research was born out of blogging, carried out in the context of blogging, and is now reported on via blogging takes me as a researcher to a raw and new edge that, frankly, surprises me.

so what’s a blogger to do? a blogger writes about it. shares the questions, the process, the learning, the reflection. transparency.

(this post is part of a series of articles:
understanding internet users

anorexia and sex
anorexia and sex: survey results are in
anorexia and sex: survey results, part 2
anorexia and sex: survey results, part 3
anorexia and sex survey: pulling it all together)

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

5 thoughts on “on blogging and research

  1. Nickie

    This is so accurate, thank you for putting these challenges and questions into a post. Since I do a lot of research because of college, I find I brush up against this quandry often.I’m kind of glad to hear that I’m not alone in this struggle.

  2. James

    For myself, a large part of the problem is the serialized nature of blogging, where there’s a separation of ideas that’s not necessarily present in a typical journal article. With blogging, there’s a certain pressure to create a narrative that can be hard to juggle with the need for scientific objectivity. I struggle with the idea of amount of disclosure, sometimes worrying about getting dooced (say, writing about an unpleasant meeting) and others just worrying about releasing information and inferences I haven’t mulled over completely yet.

    There is certainly a rawness in research blogging that’s becoming a new frontier; usually we’re not used to anybody but close colleagues seeing our drafts. It’s humbling, to say the least.

  3. isabella mori

    thanks for your comments, nickie and james. yes, i hadn’t even thought about the serialized nature yet. this means that everything comes out in dripples and tidbits. again, that’s also often how traditional research reports are written – but they are not presented in that fashion, so one always thinks of it as a whole piece.

    humbling, that’s a good word.

    nickie, do you do any blog or internet based research at your college?

  4. Jeremy Deam

    Generally I think blogging needs to be slowed down and academic research needs to be speeded up! It takes ages between doing some research experiment and getting it published in a journal – but that’s a whole different problem.

    On the other hand I find myself trying to rush things out on my blog – because, exactly as you say, there’s this pressure inherent in the medium. Anything bloggers can do to slow themselves down is worthwhile. Sometimes great things are created in the heat of the moment, but they can still benefit from refining.

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