The ‘final’ year, blogging and ‘being visible’

Seems a bit rich for me to blog about starting what is supposed to be the final year of my PhD, when last we spoke I was only stepping into my second year. Turns out though, that actually says more than I ever could (which is saying something, as I’m sure you’ve noticed).

Research and data collection was more or less constant those twelve months. I was writing up as I went. I had my first international conferences. I helped organise a conference for the first time. I continued my efforts at publishing an article. I was teaching and marking for the first time. Quite frankly, I didn’t know which way was up most of the time and a blog seemed like the lesser of my priorities.

But then second year was dwindling to a close and third year was creeping up on me with its dreadful, clammy breath that started whispering about ‘after’. After…what is this ‘after’?

The Society for the Social History of Medicine, the Wellcome Trust,  and Strathclyde and  Glasgow Caledonian Universities helped put together an international post-grad conference called, quite aptly, ‘Health History in Action’. One of the benefits of this was the series of expert talks on how to use history outwith the ‘ivory tower’ as it were. A lot of this centred on the use of blogs – for the Luddites we historians typically are it’s an easier option than most to make ourselves and our projects ‘accessible’.

Turns out, not so much. There’s nothing worse, evidently, than a barren little orphan-blog. So ‘do it’, they said (‘they’ primarily being Vanessa Heggie, University of Birmingham and Chris Holme, the History Company), ‘but do it properly. If you don’t have the energy, the commitment, then it’s not for you’.

I accept that challenge.

But, Lo! I see Pat Thomson on the horizon. If you know me, or if you read this you’ll no doubt see PT’s influence throughout my blogging and the way I like to talk about my PhD experiences so far. Now is no exception – on her personal blog she posed the question,

Why do bloggers blog so much about blogging?

I think though, this might be my only foray into the blog discussion. Mostly because I’ve now written it so many times I can’t take the word seriously anymore.

We all know the key plus and pitfalls of writing and maintaining a B. It’s allows for freer expression, for the testing of ideas. It projects us across a wider readership, which can mostly be read as a non-academic readership. Through this we can make valuable international connections – instant networking! From changing how we research, how we communicate, how we interact, blogging in its way has changed how we do the PhD.

For me? My main purpose in creating one was to track where I’d come from throughout the (hopefully) next three years, and to put my research out there somewhere, where it didn’t have to be perfect, and people could be far more direct with their feedback (you’ll finally see this in the next week or two). Though I certainly won’t lie and omit the fact that from my first days on the doctoral programme blogs were recommended in boosting your final academic CV to help you appear more appealing in the job market. I recently went through my first scrawl of post-docs and potential jobs for this ‘after’ time we were talking about earlier and I found one – aimed at historians – on the development and maintenance of various social media accounts to promote research, public engagement and various network connections. It may have been in conjunction with other roles, but it was clear that social media was the real focus.

And I though – yeah. Yeah I’d like to do that.

I never though I would, you see. I thought I was a die hard archive-rat for the rest of me days. But even something as simple as this blog and seeing how social media is handled more widely by historians across the world, there’s no denying that its relationship with historians, historical organisations, charities, trusts, libraries, collections, museums etc etc, is fast becoming a close one.

So this isn’t a resigned, ‘well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ scenario here. This is something I reckon I’m going to relish getting my teeth into.

But well, we’ll see.


Next post

“Move Out!” The Acquisition of Asylum War Hospitals, c.1914-1917.


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