By David Perry
In May 2021, the Institute offered an intensive workshop entitled, “So You Want to Start a Blog? - A Three Day Introduction to Blogging for Academics,” online for the first time. The course was designed for scholars who were interested in blogging, or regular iterative writing on a site designed and controlled by the scholar themselves.
The workshop was led by David Perry, a frequent contributor to outlets like CNN and The Washington Post, and author of the long-running blog This is David M. Perry. David has been blogging since 2014 and has written thousands of posts. He was joined by Adam Stemple, an author and website designer. The course was attended by 14 U of T scholars located in Canada, the U.S., and Nigeria.
The online format allowed the participants to join on three successive Wednesdays, using the time between sessions to actually create their site, design it, start writing, then discuss the process with the other participants. The advantages of blogging is that unlike other forms of public writing, there are no gatekeepers between the scholar and the world. But that also means that the author has to learn at least rudimentary design techniques, navigate menus, and figure out how to write without editorial support. In this case, though, participants had the help of a skilled designer who both offered presentations on setting up a site, laid out pathways to scale up for those who wished, and was on-call for one-on-one support as needed. Meanwhile, the workshop leader led the group in discussions about blogging, voice, promotion, and how this kind of writing does and doesn’t fit into a typical academic career.
This was a pragmatic workshop with one clear goal: Actually make a blog. By the end of the workshop, all the active participants had done so, with some quickly advancing to publication-ready sites, and others re-starting from scratch several times to get their format just right. Some created blogs to support specific projects, to build networks within their fields, to promote more public versions of their scholarly work, and still others looking for a place to share findings and ideas that just don’t quite fit into traditional publications. The foundations are now set, and the wide world of blogging beckons.