Monday, August 04, 2008

Why I Blog: Part 1

Rationale, Reasons

The act of blogging is, in a way, similar to a person standing on a street corner sounding off on an issue of personal importance, hoping that someone passing by will stop and listen. The blogger writes and publishes blog posts, hoping his or her words will find an audience. Like raising a child and watching them grow and leave, the blogger releases his words never sure of their destiny.

Taken to one extreme, the act of blogging becomes a narcissistic activity, where the messy details of a blogger’s life become blog post fodder, an indiscriminate exposé of daily life. In an ideal, more balanced form, however, the act of blogging is as a two-way communication street and a social networking hub, whereby the blogger expresses and shares opinions, observations and ideas to those reading, and allows for—in fact, encourages—the community of readers to respond, react and generate further discussion, thus building new ideas, new knowledge, and a stronger community.

I hope my blogging activities, that is, The DIGITAL Archive, falls somewhere between narcissism and idealism.

So why do I blog (against all odds, some might add). I blog for two reasons:
  • To give voice to personal thoughts, opinions and observations on the news and current events that I care about and;

  • To partake in the community of bloggers, whether the common thread is based on locality, interests, or profession

Like layers in an onion, however, there is more to the story.

About a project called digitalpermanence

I opened a Blogger.com account in early 2004, but I only started blogging in March 2005. In 2004, the McGill University Archives (where I worked at the time) embarked on a large, ambitious project called digitalpermanence, the university’s attempt at a comprehensive electronic records management and digital preservation strategy.

In January 2004, a small team of McGill archivists was assembled, including me, and tasked to conduct a campus-wide survey of the university’s electronic records and to devise a preliminary e-records management plan and digital preservation strategy. The first phase of the project ran between January 2004 and November 2004, with the second phase--reviews and discussions-- starting in early 2005 (about the time I started blogging). For those interested, the full story of the project is available online on the McGill University Archives’ digitalpermanence sub-site.

In March 2005, with a ton of research information sitting on my desk, I wanted to chronicle the findings of the project.

While our team produced official reports, I, personally, wanted to share information about the project, thus fulfilling that academic urge to share and build upon existing knowledge. I started blogging because the medium intrigued me and because I felt I was conducting important research and no one (outside of McGill) knew about it. I felt I had no one (aside from the already swamped archivists) with whom I could relate this information to, so I started a blog and called it The DIGITAL Archive, explaining in a note that it was an ad hoc, unofficial university blog, not associated with the university.

My first blog post was called “All Systems Go!” Like that lone voice on a street corner, I hoped the words I wrote on electronic records management and digital preservation would reach someone. Discreetly, I blogged about the project, what had taken place and what findings, if any, were being discovered. It was a great learning experience on two fronts: the research on e-records management and digital preservation proved fruitful, on one front, and the hands-on blogging experience taught me much about this new publishing medium.

By blogging, I had a voice, or at least the project had a voice. In a few shorts weeks, at least two or three other blogs made direct references to the blog. Now not only had I a voice, but I was becoming part of a community of bloggers who also shared in some of the project’s discussions. Slowly, the blog’s audience grew and I, the blog’s author, began to connect with other bloggers in the blogosphere.

As the blog was hitting its stride, however, the digitalpermanence project--second phase--came to a halt. This was about fall 2005. The reports I had written were filed away—archived, I would like to think—and the small team assigned to the project moved on to other projects and some to other endeavours.

But The DIGITAL Archive blog, born out of a now dead project, still stared and blinked at me with life and potential. But I was not sure what I was going to do with the blog; in fact, I was not sure what direction my career would take after this large-scale research project ended.

You see, I was a contractual employee working in the archives on a project-by-project basis, the majority of which focused on supporting Web and digitization initiatives. With web and digitization projects under my belt, I welcomed such a large research project. But now the research project had ended as well, and I was confronted with the reality that this was perhaps the end of the line.

Curiously, this struggle to find a new direction, in career and in life, played a pivotal role in the future of The DIGITAL Archive blog.

[Part 2 to be published tomorrow and Part 3 the day after]

3 comments:

Lauren K said...

great post.

Lauren K said...

great post.

dkemper said...

Hi Lauren - Thanks for stopping by and reading and for your feedback.

Would you believe I spent several days composing this three-part series. There were several things to sift through and I tried to focus on the most crucial, if not sensitive, parts that have lead me to conclude that a change in career direction is necessary.

When looking through past posts, I see this blog is a kind of diary, really. While chronicling a research project, I was also recording my own subconscious thoughts. Weird.

Once again, thanks. Do drop again.

about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.