This blog has been an experiment in modernizing the writing process and product. Instead of researching and writing in isolation, then turning my papers in to my professor, never to be seen by anyone else, my classmates and I have been keeping regularly updated blogs detailing the progression of our ideas. We have also been seeking out greater collaboration with our classmates and others in the academic and online community.
My project has seen a long and enlightening progression. I began with the idea of the sublime, which I'd studied in literature previously, and decided (with encouragement from my professor, Gideon Burton) to apply this concept to the digital age. I began with a few questions and ideas and jumped right in, scouring the web for information and content worth having. One of my first successes was early on, when I posted a simple question to my Facebook page: "Does access to limitless knowledge via the internet remove the sense of wonder for the world?" which managed to spark a mini-debate between three of my Facebook friends. They made some interesting points that gave me ideas for my research, but what I liked the most about this experience was the fact that none of them knew each other: one attends BYU like myself, one is a student at Western Washington University, and one is an old Sunday School teacher of mine, who I haven't seen since I was eight years old. Just through Facebook I was able to interact with three people from very different backgrounds and locations in the same conversation.
Another exciting moment of collaboration came after I found a great book review by Brent Aldrich on The Englewood Review of Books, which I wrote about in this previous post. I left a quick comment with a link to my blog, and within a few days he wrote back on my blog, and directed me to some of his work. This made me realize how easy it can be to find and communicate with other people online with my research interests. This sort of collaboration has the potential to really alter the dynamics of academic research, and I'm sure already has, by bringing in actual interaction with people rather than just articles and books.
One of the most useful things that I've gained from this experience is a love for the social bookmarking site Diigo, introduced to me by Professor Burton, which has been an amazing aid for my research both for this class and the other course I'm taking this term. Although we were introduced to a lot of really useful resources this term (Wordle is a fun one too, and I believe I've mastered the art of Google Scholar), this is one that I know I'll keep using, and often. This has also been my first blogging experience, and I've found it surprisingly fulfilling, though unexpectedly difficult.
This has been a new experience for all of us, and for me it has been very difficult to get used to publicizing my work in process and approaching others who I've discovered have similar research interests. It has also been a challenge to find an appropriate balance between academic and accessible writing, to make my work both academically viable and approachable for the typical, non-English-major blogger. But it has also opened my eyes to the possibilities of collaboration and open information that are now presented to academia, has introduced me to a whole new way of approaching the writing process, and has converted me, to some degree, to the art of blogging. It hasn't been a typical course, and has definitely been overwhelming and frustrating at times, but I think I've actually learned quite a few things that I'll be able to use in the future to improve my research and writing processes.