What is blogging? How is blogging "academic"? Most importantly, why is my teacher asking me to blog?
It's likely that some, if not all, of these questions come to mind as your first-year composition professor introduces blogging as a form of academic writing. Yes, blogging can be academic. But how? More importantly, how is blogging a way of connecting lofty, intellectual topics with "real world" arguments? On the most general level, blogs provide spaces for productive conversations about the relationship between writing and audience. What does this mean? This simply means that as someone who reads and writes blogs – a blogger – you are actively participating in an online space that enables you to participate in conversation with other bloggers, creating and critiquing arguments, blogs also show countless examples of how arguments are written, problematized, critiqued, created, destroyed, and complicated – all in "real time".
More specifically, I want to offer two secondary reasons for why blogging is an appropriate form of academic writing in the first-year composition classroom – and for that matter, everywhere else, especially in the so-called "real world".
Throughout the first-year composition sequence, instructors will likely emphasize that the writing you're practicing is preparing you for the writing that you'll undoubtedly be required to do in the future, i.e., writing that you'll do in other courses and writing that you'll do beyond college (in the "real world"). Blogging is a way to practice what it means to write and argue in the composition classroom, in other courses, and beyond the classroom. Blogging gives you more access to more public audiences – those who communicate in real-time, in the real world. Therefore, one of the primary reasons that blogging is an appropriate form of academic writing is because it is a means of making writing more public: it is a means of illustrating how you can actively participate in public arguments.
Blogging provides a method and a forum to support the claim that writing – especially argumentative writing – ought to be a public activity. Given that blogging is inherently a public activity, though, how does "going public" with your writing implicate your online identity, not to mention the rhetorical ways in which you're writing in response to (i.e., conversing with, arguing with) other bloggers? Your teacher may allow you to publish your blog postings under a pseudonym, a "fake" or made-up name that is only known within the class. However, it's important to consider that the rhetorical ways in which you're responding to other bloggers can help to predict bloggers' responses: if you're writing in an inflammatory and disrespectful tone, you're negating your ethos (your credibility); it's likely that other bloggers will perceive your disrespectful tone and, therefore, will discount your credibility as an intelligent and resourceful blogger.
Secondly, blogging is an appropriate form of academic writing not only because it enables you to actively participate in public arguments but also because it encourages you to become more invested in your writing. You're unlikely to take the time to blog about topics of no interest to you. Instead you'll be writing – blogging – within forums, and about topics, that matter to you. Blogging allows you to choose the forums that are most significant to you; it enables you to actively, publicly, participate in real-world arguments that matter to you. Furthermore, a blog provides a space for analyzing what makes a "good" argument. Essentially, blogging as a new media form of academic writing is useful for practicing, participating in, and problematizing the basic concepts of rhetoric.
When crafting your own blog, consider the audience you would like to attract and how your writing might cater to the particular readers you have in mind. The most effective bloggers initiate conversation with their writing. Their words inspire others to comment on and question their ideas, and, more fundamentally, they inspire readers to keep reading the blogger's work. How do bloggers attract readers and responders? For one, the most effective bloggers write about topics about which other people might have something to say. Also, a good blog should be visually interesting and easy to read; the page should attract the reader. Furthermore, popular blogs tend to have a defined rhetorical stance; the theme of their posts and the style of the writing are consistent and distinctive.