Why Bother Blogging?: One Blogger’s Perspective on Blogs

My name is Jesse Boiteau and I am a second year student in the Archival Studies Masters Program at the University of Manitoba.  Over the past seven months I have had the opportunity to establish a blog and generate posts for the Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (CTR).  The CTR will be located at the University of Manitoba`s Fort Garry Campus and will house the records of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Indian Residential Schools.  One of the blog’s main objectives is to aid the University of Manitoba in remaining transparent during the CTR`s establishment.  It has also given the opportunity for the general public to voice their opinions and concerns on a variety of topics related to the TRC and the CTR.  To date (March 4, 2014), the blog has been viewed 3634 times by 36 different countries, amassing 37 comments from a variety of individuals.

This experience has been especially interesting to me because it will serve as a case study for my thesis research. My thesis is focusing on how implementing forms of transparency can lead to more user participation in archives (or at least that is the plan as I am writing this post).  Social media will play a pivotal role in my research seeing as it is a strong catalyst for transparency and participation.  In terms of user participation, my post entitled Is Social Media the Answer?: Achieving Archival Transparency and Enabling Participation has attracted by far the highest number of comments, eluding to the fact that this topic is generating more interest than just my own. Although the blog has been well received thus far, there have certainly been some challenges along the way.

One of my biggest hurtles throughout this process has been altering the writing style that has been drilled into my brain throughout my academic studies.  Writing a blog post is not the same as writing an academic essay. Although it has been a refreshing change, it has forcefully kicked me out of my comfort zone.  Yet, having a space where I can explore various writing styles has honestly been one of my favorite aspects of the blogging experience. Blogs are meant to be on the lighter side, including elements of humour and language that is appropriate for a wide array of readers.  This notion of utilizing (or not utilizing) proper and less technical terminology is something that has hindered archival institutions for a very long time, and continues to create barriers for researchers today.

Another important part of the blogging process is knowing your target audience when deciding on the content being shared via the blog.  The topics that I have chosen so far have ranged from TRC related projects to local Indigenous archival initiatives to more politically infused posts such as the post entitled 1/3 Full or 2/3 Empty: The (potentially) Missing Records from the National Research Centre (NRC).  Although humour and a more relaxed writing style are highly encouraged in this form of writing, it is important to remain mindful of the subject matter that is being presented, as well as the potential readers who are being attracted to the blog.  Striking a balance between a lighter writing style and respect is very important.  I have also discovered that incorporating a collaborative writing process can go a long way to creating a more balanced blog.  When dealing with sensitive or political subjects, it is essential to have the blog posts reviewed by individuals who have a stake in the information being shared.  Also, having guest bloggers is a great way to introduce a different point of view and perhaps attract a wider audience.  From a practical standpoint, it also gives the blogger a breather without causing an extended break between posts (something that can really hinder a blog’s momentum).

I hope this post will encourage more students to try their hand at blogging.  The process itself has selfishly helped me solidify my thesis topic, and it has also connected me with a number of individuals who are interested in the same topic.  By no means do I consider myself a blogging expert, and therein lies the beauty of blogs; anyone can start one and your only limitations are your creativity and ambition.

Jesse Boiteau

This post first appeared as a Monthly Spotlight feature on the blog that ran in March. Thanks very much to our guest blogger Jesse Boiteau!



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