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From the Ballardosphere: Why Academics Should Blog

Congratulations to Simon Sellars of Ballardian whose doctoral thesis, ‘The yes or no of the borderzone’: J.G. Ballard’s Affirmative Dystopias, has been accepted and submitted. I'm a long-time reader of Simon's site and although I'm still a Ballard newbie I'm a lot more informed and interested as a result of a couple of years of reading Ballardian.

The website and the dissertation have evolved hand-in-hand and, in a very modest acknowledgement post to all those who have contributed to both/either, Simon writes the following:

The one thing that really got me through that incredibly tough slog was this website and the various people who have so generously shared, swapped and critiqued ideas about Ballard’s work. There has been some debate about whether academics should keep blogs, about whether they are a distraction from the ‘real’ work of writing theses and publishing articles, but I can say from my experience that I never would have made it without this kind of interaction — as moderator of the site, filtering this constant stream of information and ideas was worth at least double the time. There have been a fair few critics of the site, too, but even that has helped to sharpen ideas, hone instincts and keep the old ego in check. It has all been incredibly stimulating. For example, my rushed posts that were written with the purpose of getting thoughts down in the heat of the moment later germinated into more mature and thoughtful ideas that were incorporated into the thesis; plus there has been a fair share of opportunity in terms of being offered work, publishing opportunities and various collaborations as a result of getting these ideas out there. In short, for anyone contemplating a PhD, I would recommend keeping a blog or website for channelling research ideas of whatever description. Doing a PhD by research can be incredibly isolating and even soul destroying, but the online experience both opened my eyes and my world to a brighter future.

I don't think there could be a clearer or more positive statement of the value engendered by engagement beyond the ivory tower of the academy. What Simon touches on is the sheer unpredictability of the internet environment. Whilst it would be too simplistic to say that relationships forged in cyberspace are emergent, the roles of serendipity, chance and luck are integral to a positive experience of putting oneself "out there". 

I'm not going to get all academickese on your collective ass (for which Mike Innes rightly chides me on occasion) but it remains the case that the links created by involvement in the so-called "virtual" undoubtedly pay dividends in the "real". Academics often worry that if they speak before they publish their brilliant theories and ideas will be swept away in the information stream and plagiarised to buggery by lesser mortals. There may be a hint of truth in this but the stream flows both ways, as Simon so eloquently reminds us. I guess you get out what you put in.

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