In this post, Mariana Marcondes, a MSc student studying Digital Society, shares her story about how she was introduced to blogging as an assessment activity, and has since gone on to blog as part of her regular writing habits…
Blog posts are not the most common type of assessment in academia. However, this was the challenge that the directors of the MSc in Digital Society set us as the final assessment for our course Issues and Concepts in Digital Society. We were asked to write and publish six blog posts that reflected the thoughts inspired by the discussions and readings we had done during the term, on topics such as privacy, surveillance, digital identities and inequalities.
Although uncommon, this task was an especially fitting choice of work for students on this specific programme because Digital Sociology is not only about the objects of study and methods of inquiry, but also about the use of digital platforms for engaging with the public (Marres, 2017). In that sense, the exercise performed a dual purpose: making us reflect on digital objects and engaging with digital platforms. To give us a sense of the expectations for the assessment, we were provided with examples of blogs by popular digital sociologists.
Free from the usual constraints of the academic essay, a lot of us were a bit anxious. The novelty of the format does make people insecure; it is actually quite daunting to draw the line between being too academic (to the point of not communicating clearly with the wider public) and not academic enough. I myself tended to err on the side of being too casual: as someone who graduated in journalism, I can sometimes oversimplify my text and build on what I am learning during the semester without properly explaining the concepts I am using. But the blog keeps me writing and I am getting better the more I practice. That is just one of the reasons why I kept it after the course was over.
My blog, Burning the Midnight Data, is a safe space in which I can share my ideas without concerns for grades or the need to answer specific pre-defined questions. Those lower stakes have made writing more pleasurable and, by having a habit of writing, it is now much less daunting to start my graded essays. Because I get to choose what I write about, it is a way to indulge in a range of interests that are out of the scope of my degree. It is also a great space to organise ideas, as we get a better sense of what we know or don’t about a topic when you have to try to explain it.
I am also using my work on the blog as part of my SSPS Edinburgh Award in Digital Content Creation. This commitment helps me to keep on writing even when it is not my top priority. All things considered, what started as a course assessment has become a personal and professional improvement tool, which I would strongly recommend to other students.
Marres, N. (2017). What is Digital Sociology? In N. Marres, Digital Sociology : The Reinvention of Social Research. Polity Press.