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“It gets a lot of positive response”

Many Humanities scholars keep a blog of their own. This summer, we’re putting these in the spotlight. For this week’s interview, we sat down with dr. Florian Schneider of the Politics East Asia blog.

What is the blog's goal?

It originally began as part of a research project with NWO funding. Hosting a blog became a good way to valorize the research. I also use it as a way to float test balloons before I decide to write an article, but also as a way to get my students to discuss. It is particularly useful as a supplement to Blackboard, which is a pretty closed environment. That way, students are encouraged to present their course-work in a more attractive and public manner. It gets a lot of positive response from Africa and Latin America, where students use my entries on research methods in their fields of study.

Is it purely informative or also opinion?

Oh no, it is partly opinion as well. Peer reviewers who read your articles often ask you to dial back until you have the most neutral piece, so there’s not much room for opinion. On my blog, I do take positions on things, but it’s hard to say how visible that is. It’s mostly students who comment on issues, however. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but colleagues rarely comment.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned by maintaining this blog?

Hah. Hmm. There are probably two. The first is that even unfinished work can be helpful. As a scholar, you’re used to thinking that an insight is only useful at the end of a peer reviewed cycle. That’s stupid. As part of a research process, it can be very useful to yourself or others just to write down a few thoughts. The second thing is that putting yourself out there can be quite scary at first. When you look at my first couple of posts, they are much more carefully phrased than the later ones. But there was no backlash. It was not negative in the way you imagine.

What blog accomplishment are you most proud of?

The most popular blog post on my website, on how to do a discourse analysis, had 111.802 unique page views, out of 273.272 as a whole, and 349 comments. I’m quite proud of that.

If you could hand out an award to any other blog, which one would get it?

Definitely Nottingham’s China Policy Institute. Jonathan Sullivan has been very successful in connecting people with different interests and China related areas of expertise, despite threats of funding cuts. There is also the threat of Nottingham’s China department being shut down entirely, but that would just be outrageous.

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