The Importance of Self-Reflection


Ok, I’ve put this assignment off long enough.  I think reflecting is an important thing to do, but it is always a bit tough to think critically about yourself or your work.  Especially when you are reflecting publicly on work that people have read.  However, without further ado, here on my thoughts on blogging and my use of Twitter:

Blogging

When I learned that I would have to write a blog this year (while in my former life as a legal assistant in Winnipeg), I was a bit concerned.  Being out of school and the field for awhile, I didn’t know what I was going to talk about, who was going to read it or who was going to really care.

Fortunately, once I actually started this program and got in the habit of blogging, I started to like it. I always write with an audience in mind, but I am less concerned about saying something profound and what people will think and more focused on working through the topic or problem at hand. For me, blogging is always a method of reflection.

Most of my blog posts are about digital history, although most overlap with public history, archives or the study of history more generally.  A lot of my blogs reveal an emotional and passionate approach to matters of history.  I think this has the unintended affect of making me sound naive, which is not actually the case.  I spent all of my undergrad writing formally and thinking objectively and this blog has finally provided me with the opportunity to really connect with the study of history. I think I will try to make sure I don’t sound too corny or sappy, but I’m not going to try to divorce my feelings from my work.  That’s just not who I am and that’s not what I want to do.

Many of my posts discuss education, both formal and informal.  Posts such as Grain of Salt and Paris – a sleepy little town, discuss different types of skills and knowledge that I think could be incorporated into school curriculum (which is sort of odd, because I have no experience teaching, so I’m not sure why I think I can comment on curriculum, but there you have it).  Other posts, like Beware the House Hippo, discuss skills that I think we should work on individually and informally.  Education is so important to me and I think people should always strive to learn.  This belief seems to be making its way into my blog.

In looking back through my posts, I’m a bit disappointed in some of the ones relating to Digital History.  In Historical Data in the Digital Age and The Trouble with Numbers, for example, I spend most of my blog chronicling my experience with different digital tools.  This is fine, except I don’t think that I really explored the implications of these tools with respect to historical research, which I suspect was sort of the point of the exercise. In both posts, I end with a fairly vague conclusion that “it is difficult to use these tools” and I fail to examine the more theoretical problems and questions that exist.  I don’t exactly know why this is, but my best guess is that by the time I experiment with the digital tools and work through the technology, there’s not much time (or energy) left to write an insightful blog.  That’s not a very good excuse, though, so I will try to improve on this in the weeks ahead.

Also, I have not commented on my classmates’ blogs as much as I would like.  I read everyone’s blog regularly and have often started to write comments, but very rarely have I submitted them.  I think I fear that my comments won’t contribute to the conversation.  However, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m sure an “I agree” or “good post” (if that’s all I have to say) won’t particularly bother or offend anybody, so I will try to do at least that and attempt to contribute to conversations generally.

In general, I’m pleased with my blogging progress so far and I am happy that I have identified some weakness that I can try to improve.  I think I’m definitely working towards the goal of my blog, which is to “find my voice.”  It’s nice to have my thoughts documented, so I can look for commonalities and themes and start to understand myself.

Twitter

Before this class, I only thought of Twitter as a frivolous social networking tool.  I knew that people used it to post quick, status updates (“waiting at the airport,” “going to a movie tonight”) to their followers and I never felt that I would have much use for, or interest in, such a tool.

However, I very quickly learned that many people use Twitter in a much more productive way.  People use it to exchange ideas, share news and, most importantly, connect with others who have similar interests (or contrasting interests, for that matter), but who they may not actually know.

Most of the people I follow on Twitter are academics and all, I’m sure, are very knowledgeable in their field and successful at what they are doing.  However, as is sometimes the case in real life, there doesn’t seem to be any arrogance or snobbery in Twitterland.  Most people have their guard down and seem genuinely eager to learn and share information.  I find this to be an encouraging and exciting atmosphere.

As with my blogging life, I haven’t contributed much to the conversations in Twitterland.  Most of my tweets are to my classmates and sometimes a link to something I find interesting.  I have only on occasion tweeted to someone I didn’t know.  I do, however, check Twitter regularly and often follow links / conversations that people tweet about.  I am quite happy with what I have received from Twitterland, so I suppose it is my duty to try to give something back.  This will be another thing I will try to work on in weeks ahead.

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2 thoughts on “The Importance of Self-Reflection

  1. Hey Joanna,
    I like your post, especially your twitter analysis.
    Do you think you will continue to use Twitter once this program is finished? Does it make you feel like you’re part of a greater historical community or just an outside looking in?
    P.S. I think you’re doing a great job blogging, always very interesting content!

    -Craig

  2. Thanks, Craig. I think I will probably keep up with Twitter next year. I think it’s a good way to receive different types of information (whether relating to history, the news, hobbies / other interests) in one place. I would have to say that I feel mostly on the outside looking in, but the people inside seem to be having a fun time! Caitlyn’s H-Net presentation today made me realize today that there is a bit of exclusivity with Twitter, though. Of all the people I follow, only about half follow me back. I’m not sure why someone would decide not to follow me (if it’s because I’m a student or because I’m in a different field / country / demographic, etc), but it probably indicates that some traditional divides are maintained in Twitterland.

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