Professors are enthusiastically tapping the medium’s potential
Blogs, those ubiquitous online running commentaries, are expanding public discourse in unprecedented ways. And UMass Amherst professors are among those who through their blogs are finding new and, in some cases, previously unperceived or underserved readerships.
Take Professor of Economics Nancy Folbre. Since 2009 she’s been a contributor to The New York Times blog Economix, which she says, “presents a variety of views and seems like a great interface between academics and a larger public. I’m one of several economists who post there regularly. Some staff reporters do, too.”
An authority on public higher education, women’s role in the workplace, the undocumented costs of caring for children or elderly parents, and other issues, Folbre has a passion for bridging the divide between those who understand economics and those who don’t. She finds the blog an ideal means of doing that and finds the effort of “trying to distill an economic argument into about 600 words a good exercise. I like the immediate and often diverse responses from readers. I was somewhat unprepared and initially taken aback by the sometimes-rude tenor of posted comments but have come to the conclusion that I’ve led a sheltered life in the university. I think it’s good to learn how to take a little abuse.”Psychology Today hosts Professor of Psychology Susan Krauss Whitbourne’s blog, Fulfillment at Any Age . It deals with social and behavioral research on a wide range of topics related to adult development and aging, including personality development through midlife, contributors to successful aging, predictors of memory performance, and the relationship between physical health and sense of personal identity. Whitbourne even taps the site for supplementary readings for her students. “These allow students to go into greater depth into these particular areas,” she says. “With the blog, I can inform them as well as the general public.”
Among her pointers for would-be bloggers: “Keep focused and don’t go on rants. Have someone edit your work and be particularly careful about inadvertently saying something readers could find offensive. Translate your message into lay terms to reach as many people as possible. And have fun!”