It seems to me that I’ve never actually explained why I write this blog, nor how I see this kind of writing fitting into what I do in my professional life as a teacher and academic researcher. (I was going to say scholar, but that seemed way too pretentious.)
I started this thing a little more than two years ago as I was leaving to spend part of my sabbatical in Northern Ireland doing field research on the maintenance and stability of the peace process there. I had always kept two written journals on prior trips to Belfast, one work-related, the other more personal reflections on my trips, but since I was going to be away for an extended period I wanted be able to share some of what I was doing with family and friends back home.
I also knew that I wanted to get into the habit of thinking and writing more systematically about what I was learning on my research trip. There was much that I was experiencing and encountering that I knew would never make it into a research article but which was having a profound impact on my own understanding of the fragile state of affairs in Northern Ireland and its prospects for the future. I wanted to write about those things as a way to process and work through the ideas and insights as they were coming to me.
This short piece, which I wrote after spending a day in South Armagh with a well-known Loyalist activist, is a good example of what I mean. This one too, which I posted after I interviewed a long-time Republican activist who has spent years working in West Belfast on community restorative justice initiatives.
When I got back home from that trip I kept writing, first on Northern Ireland, and then on a steadily expanding set of topics related but not limited to my areas of expertise in international relations, terrorism and political violence, and foreign policy. Like a lot of others, I got deeply distracted by the 2016 presidential campaign, and the early days of the Trump presidency have been no better.
SAGE Publishing, which sponsors the blogging award that I received in February at the 2017 annual meeting of the International Studies Association, asked me and the other award winners to share our thoughts on blogging and the benefits of blogging for ourselves but also for the wider field and its ability to have an impact beyond our traditional forms of academic publishing and professional engagement.
Below are my comments. You can read what the others’ had to say by clicking here.
Peter F. Trumbore, winner of the Best Blog (Individual) in International Studies– Peter Trumbore
I think there’s a lot to be said for social media as a platform for discussion, certainly, though not so much for debate. Spend any time in the comments section of a well-read and widely circulated blog and you’ll see little that passes for quality debate. I frankly get better interaction with the stuff that I post at my blog through people’s responses on platforms like Facebook and Twitter where I link my posts.
This is tied into the second question you pose: what do these outlets offer in extension to traditional academic publishing? The answer to that is easy. We reach a far larger, and more diverse, audience through blogs and social media.
I see my blog as more an extension of my teaching than anything else, and that in large measure is a consequence of my audience. My readers (based on subscribers, and who I can see interacting with the posts on social media) are primarily regular folks rather than fellow academics or people in the policy world. For me, then, posts are primarily about bringing my training and the insights I’ve developed through 20 years of research and teaching on international relations, to comment on, explain, sometimes entertain, but hopefully enlighten my audience about what’s going on in the world around them and why it matters.
So for me, blogging is not about sharing my own narrow and specialized research to other specialists, but rather my broader expertise to a wider community.