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Pat Thomson doesn’t have too much time on her hands, and she isn’t trying to be trendy, yet she is finding time to write a blog. Here, she explains how she has altered her schedule to rely on a much more digital world to find time to write her academic blog.  

How do you get time to blog and tweet? This is a question I get asked a lot, as I’m sure other academic bloggers do too.

The question is often accompanied by some kind of unspoken criticism. It’s as if by finding time to blog, I’m somehow suggesting that everyone else is deficient for not doing so. Or, as if in blogging I’m somehow trying to be trendy, or that I clearly have too much time on my hands and that must be because I don’t have a real workload. Or that I just like time-wasting… etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

I’ve not got much energy for pursuing these kinds of concerns, but I do think the question of time is interesting. Clearly, in deciding to blog, I’ve also decided NOT to do other things.

In my case, I’ve given up buying and reading the newspapers everyday, now just a weekend habit. These days I rely much more on Twitter, online columns and scanning the headlines on the BBC website every morning. I’ve also stopped randomly playing around with the web to see what I can see, and now rely on RSS feeds, Twitter and Facebook to do that for me. @ThesisWhisperer tells me that she is now very ruthless with email and gets through it much more quickly than she used to, and she too has largely given up newspapers. I’m trying to get on top of email too.

There are other places where I could save time. I still watch rather a lot of telly, and I read a lot of fiction. I could give those up but I don’t want to. They take me away from work in particular ways that reading the news doesn’t.

I may have found the time to blog by changing my own use of what Clay Shirky (2012) calls ‘social surplus’, the time we have when we’re not doing paid work, our so-called leisure-time*.

Shirky argues that, on a broad social level, people devote large amounts of time to engaging with media. In the twentieth century much of this ‘leisure time’ was, he says, taken up with consuming pre-packaged media events via television and film. He argues that people like to consume but also to produce and share. He then suggests that if just a small section of time previously devoted to consuming media is diverted to producing and sharing, it actually amounts to a lot. This, he says, explains the appetite for social media.

So social media, in Shirky’s terms, is a leisure activity. This is worrying for an academic. This means that if I blog using my social surplus then I am substituting work for leisure, working harder and longer in fact.

However, I have always argued that reading the newspaper was, given my profession as educator, in reality part leisure and part work. Emails are certainly mostly work. So I reckon that in switching the way I use some of my work time as well as this blurred bit of work-leisure time, I am actually still doing work, but differently. I have given up some work activities in order to do work in another medium.

But what do you think?

Are you using work time or leisure time to ‘do’ social media? What have you given up doing, in order to take up social media?

(* There’s another whole post, if not several scholarly monographs, on the binary Shirky constructs of paid work/leisure.)

Shirky, C (2012) “Gin, television and social surplus” in The Social Media Reader (Ed M Mandberg) pp. 236-241 New York: New York University Press

This article was originally published at Pat Thomson’s personal blog, Patter, and is republished here with permission.

Note: This article gives the views of the author(s), and not the position of the Impact of Social Sciences blog, nor of the London School of Economics.

About the author:
Pat Thomson
is Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham. Her current research focuses on creativity, the arts and change in schools and communities, and postgraduate writing pedagogies. She is currently devoting more time to exploring, reading and thinking about imaginative and inclusive pedagogies which sit at the heart of change. She blogs about her research at Patter.

 

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