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Researcher vs. blogger: My weblog as a data source

[This post was in drafts while I was moving weblogs]

Here comes another turn on my researcher vs. blogger dilemma. I’m working on a study that aims to describe how my own blogging practices contributed to the development of ideas for my dissertation (I’m extremely happy to be able to do exactly what I envisioned long time ago) and I use my weblog as a data source to do so. A quote from my current draft:

As a starting point for reconstructing blogging practices I use my weblog artefacts (weblog entries, link, tags, etc.). In particular, I look at the content of meta-blogging entries and at the patterns of weblog uses.

Meta-blogging entries provide an unstructured documentation of my experiences of using the weblog to develop ideas. I use this in-situ view of my blogging practices as a starting point for the analysis and restructuring aimed to produce a systematic description of them. For an additional insight and an illustration of practices I look at patterns of weblog uses, especially focusing on categorisation of ideas, their development over time and their transformation that resulted in this dissertation.

To support the analysis of weblog entries as well as the access to them for the readers of this work, they are categorised using emergent and retrospective codes. Emergent codes are tags that I used for topical organisation of my weblog entries when I wrote them. Retrospective codes are added for specific purposes at the moment of doing this study (March-April 2008); those include references to the specific chapters of the dissertation and marking all meta-blogging entries as such. All coding is done using the functionality of my weblog software, so the pages that aggregate the results on specific codes are visible in public and could be used as a reference throughout the dissertation.

So, now the practical problem. As a researcher I want the codes to be “frozen” at the moment of doing the study, as a blogger I want to be able to edit and change them, since the “codes” are tags and categories that provide views on my weblog. The good thing is that I’m doing the study at the moment of moving from Radio to WordPress, so I can just “freeze” Radio archives as they are. The bad thing is that I can’t update Radio public pages anymore, so they include only emergent codes (liveTopics tags that I used so far), while it could make sense to see them together with the retrospective codes I added specifically for this study (categories “Chapter 1-7” and “Meta-blogging”).

My way out:

  • Researcher’s hat on:
    • I use the archived version of Radio weblog as a snapshot of what was before the analysis. All posts are there with corresponding emergent codes – liveTopics tags (they are called “topics” – confusing, is not it?). The index of those tags is at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/allTopics.html
  • Blogger’s hat on:
    • I use the WordPress version of the weblog as a living blog, which means editing categories and tags in a way that makes sense for me as a blogger.
  • Researcher’s hat on:
    • For those other researchers who might want to have all codes frozen in one place I’ll put an RSS archive of my weblog with all codes used for this study online. It’s not going to be easy to access via browser, but at least it will be somewhere in public.

As my new weblog should provide an easier way for browsing I use links to it as a reference in the dissertation, while making sure that all posts that have an “archived” Radio version are linked from their new copies.

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