Saturday, June 30, 2007

Why Don't We Blog? University Faculty Blogging about Travel & Tourism

Last Updated: 30 June 2007

I have been somewhat involved, but very interested, in a recent discussion on the podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, on the topic of university faculty blogs.
One of the "complaints" about academia is that it is very conservative and a late adopter of new technology, and in fact discourages faculty members from using new technology, such as social software or social media. A big part of that discussion is trying to figure out how social media would fit into the very traditional approaches to academic review and assessments of productivity. There are several sources that discuss these issues; here are a few:
Despite these discussion, there are a lot of university faculty who are blogging about their disciplinary specialties, research activities, and teaching. These two links provide examples of university faculty blogs
Looking at the web search results, you would think that almost all Law professors are blogging. Public policy faculty would be a distant second. However, the 150 blogs listed on the Professors Who Blog site shows predominance in the Humanities, though many other disciplines are represented, as well.

I have been blogging for almost two years now, prompted by my daughter, and starting with a trip diary. Since then I have started a couple other trip diary blogs, a couple of research and teaching related blogs, and I have had my students blogging in my classes. My podcasts evolved directly from my blogs.


DO YOU BLOG?

While there are quite a few interesting blogs about tourism and the travel industry, I had not seen any blogs by other tourism academics in the two years that I have bee doing this. In fact, blogging (which is celebrating its 10th year as a word 1997) is almost considered "old technology" is the realm of social software. So one would think that more tourism academics would be doing it.

So prompted by the discussions on Six Pixels of Separation, and with the Spring semester having ended, I sent an email out on 20 May 2007 to several discussion lists that are frequented by tourism professors and graduate students. These lists included Trinet, IGU Tourism Commission, AAG RTS Specialty Group, Tourism Anthropology, and Asia Tourism Research. Accounting for some duplication (people on more than one list), I guestimate that some 1000 people received my query: "Do You Blog?" Here is a summary of the responses that I got.


NOT-YET-BLOGGERS

  • One person told me that she has not blogged, but would like to if she only had the time. (I can certainly identify with that!)
  • Glenn Croy (Monash) told me that Monash University is encouraging their faculty to blog "so as another way to promote our programme, especially to potential students. Encouraged is in the literal meaning, that it is not being forced upon us, though if we are interested this is something
    we can do and our marketing people will support us in this."


BLOGGING ABOUT TOURISM

  • Fabian Frenzel (Leeds Metropolitan) - Recently started a collaborative blog on the New Economics of Tourism that is based in the Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change at Leeds Metropolitan University.
  • Dimitrios Buhalis (Surrey) - Comments on tourism and his personal academic experiences. Although started in 2005, it has only been in the past month of so that he has been posting more regularly. Not a lot there yet, but show much promise.
  • Two of my (Alan A. Lew, Northern Arizona) own blogs fall under this category
    • Web 2.0 Travel Tools - where I review interesting websites that are transforming the travel experience and tourism industry
    • Tourism Place - where I am posting this blog, and occasionally post tourism things that don't quite fit anywhere else. I originally created this with the intent of making it a collaborative blog. If anyone want to be a contributor to it, let me know.


BLOGGING FOR CLASSES & STUDENTS

  • Wes Roehl (Temple) has been experimenting with using a collaborative blog to encourage interaction among the graduate students in his tourism program. All of the grad students in the program were members of the blog and could post to it, though not all of them did. He is currently rethinking how to make it more effective.
  • Bruce Wicks (Illinois, C-U) is currently in Poland with five students study abroad students from the University of Illinois, and looking at tourism. They set up a blog for friends and family to follow their adventure. He said "Frankly I can't imagine anything better than a blog to record a trip. This time we have only some text and pictures but we are also taking video for a YouTube entry when we get back, and in the future will explore audio uploads."
  • I (Alan A. Lew, Northern Arizona) have had students blogging, and recently podcasting, in a couple of the tourism classes that I teach. In one class, each student creates their own personal blog site. In the other class, they work in collaborative blogs.
    For this past semester, these collaborative can be found here:


RESEARCH (and) BLOGS

  • Mike Pesses (California State U, Northridge) presented a paper at the 2007 AAG in San Francisco on authenticity in the bicycle tourism experience, which was based on a content analysis of posting on a bicycle touring blog site. You can hear a recording of his presentation here.
  • Peter Bolan (Ulster), has created a blog to generate discussions around research questions related to movie-based tourism for his Ph.D. research. He has been successful in creating a community and generating a fair amount of reader comments:
  • George F. Roberson (Massachusetts, Amherst) has created a blog site to facilitate his forthcoming Fulbright research in Tangier, Morocco, which will focus on current issues of modernization and cultural transformation of the city. His blog is currently mostly used as a repository for articles and resources.
  • Emma Stewart (Calgary), and her supervisor, Diane Draper, is using a blog to post preliminary research research and solicit feedback on her work with three Arctic Canadian communities. This blog was just launched last week:
    • Churchill - This older site has generated some comments from area residents
    • Cambridge Bay - This new site has not yet generated comments
  • Carmen Cox (Southern Cross) is not a blogger, but is involved in a research/consulting project in NSW, Australia that will look at the impact of user-content generated travel sites (blogs included) on people's travel planning and trip behavior.
  • Chin Ee Ong and Hilary du Cros (Institute for Tourism Studies, Macao) are presenting a paper titled "Almond Biscuit Tasting at St Paul’s Ruins and Camping on Hac-Sa Beach: A Blogspace Study of Mainland Chinese Budget Heritage Tourists in Macao" at the Heritage and Tourism Conference (8-11 July 2007, Guangzhou, China) in which they look at blogs and forums in English and Chinese regarding tourist's and potential tourist's views of Macau.
  • I have heard of FIVE tourism research papers that at based on the analysis of personal travel blogs. Because these blogs are public, they are readily available as primary research data. (Both of the papers that I have heard of are under review for publication, so they cannot be cited here. I will add them if/when they are accepted for publication.)


PERSONAL TRAVEL BLOGS

  • Michael Luck (Auckland UT) recently finished his first travel blog about a trip he tool to Thailand.
  • Daniela Schilcher (University of Otago) keeps a travel blog for family and friends.
  • Pham Hong Long (Vietnam National U, Hanoi) occasionally blogs about his graduate education and personal interests.
  • I (Alan A. Lew, Northern Arizona) also have three travel blogs based on trips that I have made. I tend to continue blogging on those sites, though not regularly, about tourism, my research, and other issues in those destination areas.
    • Golden Triangle Conference and Travels - my first blog in summer 2005. I now update it occasionally with news items from that region.
    • Asia Travels, Tourism and More - originally based trips to Singapore and Thailand, I re-titled this blog to also include my subsequent trips to Malaysia, Nepal and other areas of Asia. The Nepal entries focus on a field research project undertaken their in 2007.
    • Australia Travel Blog - I experimented with two different websites that host travel blogs for this 2006 family trip:


PODCAST BLOGS

  • Martin Fluker (Victoria, Melbourne) has a blog that supports his travel podcast on the ThePodcasterNetwork (TPN). His podcast is closely related to his teaching activities, and includes interviews with students about their travels and travel-related podcasts created by his students. He has also has some CAUTHE presentations on his show.
    • The Travel Show
    • Martin also had the following comments to make: "The Travel Show site contains blogs and podcasts to do with tourism. I produce the majority of the podcasts, however, my students are invited to submit the podcasts they produce, in subjects I coordinate, to The Travel Show. The latest podcast (#039) if from my students doing BHO3437 Destination Planning and Development. This subject is being run in Australia and Germany and both groups of students are producing podcasts. I use some of the podcasts on The Travel Show, such as the recording of Prof. Sam Ham, as part of the course material in BHO3437. I also use some podcasts, such as #038 as a way to encourage students to become exchange students. One of the benefits I have gained from podcasting is the winning of an Apple scholarship to attend the 2007 World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco."

  • I (Alan A. Lew, Northern Arizona) have a similar blog for my Geography for Travelers podcast. Topics covered include research that I am involved in, lecture material related to my classes, recordings of conference presentations by both me and others, and podcasts by my students.


NON-ACADEMIC BLOGGERS

A few non-academics also responded to my "Do You Blog?" query.

  • Richard Linington told me about the Planning Solutions Blog by the Planning Solutions Consulting Limited (PSCL) -- "specialist research and development company working in the fields of tourism, recreation and leisure." The blog has news about tourism, mostly in the UK, but occasionally beyond, as well.
  • Joe Kelly of the Icarus Foundation in Canada told me of their blog on tourism and climate change - Up In The Air. They discuss news items, as well as approaches to mitigation and adaptation.
  • Rinzing Lama works in the tourism industry in New Delhi, India, and maintains a blog about his homeland of Sikkim - Blog and Travel Journal.


EMAIL LISTS AS BLOGS

Email Lists are clearly the more common approach to social information sharing and discussion among academics than blogs. They are very different, though, and I am hesitant to put them in the same category as blogs. However, it is possible to use discussion lists postings as a form of collaborative (multiple contributors) blog.

  • An example of this is David Dillard's (Temple) NetGold discussion list on YahooGroups.com. The purpose of NetGold is to share "important, informative and useful Internet and sometimes other resources for learning and improvement of skills." Tourism and hospitality are only a small part of the many topics covered:
  • Related to this is the Dark Tourism Forum, (hosted at Central Lancashire) which is both a website and an email discussion list. The website is used to develop a resources of material that is discussed on the email list. Again, this is sort of like a collaborative blog, but one with a strong moderator/editor role (the person who decides what moved from the open email discussion to the website).

Both of these email lists are more than just email lists (like the ones I posted my "Do You Blog?" query to. But, I do not consider them blogs because they do not fully represent the voice of particular individuals. Even with collaborative blogs, each contributing blogger usually has a distinct and identifiable identity, and each blog entry is treated as an indelible (and searchable) contribution to our world of knowledge and opinion. Email posting are searchable, though depending on the list it can be very difficult to do.


CONCLUSIONS

The diversity of blogging among this small group of tourism academics is quite amazing. There are blogs about tourism, blogs by and for students, research related blogs, and personal travel blogs. There may be even more personal blogs that are not related to tourism, but I think those fall beyond the reaches of this survey. While not a formally constructed survey, the small number of responses confirms the my previous anectodal impressions that tourism academics are not blogging.

Why do I blog? Because it is fun. Blogging enables me to communicating with a whole new audience -- a more real world audience beyond the ivory towers of academia. I meet interesting people through the blogs, and I love looking at the little map on some of my blog pages showing where in the world my readers are reading from. It does cut into my research writing, and does not yet contribute to my annual evaluations. That would be a challenge for most younger faculty, unfortunately. One of my blogs did get me an invitation to speak at a travel industry workshop in Seattle, though the timing did not work. In social media terms, blogging (and podcasting) is helping me to develop my "brand." In fact, when I first started blogging, I used a pseudonym. Today, however, I put my name everywhere I can.

Should more tourism academics blog? I think yes. Tourism is an incredibly important sector of the world economy. Yet the study of tourism is shunned as insignificant by most traditional and established disciplines. Perhaps that is why the relatively small number of tourism academics tend to be inward looking and prefer talking to each other rather than the larger world of academia and beyond. I have done, and still do that myself, and there are benefits from it. However, just as teaching helps balance the different intensity of writing and research, blogging helps bring a balance to the cloistered life of academics.



NEW (July 2007): Analysis of blogs for strategy development in tourism

"On Thursday, July 12th 2007, the first worldwide conference for "Blogs in Tourism" took place, for which international experts and numerous participants came to Kitzbühel, Germany. The conference was organised by Krems Research Forschungsgesellschaft mbH, Kitzbühel Tourismus and the Charles Darwin University, Australia and dealt with the analysis of the content of tourism blogs and forums, the understanding of the process of information exchange and the development of industry strategies for handling these virtual communities."

NEW (17Dec 07): Colleges Are Reluctant to Adopt New Publication Venues

...But, report from the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative argues "that in four to five years, academe will accept as scholarship this kind of interactive online material and will develop methods for evaluating it."

NEW (23Jan 08): Tired of 'Science by Press Release'? Try Science by Blog

ResearchBlogging.org, launched yesterday, is essentially a blog aggregator. Blogging academics (or, apparently, laymen interested in peer-reviewed research) register their blogs with the site. Bloggers can flag certain posts they write about peer-reviewed research by inserting a snippet of code. These posts then appear on the main page of the site, replete with proper academic citation.

...This, evidently, is part of the growing effort to ease communication in the research community, à la Big Think.

NEW (28Jan 08): A couple of related journal articles that may be of interest:
  • Hookway, N. (2008) 'Entering the blogosphere': some strategies for using blogs in social research. Qualitative Research, 8(1): 91-113.
  • Lin, Y.S. & Huang, J.Y. (2006). Internet Blogs as a Tourism Marketing Medium: A case study. Journal of Business Research, pp. 1201-1205.

3 comments:

Chris said...

It's not surprising that so few people blog, although I wish more did. I'm currently in Japan conducting research for my dissertation and I thought a long time about posting occasional descriptions of the work I'm doing. In the end, though, the constant writing required put me off of the idea of writing more in my 'free time.'

What I like about the idea of blogging, though, is that all of the pressure that accompanies a lot of academic-style writing can be thrown out the window, allowing a more honest, immediate flow of ideas.

Looking back almost a year after starting this research, I wish I had written a weekly or even monthly blog, so that my family and friends could have some idea of what I've been up to.

Thanks for sharing the results of this informal study, Alan.

Chris McMorran
University of Colorado

Alan A. Lew said...

As a follow-up to this post. There is a mildly raging debate going on right now over the value of Web 2.0 in academia (and blogging). A summary with links to this debate can be found through this tinyurl link:
http://tinyurl.com/2xlgoj

Cristina said...

Hi Alan, Thanks for the summary. I am a PhD Student at the University of Technology Sydney in architecture, and a collegue suggested blogging as a way of linking up with other people interetsd in the same area, and as a way of writing up ideas!. I was recently at the CTCC "things that move" conference, and found your blog through theirs. cheers Cris