A Retrospective, Part I: Ten Year Anniversary of my Webpage and Blog

It seems apt that the entry for the 10th anniversary of this blog comes with a few weeks’ delay. Since I started out with this webpage and its blog on 18 April 2014, it has been a constant struggle to motivate me to sit down and write entries. As my jobs over these past ten years have mostly involved sitting in front of a computer screen and reading or writing texts, I’m a bit hesitant to do the same thing in my free time.

Still, I in those 120 months I managed to log 85 posts (excluding this one), which means that on average I sat down every 1.4 months to work on the blog. A surprisingly high number as lately I’ve been under the impression that I almost never have had time to do anything here.

With my website I wanted — to put it bluntly — to create a window showcasing my progress as an academic. I started it when I had just finished my PhD and got my first job as a postdoc at the University of Constance. Thus, I basically wanted some propaganda and therefore created sections about my academic trajectory, my postdoctoral project (dormant for a long time now) and about conference talks and publications, which I hoped would fill up soon.

Right from the start I had planned for a blog roll (still a mildly newish thing back then), already knowing that I wouldn’t be able to fill it on a weekly, let alone daily base. Yet, what I wanted to achieve with it specifically, and whom I wanted to reach, was unclear to me then and still is today. That is quite a problem, as I hoped that the blog would be more than just a stream of announcements concerning academic conferences and publications. Tough it turned out that in the end it’s mostly that with some notable exceptions.

Taking a look at the main topics via the word cloud that is generated on the basis of the keywords I provide for each blogpost, shows some insights. First, there are 13 keywords, meaning the 120 blogposts cover not more than 13 topics. Or, put differently: Whatever I was writing about in the last ten years, I managed to stuff under one or more of 13 general topics. I don’t know if that counts as an achievement in organisation or a glaring lack of creativity.

As I often associate more than one keyword with an entry, clicking on each word in the cloud results in 163 associations with the 85 posts, meaning: Every blogpost has roughly two keywords. With this double counting of entries in mind, a breakdown of the individual topics shows the following:

The single most entries (32) I logged under ‘publications’, making this blog a premium example of academic self-aggrandizement. Yet, it is not only that. The keywords in second and third place are ‘protest movements’ (25) and ‘status quo’ (22). Under ‘protest movements’ I gathered the publications and conference talks I gave on that topic which I persued as a post-doc investigation for some time, but also one or two blogposts with my two cents of thought about actual protest movements. ‘Status Quo’ is the only category of the bunch that is dedicated to more or less personal stuff: It refers to my personal (and/or professional) status quo. That it comes in third (albeit at a distance if the first two are taken together as items of academic propaganda) shows that the blog has at least a slight personal note.

The keywords can be grouped into roughly three big groups: A first that is concerned with academic activities. This includes (starting with ‘publications’ at the upper-left centre of the ring chart and then circling counter-clockwise) publications, conference, lecture and PhD. ‘Conference’ actually was the first entry I posted after the initial “Here’s my new website”-post. And with 18 entries, this keyword comes in at fourth place in total, showing that confernce participation (mostly with a presentation) has been a big part of my academic life. At least of that part I want to present here. In comparison, giving lectures has been an intermittend activity (six entries), and showing off news about my PhD (also six entries) has concentrated at a time period where its publication loomed, was finalised and, rather as a surprise, was given open access status after some time. In total, this group of ‘academic activities’-keywords comprises 62 mentionings.

A second group is what I would call ‘research topics’, ie. the thematic areas I’ve covered over the years. In the chart, this group starts at the lower-left end with the already mentioned keyword ‘protest movements’, followed by ‘science studies’ (16) and ‘science communication’ (12). These two topics came up after I moved to the Institute for Higher Education Research and show that at least my research output has increased in the last six years. I guess that is due to the project-driven nature of research we do at the Institute. Other keywords in the group are ‘performance’ (9) and non-representation (5), which refer to my postdoc research topic. With together 15 mentionings, they make up less than half of the mentionings about research I’ve done at the Institute — a clear sign about the accelerated nature of research output there as I definitively haven’t done more original research there than during my postdoc phase. A final keyword of this group is ‘filibuster’, a nod to my PhD-topic. As this blog was started when that was already finished, the low number of only six mentionings (mostly connected to publications concerning this topic) seems logical.

The keywords here add up to 73 mentionings, meaning that I wrote a wee bit more about actual research than about its presentation in written or spoken form, ie. in publications or on conferences.

A third group comprises the keywords ‘status quo’, ‘website’ (5) and ‘Nicaragua’ (1). I would call this the personal items-group because also ‘website’ often has not only technical information about website updates (due to the fact that I could hardly provide any in-depth technical information on that), but is also concerned about why I updated or changed a certain aspect of the page and/or blog. And Nicaragua? Well this sole entry about the 2018 protest movement in that country is actually quite indicative of the time constraints mentioned above. It’s title says “Part I,” but follow-ups never materialised. Not for a lack of ideas but rather a lack of time or motivation to sit down and put those ideas in writing, meaning also that for the last ten years I’ve been always quite absorbed by more urgent matters than writing blogposts. Some call it life, which might not be a bad thing after all. Or is that my way of not addressing my sluggishness? Anyway, with 28 items in total, this ‘personal’-group is the smallest in the mix, underlining the fact that this blog is about my work, not my personal life.

Realising that this has turned into the single most-wordy blogpost so far, I finish this retrospective for today, not without mentally jotting down plans for a few more remarks. With that in mind, I proudly title this post “a Retrospective, Part I,” and cross my fingers that this time I can muster the strength to let this be followed by at least a Part II. Let’s see…


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