CAL 2011: Paper by Rebecca Ferguson, Gill Clough, Anesa Hosein & Doug Clow

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Rebecca Ferguson
11 April 2011

‘Digital scholars’ are increasingly making use of Web 2.0 tools to support resource gathering, collaboration and reflection (Ferguson, Clough, & Hosein, 2007, 2010; Pearce, Weller, Scanlon, & Kinsley, 2010). At conferences, seminars and presentations, individual note-taking is increasingly complemented and supplemented by live blogging. This can be seen as part of the shift away from traditional academic practices that emphasise individual possessive intelligence, individuated authorship, stability and fixity (Walker, 2006).

A liveblog consists of a series of contemporaneous notes of an event arranged chronologically and shared online by an individual author in order to support learning. Although liveblogs take their name from the blogs in which they originated, they can now be found on other social network sites, such as Cloudworks, and may appear as a synchronous stream of notes by the same author on microblogging sites such as Twitter. They are not transcripts or edited highlights but personal accounts, written for an interested audience, reflecting a personal understanding of an event or presentation.

This paper examines this new academic practice, and its implications for learning. It investigates the perceived benefits and disbenefits for the live blogger, for their audience and for the presenters and organisers of events that are live blogged. To do this, it draws on reflective accounts by four live bloggers, who have experience both of informal live blogging, and of live blogging conferences and presentations in an invited capacity.

For the live blogger, this practice offers an effective use of time, a set of easily locatable notes that can make it easier to focus on and remember a presentation. For presenters and organisers it can enhance an event by capturing questions, indicating audience response and adding to understanding of what is said. For the wider audience, it gives a flavour of an event, capturing elements and responses that are not available from an online set of PowerPoint slides. Balanced against these benefits are the problems: bloggers writing rather than reflecting, speakers wary of instant online critique, and audiences irritated by ill-structured notes and noisy typing.

By identifying the ways in which liveblogging can be used to support learning and to enhance presentations, this paper aims to set out guidelines for good practice in liveblogging.


Ferguson, R., Clough, G., & Hosein, A. (2007). Postgraduate blogs: beyond the ordinary research journal. In S. Wheeler & N. Whitton (Eds.), Proceedings of the 14th Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C 2007) Beyond Control: Learning Technology for the Social Network Generation (pp. 179-189).

Ferguson, R., Clough, G., & Hosein, A. (2010). Shifting themes, shifting roles: the development of research blogs. Paper presented at the 'Into Something Rich and Strange' - Making Sense of the Sea-Change. The 17th Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C 2010) Held 7-9 September 2010, University of Nottingham, England, UK.

Pearce, N., Weller, M., Scanlon, E., & Kinsley, S. (2010). Digital Scholarship Considered: How New Technologies Could Transform Academic Work. In Education, 16(1).

Walker, J. (2006). Blogging from inside the ivory tower. In A. Bruns & J. Jacobs (Eds.), Uses of blogs (pp. 127-139). New York: Peter Lang.

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