By Lisa Marie Griffith
When we started Pue’s two years ago we were all based in Trinity and saw each other, if not every day, then every other day. Cosseted in the post graduate community within the School of Histories and Humanities it was sometimes difficult to appreciate that research and academia really can be a lonely place. In the last two years I have moved on to a far smaller humanities department, with just one other historian (a medievalist), outside of Dublin. In fact we have pretty much all moved on to a different institution or even city. What I have begun to appreciate most about blogging for Pue’s is how it brings people who are far away, but who have a common interest, together on a regular basis, it’s certainly the most important thing I take from Pue’s! Whether it is through our editorial meetings, our blogging symposiums or through the posts themselves I get to meet, engage and learn.
Within academia there are a number of issues which I have often felt were not discussed openly, and in particular (or perhaps because of the stage that I am at myself) these seem to relate to early career issues. Looking back I think that we have received the best response to posts when we have dealt about these issues and how they affect us, or about how they affect the community at large. Young academics are often afraid to admit that they struggle with certain parts of their research or career because to do so might just be advertising to a prospective employer that you are not perfect. We are taught to loudly proclaim just how good we are and to project a false sense of confidence (in doing this though surely we make it more difficult for ourselves?) Posts about careers, the difficulty with publishing and getting a job always get a really positive response. I was delighted with the response to the post I wrote about my first teaching term and it felt very reassuring that I am not on my own in having worries or concerns- we are all in the same boat. We have tried to create a space in Pue’s where issues that affect us can be discussed and for the future I would like to see more of these issues being raised or tackeled. Contributing to these debates and reading responses from others has given me a greater sense of being a part of the history community and that is also a fantastic thing to take from Pue’s.
One of the greatest debates we had during our early editorial meetings centered on ‘who exactly is the blog aimed at?’ Are we an academic blog, are we broadly for students and post graduates or do we write for the general public interested in history…? This question of who were aimed to please meant that when the blog began we found ourselves trying all sorts of posts and series to get people to return to the site and keep reading. Some ideas worked, some didn’t and some never came to fruition for various reasons. Reflecting on the blog over the last two years has made me realise that we created Pue’s for ourselves and people just like us-who love history, who read and study it, who are interested in arts and humanities in general and where exactly they are going as a discipline. In fact it was Juliana who came to me over two years ago and asked ‘why can’t I find an Irish history blog?’ what got us thinking about starting one and what we would like on a blog that tackled the subject.
As much as Pue’s has its rewards it also has its frustrations. There is a remarkable sense of achievement once a project is completed, whether that be a paper, an article, organising a conference, editing a book, or your PhD but you don’t get this from the blog. Pue’s is an ongoing project and when you are faced with tons of other work it often feels like a project that will never be completed and which will never go away (no matter how often you beat it with a stick!). The person who I felt explained this best was Professor Rob Kitchin of Ireland After Nama when he spoke at our first blogging symposium of the problem of constantly feeding the beast that is a blog. We have to constantly find things to post on, come up with new ideas and new ways of executing old ones. It takes a lot of work and I suppose the reason that we are celebrating our second birthday is because despite moving to different institutions and cities, growing workloads and the challenges of new stages in our careers we have managed for keep writing for so long (and are still speaking to each other).
We are lucky though- between the four of us we have a wide variety of interests, a good balance (of work and life), and flexible people who are prepared to pick up the slack when someone else can’t which is great. Most importantly we have a community who are interested in openly discussing issues that we are facing. As much as Pue’s can be time-consuming it presents new challenges to me all the time and gives me a great sense of community. It also means that I get to keep working with Juliana, Kevin, Tina and all of our contributors- people I have learnt a lot from and I hope to continue doing so for some time. So to our readers and my fellow editors- thanks for everything over the last two years and lets hope we have another two more in us!