Blogs > Cliopatria > Blogscholars?

Sep 10, 2004 7:34 am


I share Unfogged's puzzlement. The-blog-as-scholarship question has come up now and again in the blogosphere, and I've been more convinced by the"nays" than the"yeas." You can certainly make a good case for blogging as an updated version of the epistolary and social networks built by scholars in the early modern period--of the sort studied by Anne Goldgar--but one node in a community does not a work of scholarship make. Like academic listservs, academic blogs are conducive to conversation--dialogue about this point or that--but, really, are they good for developing extensive and in-depth arguments on significant topics? A blogger without reasonably frequent posts is a blogger without readers, as a general rule, and"extensive and in-depth arguments" can hardly be posted frequently (or, if frequently, not well). It's true that some bloggers manage to do the first phases of scholarship on their blog--throwing out ideas, talking about them with like-minded folks, and so forth--but such activities in and of themselves are the building-blocks of intellectual life in general.

There are a number of academic bloggers who do an excellent job of talking about their scholarship, but that again is not in and of itself"scholarly activity": it's like writing an abstract for a book or conference paper. And, as Matt Weiner points out in Unfogged's comments, there's nobody to stop you from blogging something inane or just plain wrong (although there are plenty of people out there who will, after the fact, gladly point out that you've done so).

That said, there are a number of bloggers out there who could probably claim credit for their blogs as service credit (e.g., running a blog dedicated to the activities of a professional society) or teaching credit (e.g., developing a group blog for classroom use). But blogging's appeal--the ability to post"to the moment," to write informally and without the intervention of an editor, to interact immediately with an audience, and so forth--seems, if anything, to militate against the kind of ongoing work (and, quite frankly, real drudgery) involved in scholarship. You can get instant gratification from a blog post, but not from that article on Emily Sarah Holt you've been writing for the past two years. [X-posted and slightly edited.]

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Amardeep Singh - 9/11/2004

I've been wrestling with this question myself, as I've found that blogging is MUCH more enjoyable than serious scholarship (which, in case anyone at Lehigh is reading this, is continuing apace, mind you).

For now, there aren't enough of Tim's "type 4" bloggers out there for many people to seriously want to consider this as a *major* contribution to what Miriam and others have called "scholarship."

But I believe serious blogging should eventually come to be considered -- and should "count," at least semi-seriously -- as "academic journalism." I think blogging is changing and will continue to change, and I also think that what counts as scholarship is inevitably going to change as a result of the digital revolution.

There is already a fine line there in a lot of things you read in journals. Most scholarship is *already* academic journalism, in the sense that it a) reports on what is being done by others (critical survey, book review), or b)it translates public affairs/current events into somewhat of a scholarly idiom. Sometimes (as in The Chronicle or the old Lingua Franca) academic journalism reports on what is happening in the university at an institutional level. If it goes in a scholarly journal, it counts, but perhaps this kind of scholarship should actually fall in the academic journalism category.

Analogously, essays (or blog posts) that are serious, but primarily journalism under the above criteria ought to be held at higher regard, especially if they are read with interest by other academics, or are read by many non-academics (and therefore have a pedagogical function, a public relations function, or both).

My thoughts on this are still evolving, and scattered over several blogs (forgive me if its sounds confused). I've been posting more thoughts on this on Siris, on Little Professor, and on my own blog.

Lloyd Kilford - 9/11/2004

I think that some blogs probably decrease one's chance of tenure, if the tenure committee find out about them. (naming no names, but I am sure that people could think of a few).

However, maybe one could get a little service credit (``I write blog posts popularising history/economics/whatever and these are read by non-specialists every day''); it might make something interesting to talk about at an interview or a review meeting. But probably no more than that.

Jonathan Dresner - 9/10/2004

If memory serves, that's how the whole web got started in the first place.

Michael C Tinkler - 9/10/2004

I imagine that there must be scientists who maintain sites with blogging software with lab report kind of articles -- not the sort of thing humanists do (though some kinds of archival work could be handled that way).

Jonathan Dresner - 9/10/2004

And Cliopatria is the first three all in one. Probably common to the group blog.

Timothy James Burke - 9/10/2004

The blogs kept by academics divide into four categories, more or less:

1) News aggregators w/brief commentary, basically just people who link to interesting or relevant things

2) Diarists recording their feelings and experiences within academia

3) Essayists whose writings may have a scholarly sensibility at times but which are not scholarship

4) Scholarly blogs which essentially feature "mini-journal" articles.

There aren't many in the last category, but there are a few. The anthropologist Grant McCracken has a blog that I think fits the last category perfectly. It's scholarship, as much as a monograph or a journal article. Not that he needs it any longer given his publication record and seniority, I suspect, but he ought to get scholarly credit for it. Cosma Shalizi has a blog that has very scholarly material on complexity and information theory. There are a smattering of others that fit the bill. There's also people who mix it up and do more than one or even all four of these things--John Holbo and Belle Waring hit for the cycle, for example.