Recently, there have been many thoughtful discussions about whether blogging is a good activity for academics to be engaging in. I sure hope it is! Jack Balkin at Balkinization has a terrific post about blogging. He writes: “It has become increasingly obvious to me (and to many others as well) that some academic writing works perfectly well as a blog posting.”
A recent essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Henry Farrell (political science, GW), a blogger at Crooked Timber, offers some fantastic observations. Here are a few nibbles (actually, more like a few bites, because it’s such a good essay):
Properly considered, the blogosphere represents the closest equivalent to the Republic of Letters that we have today. Academic blogs, like their 18th-century equivalent, are rife with feuds, displays of spleen, crotchets, fads, and nonsenses. As in the blogosphere more generally, there is a lot of dross. However, academic blogs also provide a carnival of ideas, a lively and exciting interchange of argument and debate that makes many scholarly conversations seem drab and desiccated in comparison. Over the next 10 years, blogs and bloglike forms of exchange are likely to transform how we think of ourselves as scholars. While blogging won’t replace academic publishing, it builds a space for serious conversation around and between the more considered articles and monographs that we write.
What advantages does blogging offer over the more traditional forms of academic communication? Blogging sacrifices some depth of thought — it’s difficult to state a complex thesis in the average blogpost — but provides in return a freedom and flexibility that normal academic publishing can’t match. Consider the length of time it takes to publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal. In many disciplines, a period of years between first draft and final publication is normal. More years may elapse before other academics begin to publish articles or books responding to the initial article. In contrast, a blog post is published immediately after the blogger hits the “publish” button. Responses can be expected in hours, both from those who comment on the blog (if the blog allows them) and from other bloggers, who may take up an idea and respond to it, extend it, or criticize it. Others may respond to those bloggers in turn, leading to a snowballing conversation distributed across many blogs. In the conventional time frame of academe, such a conversation would take place over several years, if at all. . . .
The essay wonderfully captures the positive influences blogging is having on the academy. More from Farrell’s essay: