Thursday, October 06, 2005

More meta

During yesterday's interview, K asked me to explain "the meaning of blogging" for me. I referred to some things I've said here before, like how blogging is the best thing since graduate school for intellectual conversation. And now Henry Farrell of Crooked Timber offers a rather nice description of this dimension of blogging in the Chronicle (in what seems to be an implied response to the Tribble's warning against junior scholars blogging). Steve quotes from the paragraph in which Farrell describes blogging as an "academic carnival," and so I'll pick up with the next paragraph, in which Farrell highlights the advantages blogging holds over traditional academic publishing:
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.

Once you get used to this rapid back-and-forth, it can be hard to return to the more leisurely pace of academic journals and presses. In the words of the National University of Singapore philosophy professor and blogger John Holbo, the difference between academic publishing and blogging is reminiscent of "one of those Star Trek or Twilight Zone episodes where it turns out there is another species sharing the same space with us, but so sped up or slowed down in time, relatively, that contact is almost impossible."
Blogging is different from, more immediate than, while not necessarily a replacement for, traditional academic publishing. As I said to K yesterday, I do think blogging has had an impact on my academic work, but not in the kind of direct way that non-bloggers might appreciate. It's more a matter of being involved, immediately, in intellectual conversations; of having realized that a little writing every day, as Collin often points out, actually adds up to a lot of writing; and of even beginning to get a little feedback on some ideas I'm working with (ok, see Collin again on this topic). I used to believe I could only write intelligently if I had lots of time and lots of space and that early feedback was not for me. Both of these beliefs, need I say, contributed often to very slow production.

You can't get this if you don't blog. That's why I get annoyed when non-bloggers disparage blogging as mere self-indulgence, as a distraction from scholarly writing, as a potential employment liability. Sure, it can be all those things. So can just about anything one does in life, eh? Let's see: administrative work. A way to feel like you're important? Check. A distraction from scholarly writing? Check. A potential employment liability? Well, only if you're untenured, I guess. Oh, yeah. Same with blogging.

So I'm glad to see the Chronicle, for once, publishing a piece on blogging that isn't mere Tribble drivel. In other words, something written by a real blogger.

(And on another note: Farrell also points out that cross-disciplinary and cross-ranking conversations happen on blogs in a way that you simply don't see on campuses. Yes. Another way that blogging-across-the-curriculum could be something very, very--say it! exponentially--different from writing across the curriculum.)

1 comment:

academic coach said...

What a great expansion of a great Chronicle article. Go bloggers.