Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Why Blog?

Henry Farrell, the proprietor of the Political Science Weblog, has this to say on the subject:

Why are so many academics beginning to blog? Academic blogs offer the kind of intellectual excitement and engagement that attracted many scholars to the academic life in the first place, but which often get lost in the hustle to secure positions, grants, and disciplinary recognition. 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.

Farrell is also the co-editor of a forthcoming issue of Public Choice:

Daniel W. Drezner and Henry Farrell, Co-Edited Special Issue of Public Choice on Blogs and Politics, forthcoming. Including inter alia:

1. Daniel W. Drezner and Henry Farrell, “Introduction: Blogs and Politics,” Public Choice. Forthcoming.

2. Henry Farrell and Daniel W. Drezner, “The Power and Politics of Blogs,” Public Choice. Forthcoming.


gregory brown said...

I'd like to suggest, as I always do when I come across such language, that academics -- especially those who by virtue of their geographical centrality and prominent institutional affiliation hold responsibility within the profession -- not eat their own.

The passage you cite raises very important and serious questions about the nature of scholarly communication, but those questions should be pursued without such cliches as "lively conversation" in opposition to "dry and dessicated" academic discourse. And to avoid the cliche of attributing the lack of "intellectual excitement" to a "hustle to secure positions, grants and disciplinary recognition."

These are important questions about the future of scholarly communication (including communication with the larger civil society) that Farrell is implying, but I can assure you that in most of the country, every time someone in Washington or Cambridge reinforces received ideas about the self-interested pursuit of positions or the irrelevance and uselessness of scholarly discourse, it makes it that much less likely there will be any academy at all to speak of, or with, in the future.

Just a thought.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the thought. It's a proper corrective to a hyperbolic criticism. I didn't take proper note of the hyperbole when I quoted it.

Henry Farrell said...

gregory - I'm unaware of any substantial attacks being launched on the academy from outside because of self-interested pursuit of positions, dullness etc - instead, what I see is are claims (hopelessly ill-founded imo) that the university system is a left-wing propaganda machine, is biased against American values _und so weiter_. So I simply don't see that my argument contributes to the actually-existing attacks out there, most of which come from people who would be only too delighted to see a university system that was even more closely aligned with economic incentives to pursue outside money etc.

More particularly, to the extent that my argument involves "cliches" I would politely suggest that this is because these cliches happen to be true, at least in my personal experience and that of others whom I know. I'm certainly not the only person who went into academia because it seemed to involve the pursuit of ideas only to discover that it often had rather more to do with the pursuit of grants instead. Even if it were impolitic to talk about this (which I don't believe it is), it is a genuine problem, and to ignore it for fear of frightening the public would be to commit a minor trahison des clercs.

What I like about academic blogs is that they allow some of this conversational energy to be recaptured - and push academics who are involved in blogging to speak to a public audience, and to other academics in different disciplines. This may fade over time as blogs become more normalized and assimilated into the existing system, but it is there at the moment. You seem to share those goals; I'm not quite sure why you find my statement of the problem (which you seem to agree with on the merits, at least to some extent) so offensive.