Friday, September 10, 2004


There is an interesting post at the Little Professor on the issue of blog scholarship (the same post is at Cliopatria here). There the question is asked,

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).

I'm a little unclear about what exactly is being indicated by the word 'scholarship'. Really, the root idea of scholarship should be actual learning; or, perhaps more accurately, actual learning and setting that in good order according to the standards of the discipline. The difficulty comes in, I think, when people think of scholarship as a finished product, and good scholarship as a finished product that meets certain standards. But I don't see that it is a good idea to confine the notion to this. For one thing, confining the notion in this way potentially leads to a somewhat superficial reviewing of the given discipline; we start accepting 'polished work' that meets the surface standards without looking at the process, sometimes wholly flawed, that went into it. Such, at least, is the danger.

This is not to say that I think blogging as scholarship, rather than blogging supplements or ancillaries to scholarship, is easy or common; one has to tolerate airing one's process, with all its occasional sloppiness, error, and confusion, as one successively draws near to a better, and finished, result. I don't think most academics are willing to do this (at least, not much, and certainly not in print where people all over the world whom they don't know might be reading it). Further, Burstein is right that there is real drudgery in actual scholarship, and blogging is not particularly conducive to it. Nonetheless, the potential is there. The danger with it is the opposite of the above problem: there's the danger that it will become an excuse to accept anything that happens in the process without regard for the standards that have to be met at some point. But as a complement to 'polished work' scholarship, there is potential.

Of course, I don't think most scholars view their blogging as scholarship itself; but rather (as I consider some of the stuff on this weblog) as ancillary to it in some way, e.g., a place for gathering resources, airing ideas, refining details of argument, etc.

Of course, again, it depends on what is really meant by 'scholarship'. I do (sometimes) think that even in our 'polished work' it would be a good idea if academics gave far more indication than they currently do of the process by which they reached their conclusions, even with all their missteps and failures and dead ends. But then I wonder if that's really such a good idea.

Update: Amardeep Singh develops his thoughts on academic journalism (see comments) on his blog here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.