This blog “What Is a Blog Post?” by Rob Jenkins recently ran in The Chronicle of Higher Eduction.
I’ve read a lot from my academic mentors about some of the negatives about blogs. But in those criticisms I hear more fear than advice. The most obvious fear is that blogging academics don’t spend enough time doing excellent research. Closely related to that is the fear that a naive blogger might share too much about one’s research on the blog thereby undermining future academic publications. In most cases blogs are ignored by hiring and tenure committees because they do not represent an academic writer’s polished insights.
But blogs have a a few good aspects, too, and Jenkins lists a few of their merits. They give their writers an outlet to articulate their reflections and analysis on any given topic without needing to go through the slow academic filtering process of peer review. Blogs often present arguments and start conversations about a topic in ways that allow the writers and readers to think out-loud.
I’d like to expand on this benefit of blogs–that of creating a virtual space like a Senior Common Room where tea is regularly served. Jenkins highlights the discursive potential among bloggers and their readers, and similar rich conversations still happen in academic venues. But few of our modernized institutions maintain traditions of regularly gathering everyone for afternoon tea (or sherry) and an hour or so of conversation. I’ve had the pleasure of studying in institutions with these traditions–from my undergraduate summer study program at Oxford which held morning and afternoon tea daily, my masters program which held a weekly reception following a research presentation, to a research institute in Europe where I spent a summer that held a daily tea-hour followed by a cocktail-hour once a week.
I miss those conversations and those opportunities to meet new scholars and to discuss new ideas. Perhaps that’s why I’ve started a new blog?