Balkinization  

Thursday, September 29, 2005

More Proof that Blogging Can Be a Form of Scholarship

JB

The University of Chicago Law School is starting its own faculty blog.

I think it's a great idea, and hope that more faculties try it. If it catches on, I predict that it will reshape how legal scholarship is produced. People will visit faculty blogs for new ideas before they are shaped into articles and books; in some cases, the blog post will be the finished product, since it is immediately available and accessible to anyone who wants to read it.

It has become increasingly obvious to me (and to many others as well) that some academic writing works perfectly well as a blog posting. Indeed, some of my blog postings have been cited in legal scholarship. Some blog postings work their way into books and articles I later write, but many if not most simply stay on my blog, and other people read them there.

Like all media, the blog subtly (and not so subtly) shapes how ideas are expressed, and what sorts of ideas get expressed. Blogs rarely use footnotes (links are used instead), and they usually are best for short essays rather than long discussions. But many important ideas in legal scholarship can be stated in less than 4,000 words, and it is well worth learning the skills and discipline necessary to do this.

You might think that the blog format would discriminate in favor of the trendy issues of interest to a general audience rather than the sort of issues of interest to dedicated scholars. To a certain extent this is surely the case. And yet, because of the fact that storage space is (relatively) unlimited, academics are free to write about highly technical topics on their blogs as well as popular ones. Blogging does not require that one engage in one kind of writing or the other; the real driver is the dialectic between authorial interests and audience expectations. On this blog, for example, our readers are used to (and expect) well-reasoned and detailed arguments about law and politics. As a result, we have no qualms posting long essays with an academic flavor, even if they are rather technical. Other blogs will attract different audiences with different expectations. Because the Internet does not require that bloggers have any particular type of audience, it does not require that blogs have any particular type of content. What happens to faculty blogs (and scholarship on those blogs) will depend on whether faculty can obtain a relatively sophisticated and loyal audience, even if fairly small, who want to read their ideas. So far, at least, this blog has developed such an audience, and all of us are grateful for it.


Comments:

I would welcome faculty blogs. But I would hope that they would be arranged to accommodate easy printing without the need to copy and paste. In fact, I wish Balkinization would do this. Sometimes hard copy can be beneficial to compare with subsequent posts on related topics.
 

The easiest way to print a blog posting is to clink on the link that says "link" at the bottom of each posting. This puts the blog posting and associated comments in a separate webpage which you can print out at your convenience.
 

The greatest advantage of blogs as a form of scholarship is accessibility. Academia is an industry of ideas and blogs allow those ideas to disseminate over a wider area than journals.

Personally, as a law graduate who has pursued a career outside of law, I use blogs to follow legal developments that interest me. Its very unlikely that would happen if legal blogs don't exist.

Also, I've noticed that because blogs are more of an informal space - without any length requirements - that academics have greater freedom to explore interesting ideas which are incapable of sustaining longer articles or, indeed, which are impossible in any other medium (e.g. Rhombes 'Frame by Frame').

I just hope that (more) Universities appreciate the *positive* outcomes of formally recognising blogs as a form of scholarship.
 

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