Chapter 11 – The Scholarly Blog Rises

I have decided to focus my two posts for this early part of the week on chapters 11 and 14. Having read all the material, I found these specific two the most interesting and worthwhile. I prefer to focus on chapters or articles instead of the alternative. Chapter 11 deals with scholarly blogging, which has been on a steady incline for quite some time. The chapter is written by Alexander Halavais.

Early in the chapter Halavais introduces to a new blogging phrase. He calls blogging a new “third place” for academic discourse. He also makes it clear that the relationship between blogging and scholars is still “unresolved,” meaning that we still do not know the positive and negative effects of the relationship.

Halavais introduces to his four themes that form a set of practices among many bloggers. Remember, this does not pertain to everyone. 1) Blogs rely on networked audiences. Correct. However regular or irregular your audience may be. Individualized views are encouraged. 2) Blogging encourages conversation. In 99% of cases, yes, but I am sure some people blog for the hell of it. We can not be sure that every blogger wants attention and conversation started. 3) Blogging is a low-intensity activity. This guy has obviously never taken Weblogs and Wikis. He states that is requires little commitment of time. Which in theory is true, but if you want your blog to shine and garner audiences you have to put in the time. Period. 4) Blogs represent a transparent and unedited view of thinking-in-process. He does not elaborate on this theme. Transparent view? Yes. Unedited? Yes and no. I edit every post I have ever made. But I suppose he is speaking in terms of the content rather the spelling and grammar.

He states himself that there are examples of Web sites that do not exhibit all the characteristics, which I am glad he did because I would be able to move on past this part of the chapter without that realization.

He then moves onto three old forms of communication for scholars. 1) Journals or notebooks. 2) The coffee house. 3) Editorials or opinions page.

We begin with “The Notebook,” and I am not talking about that crappy Ryan Gosling movie.

Perhaps no tool is more closely associated with scholarly pursuits than the notebook or journal. It represents a first attempt to externalize knowledge and ideas.

Well there you have it. He is right, this is common knowledge. With that being said, could these scholars start using blogs in the same way? Yes sir.

C. Wright Mills once commented on scholarly notebooks, he called them “fringe-thoughts”:

It (a notebook) also encourages you to capture various ideas which may be by-products of everyday life, snatches of conversation overheard on the street, or, for that matter, dreams. Once noted, these may lead to more systematic thinking, as well as lend intellectual relevance to more direct experience.

Notebooks have opened up “new realms.” They represent a clear expression of everything; an externalization of ones memory and cognition. Notebooks are actively shared. Now for the juicy stuff. For some scholars, a blogs replaces the notebook. Why not? Science fiction author Cory Doctorow refers to his blog as an:

outboard brain.

First of all, whoa, a science fiction writer named Doctorow. Secondly, he is right. Blogs are the perfect tool to accomplishing exactly what a “notebook” does. A problem with this is that sometimes can not have a lap top near your workspace to quickly log the information you wish to–you would probably use a notebook, right? Secondly, your material, however important it may be, can be stolen and remixed by someone else against their will. This likely happens. Get your blog copyrighted you fool!

However, Halavais calls these scholars in our era:

kids in a candy store.

Mainly because ideas published on blogs “often” (which I would replace with “can”) draw immediate response. Halavais seems convinced that scholars will gravitate towards blogs in droves:

The blog as a research notebook ultimately build(s) knowledge. Scholarly communication has continually moved toward quicker and more interactive forms, but never have so many had access to so many, so easily.

This Web site has 50 scholarly blogs listed for students who are in the climate science field. Now, that is just for “climate science;” imagine the hundreds of thousands of scholarly blogs actually out there. Halavais may have been onto something after all.

Now onto “the coffee house.” Back in the olden days scholars, especially in 18th century Britain, use to hit the coffee house and have a free exchange of ideas. While this sure as hell does not happen in 2013, when I think about a bunch of figurative men and women drinking coffee (with a lot of alcohol I am sure) discussing their latest work I can not help but envision the internet. Blogs and the coffee house thrive on the mixing and exchanging of opinion and ideas from a variety of backgrounds. These two ideas, blogging and coffee houses are quite similar. Bloggers establish “loose communities” by linking their work through comments, reactions, and hyperlinks. Halavais asks us to visual these conversations to understand how these structures differ. He is right. They are similar, but blogging has limitations in these terms.

“The opinions page” is next on the docket. Halavais claims that the newspaper inherited the private journal and the coffee house. Truth? To a degree, but journals are still relevant. There is a neat quote from Umberto Eco, whoa, another fantastic name, which states:

I don’t believe there is any gap between what I write in my “academic” books and what I write in the papers.

Is he right? I suppose it is up to ones personal opinion. There might not be a huge gap between the two, but books are a wide collection of ideas and thoughts and an article is small and concentrated. There is a quote from an article written by Torill Mortensen and Jill Walker which sums up scholarly blogging quite well:

When we started our blogs, we saw them mainly as tools for focusing, for exchanging information, and being part of a conversation which potentially extends beyond the academic community. Our blogs became tools with which to think about our research, its values, connections and links to other aspects of the world.

That article they wrote can be read in its entirely here. If you have the time, it is worth while.

Here is another wonderful quote from Halavais:

Blogs seem to fit the existing needs and ideals of scholars, and wide adoption might spur significant improvements in scholarly communication.

That is his opinion, but do you agree? I agree that this “might” spur improvements, and I think it has, but just how “significant” have these improvements been? I could not find any articles that show any of this data, but that would be quite difficult to measure. Regardless, I am with Alexander on this one, blogs have many uses and one should be scholarly use.

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One response to “Chapter 11 – The Scholarly Blog Rises

  1. Pingback: Week 5: More Uses of Blogs and Priests Who Blog? | Jack in the Box·

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