I am due this weekend to contribute to a conference on blogging, as part of a panel on "Blogging in Education". I think my role will involve some devil's advocacy, especially in the context of self-selected blog enthusiasts.
Here is the abstract I submitted:
"Blogs and Research: Synergy or Distraction? Diffusion or Challenge?"And frankly, as far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out regarding the role of blogs in either research or indeed teaching.
Can blogs be a place of intellectual and academic production, or do they provide no more than the quick fix of evanescent publicity, a grandiose mode of procrastination? Alternatively, can they be a means by which intellectuals connect with a broader public, diffusing academic work more widely than is usual? Or, conversely, does the blog form, and the consequent interaction with a new audience, perhaps challenge the ways in which we have been thinking and doing research?
I am not sure of the answers to these questions, but in my presentation I will explore them, drawing on my experience both writing and reading (and commenting on) blogs.
On the former, for instance, I note that my friend Idelber, whose interests are very close to mine (combining Area Studies and Critical Theory), and who has presented a conference paper describing blogging as an "amazingly innovative experience" in something like public intellectuality, has now stopped blogging, most likely permanently.
On the latter, my former Milwaukee colleague Donna is teaching a course on "Blogging in Theory and Practice", which naturally enough has its own blog, but I can't say that my own attempts to integrate blogs into courses (see these links, for instance, or these) have yet quite got off the ground. (Though I did see a rush of hits from local domains in the week leading up to the exam for a class I taught last semester. The last of these visits was at gone 3am the morning of the [8:30am] exam itself.)
And in any case, oh look: as I write, Technorati, on which my pedagogic blogging relies, is once more down.
A blog does, after all, take a fair amount of time, especially if you want to have any readers--and if not, then though there is still some point to the exercise, there is rather less than there could be. Moreover, the worry is that the few readers you do attract will be unsympathetic. Anonymous blogging is also fairly hard work, as far as I can see.
Blogs do, however, provide a space to try out some ideas in a semi-public, semi-permanent forum. Last week, for instance, I gave a talk on ruins, some small parts of which were first tried out here and here. And I've given two papers in which I've drawn on the notes written up at my other blog, Latin America on Screen. Plus, of course, this very post now brings together preliminary thoughts towards what I might say on Saturday.
But if blog entries in a research context are in effect very early first drafts towards what will only later become more polished pieces, well... first drafts are usually soon erased, and for good reason.