I haven't posted a blog in a while and I apologize, but I wanted to write this post today, because I've thinking about the place of the academic blog in the academy in academic research and writing in general. This post is in part a response to a conversation I had with one of my committee members, but I hope to hear from others about the genre.
The Academic Blog
I was having a conversation with a member of my dissertation committee about blogs. I was telling him that I have my students blog every Friday and then have them respond to other blogs every Wednesday. I'm not happy with the asynchronous results that were developing from this method. As we talked about alternatives, we started talking about blogging as a pedagogy and the affluence of the academic blog.
I was surprised by my committee member, an instructor who understands the pedagogical advantages for composition student blogs, when he let it out that he despised the academic blog. As a techno-rhetorician, and as an administrator, he felt indifferent to the academic blog and argued that the academic blog was not the same as academic writing and research. His stance is justified in that I understood him to be making a clear distinction between blogs as a composition and learning tool and blogs as a stand-in for poorly researched academic and professional writing. At the end of the conversation my committee member asked me what role I though the academic blog plays in the academy. Before I could answer he left to run to a meeting.
I left the conversation thinking about his question and about the genre of the academic blog. I wondered if part of my committee member's problem with the genre is that, like my problem with my class blogs, the writing that occurs online on the blog is not that different from writing that is produced in an academic journal except for the degree of academic research and preparation. What I mean is that the blog is written, mostly behind closed doors on a personal computer and then is published where it might, or might not be read by an audience. The academic article follows the same path. It is written and it is published (though the process of publication is excruciating more difficult) and it might, or might not be read just the same. The problem then is that the blog assumes to be something more than the static academic article.
I think my problem, and my committee member's problem, is that the blog seems to be a tool for learning that assumes to be accessible and mutable in a way that traditional writing is not, but as with my students' blogs, academic blogs tend to be rather static and traditional posts that disseminate information rather than encourage participation and engagement. This is not to say that all academic blogs follow this path. There are a number of blogs that engage readers. But I'm still stuck wondering what is the place of the academic blog in the academy? I would like to think that the academic blog can be a space of resistance to traditional paths of learning and scholarship.
Instead of blogs hosted by a solitary academic, it might be better to create an interdisciplinary blog of bloggers that engage within a community of learning and that write about the same topics offering different views while collaborating with the other scholars and bloggers and anyone willing to join in. Some blogs have started this with guest bloggers. In the Medieval Middle posts blogs from several distinguished scholars. Nevertheless, I would like to see this go further. I imagine a blog like the HASTAC Scholars Forum discussions in which an issue is engaged by a series of writers and researchers and thinkers. Thus, it resists the solitary voice of the authoritative academic blogger and instead relies on the communal voice of scholars.
I think this type of open blog would benefit the academy. It would encourage a larger learning environment though collaborative research and writing. It would ease, maybe, the concern that blogging is under researched and under thought. Instead it would develop new understands through a partnership of heard voices. Maybe that will be the future of the academic blog, at least I hope it will be, but I still don't think I answered the question: what place does the academic blog have in the academy?