Some of this week’s readings on blogs discuss the strengths of the medium and how it can be used to complement more traditional methods of creating and reviewing scholarly or academic content, while the other readings were examples of blog posts that contain scholarly content and analysis and often link back to other scholarly works.
Luker’s “Were There Blog and Enough Time” discusses the rise of blogs and blogging by academic historians in the late 1990s and into the early 2000s. Luker provides an overview of the medium and introduces some prominent early pioneers of blogging in history. Some of the reasons he gives for blogging include the following: allowing for new ideas and influences to permeate a historian’s otherwise overly specific focus or “specialization,” the desire to produce iterations of work that would otherwise have no platform for easily sharing or receiving feedback, a means to find out (through reception and feedback) if scholarly work is transferrable from an academic context to a wider public one, and, lastly, because blogging represents a democratization of scholarly information and blogging is an opportunity to make academic content available to more than just those in higher education. In Cummings and Jarrett’s “Only Typing? Informal Writing, Blogging and the Academy”, some of these ideas about blogging and their strengths are expanded upon. The blog presents an opportunity for wider informal review and commentary, expands upon the traditional small panel of reviewers in peer review, and allows for increased diversity in feedback and in inclusion of perspectives. It is also argues that blogs can be useful as a tool for continual and consistent writing and production of content; the accountability that comes with an online community can be helpful in fighting stagnation.
Neither of these readings argue for the complete abolishment of the traditional peer-review process, though. Peer review is described as a “chain of responsibility” and the blog does not present a substitute for that formal academic system of checks and balances but rather can act as a complementary system. The blog complements peer-review by allowing for authors to receive feedback and participate in discussions throughout the iterative stages of scholarship, rather than just receiving peer feedback after the work has been submitted for review. It allows for the building of academic communities around areas of interest and specializations, which can in turn allow for increased research and collaboration. I especially like the idea presented that academics should be involved in blogging as a means of democratizing information. Luker describes one of his reasons for being involved in blogs as “I want to model for myself and others how we should all behave within an idealized democratic public sphere.” We all know that the Internet has the potential to be a great democratizing force in terms of access to information; there are limited barriers to entry and to consumption of content. But having historians model the behavior of sharing their content freely and openly on blogs could set an example across academic disciplines and lead to more engagement and discourse surrounding content and ideas that have traditionally only been available to those with access to a journal subscription.