Academic Blogging Redux

I posted on academic blogging recently, and the conversation enlarged at a post on Scot McKnight’s blog. This discussion then spilled into a discussion in my history class today, which had some good thoughts raised. Here’s some thoughts that I’d like to collect from those sources and from my own thoughts as to the current state of academic blogging.

  1. Blogging is not currently regarded as a reliable source within academia (generally speaking)
  2. Blogging is one of the best sources for recent history (quick, highly responsive publishing)
  3. Blogging can be looked at as a primary source, much like other diaries, memos, etc.
  4. Blogging currently lacks conventions that would allow for us to easily ascertain reliability
  5. Blogging is not distinguishable from other Internet sources according to the major citation standards.

So, that’s things as they stand right now. What I’m interested in is the following question: what can blogging do to become more recognized as a reliable source? Many answers to the question will involve similar mechanisms to the print world (ie. editorial oversight, peer reviewing), but I’m not particularly interested in those, as they erode the unique characteristics of blogging.

So, I’ll venture a few answers to my own question and hopefully get some discussion happening. I’ll ask it again: what can blogging do to become more recognized as a reliable source?

  1. Include biographical details (preferably an “About” page). This helps to communicate to your readership the authority that you have on a given topic. This could include qualifications, credentials, experience, and other things pertinent to you knowing what the heck you’re talking about.
  2. Cite your sources. There’s simply no way around this. Contextualizing what you have to say within a larger body of knowledge is one of the fundamental laws of respectable scholarship. I would also suggest that bloggers try to cite as much print material as possible. This might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but print sources are at this point held to be more authoritative.
  3. Have a comment area. Not only that, but build a lively comment area where respectful dialogue, dispute and argument takes place over the content of the post. This type of commenting can be a way to expose your ideas to the (hopefully) the same kind of criticism that editorial oversight and peer-review systems accomplish.

So, once more, what can blogging do to become more recognized as a reliable source? (Feel free to disagree with me too!)

2 thoughts on “Academic Blogging Redux

  1. Matt,

    Tell me if I’m getting your point here, but it seems you want to raise the respectability of blogging by making it use more scholarly approaches.

    I’m not so sure that will happen — in fact I’m sure it won’t — but what I think we have to face is that whether we like it or not blogging will become an emerging authority because of its accessibility. Some professors don’t like that students use Wikipedia, but its availability will mean students will consult it.

    Asking folks to cite evidence is asking blogging to become academic; again, I’m not sure that will happen. Blogging is informal by nature and conversational in approach, rather than academic, detached, and evidentiary.

    Just my thoughts.

  2. Thanks for the comment Scot.

    As I’m thinking about this, I probably should be qualifying things a bit more. I am talking about the use of blogs in academia, which is still largely frowned upon. I don’t think that what I’m saying applies to all bloggers; just those who want their ideas to be taken seriously within academia.

    But you are right, perhaps blogging should try not to emulate current academic conventions. Maybe to do so will be an attempt to make it into something it isn’t.

    Here’s a utopian idea though: in class we talked about the scenario of an academic journal: a writer submits his/her material, peers review it, and the editorial team publishes it. In the blogging world, the article is published, and the peer review process that once was veiled from public eyes is now in the open. This by nature would turn academics into more of a conversation.

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