April 25, 2006
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Orin Kerr, from the group legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy, has drawn attention to a symposium on the relationship of blogging to legal scholarship, at the Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. It may just be selection bias, since I regularly read a number of legal blogs, but it seems to me that blogging is closer to becoming “mainstream” in legal scholarship than it is in most other academic fields – perhaps because the medium suits discussion and debate over legal precedent and the pooling of “distributed intelligence”, and therefore offers a logical fit with the legal field. Regardless, legal scholars often seem more comfortable with the notion that blogging can represent a potential tool for their professional work, rather than simply a distraction from it – expressing an understanding of the relationship of blogging to academic work that I expect to become widespread through many academic fields over time.
I haven’t had time to read most of the papers, but I have read Eugene Volokh’s contribution, which is also mentioned in Volokh’s post at The Volokh Conspiracy. Titled “Scholarship, Blogging and Trade-offs: On Discovering, Disseminating, and Doing”, the paper discusses the conflict academic bloggers often feel between spending time writing a post for their blog, and spending time on other, more traditional, forms of academic work.
As the title suggests, Volokh breaks academic work down into the categories of discovering new information, disseminating ideas discovered by oneself and others, and doing tasks that aim to transform your discpline or broader society. He then analyses the ways in which blogging can contribute to each of these traditional academic roles, and evaluates the ways in which blogging can provide a more or less effective strategy than more conventional forms of academic work. The article offers particularly interesting discussions of the communal aspect of blogging – the value of receiving feedback from a group of people who gather around your blog – and of what Volokh calls “micro-discoveries” (what I would refer to as the “distributed intelligence” dimension of blogging), in which blogs can become mediums for many people to draw attention to easily-overlooked, but widely-distributed, phenomena that might otherwise escape notice and reflection.