While some of the best bloggers are academics, the weblog form has yet to spark much interest in academia as a venue for publishing research or criticism. That’s to be expected. What’s been interesting for me, however, is how much I’ve had to defend the form as a venue for public dissemination of my academic thinking. But, then, many academics, working under the pressure of publish-or-perish, are loathe to engage the public with work that’s unlikely to count toward tenure. And some are just loathe to engage the public for any reason at all.
I’ve used this weblog, quite obviously, as a way to write public criticism and public notes to myself about my research interests. And as a former journalist, I like the pressure this weblog helps me put on myself to write every day.
And again, quite obviously, I’ve used weblogs to teach. I’ll be continuing that trend at Southwest Missouri State University in the fall for my JRN270 Introduction to Journalism and MED581 Issues in Media Ethics classes.
What I have not done is become a “blogologist”–an academic who studies blogs as a form of communication, i.e. interpersonal, public, or something else.
Mark Glaser rounds up a few samples of the research on weblogs. You might find some of the observations and predictions interesting, as I did the following. Alex Halavais, an assistant professor in the School of Informatics at SUNY Buffalo, has this to say about what’s surprised him most in his study of blogs:
…how little impact blogs have on the media environment. Bloggers so much want to see this as a true revolution, and frankly I want to, too. Yet when you work through the timelines and the links, even in some of the most celebrated cases, professional journalists get there first and have the most impact. I have a feeling that this will change, but I hope people won’t discount the role blogging has now as a source of public discussion.
I wonder how this observation challenges my prediction that “The 500” will achieve a voice in the public sphere equal to the power of mainstream pundits. Perhaps not much when you consider that the names most of us would place in that elite group are members, in some fashion, of the mainstream media.