Here’s her worry:
I have concerns about the notion that blogging will soon become the choice method of academic communication, or, worse yet, the notion that blogging ought to replace traditional forms of academic publishing.
No one is suggesting blogs will or should replace traditional academic discourse. Journals are still alive and well – which is one reason the open access movement is gaining steam, even in legal scholarship.
If anything, blogs bolster the abilities of scholars to do good work in traditional forums – journals, conferences and classrooms – because blogs are conversations with peers, students and (scariest of all) the general public.
This exposure isn’t trivial. If readers like what you say on a blog, they are more likely to read your longer pieces – articles that might otherwise remain obscure and unread even by specialists in the discipline.
It’s also false that blog writing is inherently inferior to journal articles:
If blogging replaces more traditional forms of academic discourse, we lose the ‘sober second thought’ and in depth analysis that comes with researching and writing a peer reviewed paper.
Blogging can’t have in-depth analysis? Not so. That’s up the the author.
It is true that most blogs – even those by academics – are not composed of 50 page treatises where a few original ideas are buried by dozens of footnotes. That’s just as well. Shorter commentaries and serialized essays have value. They can improve writing skills, muse aloud, gather feedback from other scholars, and create communities of academics. As an example, see Brian Leiter’s new legal philosophy blog.
Even better, blog posts can seed larger projects. They offer a form of peer review – something many critics, disillusioned authors and judges say is lacking in legal scholarship, despite the best efforts of 2L student editors who valiantly fix professors’ footnotes.
All this, and on a more timely basis than offered by traditional journals’ publication schedules.
Which leads me to my next point: We need more Michael Geists.
Blogging allows experts to give sage commentary on the news of the day in something more than a sound-bite on the evening news. In blogs, law professors have the opportunity to educate the public about the law, especially in areas of controversy (as with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the Leo Teskey case). Insofar as blogs have political clout and the attention of media outlets, they also give law professors the opportunity to raise alarms, create awareness about developing legal issues, and spur legal reform.
Try doing all that in a law review article.
For further reading about the pros and cons of academic blogging, here’s a quick round-up:
- Blogging and Academic Research, by Christopher D. Sessums
- The academic contributions of blogging?, by Eszter
- Blogging: Academia’s Digital Divide?, by Fred Stutzman
- The future of Legal Scholarship, a collection of essays at the Pocket Part, an online companion to the Yale Law Journal
- Blogging as Scholarship: The Debate Continues by Ian Best at Law Blog Metrics. See also his excellent bibliography of discussions about academic blogging.
- Smith, D. Gordon, “A Case Study in Bloggership”. Berkman Center for Internet & Society – Bloggership: How Blogs are Transforming Legal Scholarship (Conference Paper). http://ssrn.com/abstract=898178
- (Update: via Slashdot, we have Jakob Neilson’s timely, Write articles, not blog postings.)
Those who disagree with Prof. Billingsley can take a look at one of my first posts to Thought Capital: How to Write an Academic Blog. Law professors, your audience awaits…