On the one hand, some resistance to the proliferation of blogs is understandable. The value of academic culture is that it stands apart from the ephemeral marketplace. Universities are by their very nature culturally conservative and slow to change. The odd situation would actually have been if universities had automatically embraced blogging. Holbo suggests that from one perspective, blogging is an affront to the traditional idea of the university. “You want to graft this onto the last living medieval guild system?” he imagines a senior scholar protesting.
But in another sense, academic blogging represents the fruition, not a betrayal, of the university’s ideals. One might argue that blogging is in fact the very embodiment of what the political philosopher Michael Oakshott once called “The Conversation of Mankind”—an endless, thoroughly democratic dialogue about the best ideas and artifacts of our culture. Drezner’s blog, for example, is hardly of the “This is what I did today …” variety. Rather, he usually writes about globalization and political economy—the very subjects on which he publishes in prestigious, peer-reviewed presses and journals. If his prose style in the blog is more engaging than that of the typical academic’s, the thinking behind it is no less rigorous or intelligent.
To take only one other example, John Hawks, an assistant anthropology professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, posts three to five essays a week on subjects like evolutionary theory. He writes about science with the breadth of the late Stephen Jay Gould and doesn’t see a big difference between most of his online and offline output. “Much of what I write online is scholarly. When I review an issue in human evolution, it is a genuine review. If I criticize something, I back it up,” he says. Indeed, his essays are festooned with citations.
So, might blogging be subversive precisely because it makes real the very vision of intellectual life that the university has never managed to achieve?
Also features a good overview of peer review issues for both weblogs and scholarly work.