Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Blogosphere as a Carnival of Ideas

In "The Blogosphere as a Carnival of Ideas" (, Henry Farrell describes how and why academics are using blogs, noting along the way how they differ from some forms of traditional scholarly publishing, but recall other forms.

Of note and use are some of the links to blogs referenced in the piece, and for me, this observation and prediction:
Why are so many academics beginning to blog? Academic blogs offer the kind of intellectual excitement and engagement that attracted many scholars to the academic life in the first place, but which often get lost in the hustle to secure positions, grants, and disciplinary recognition. Properly considered, the blogosphere represents the closest equivalent to the Republic of Letters that we have today. Academic blogs, like their 18th-century equivalent, are rife with feuds, displays of spleen, crotchets, fads, and nonsenses. As in the blogosphere more generally, there is a lot of dross. However, academic blogs also provide a carnival of ideas, a lively and exciting interchange of argument and debate that makes many scholarly conversations seem drab and desiccated in comparison. Over the next 10 years, blogs and bloglike forms of exchange are likely to transform how we think of ourselves as scholars. While blogging won't replace academic publishing, it builds a space for serious conversation around and between the more considered articles and monographs that we write.

This makes sense to me.

Now it is possible, as Into the Blogosphere ( demonstrates, for a blog to be made up of longer more considered posts. Into the Blogosphere uses blog technology to deliver a collection of essays on blogging; it was a conscious attempt to not do that collection as a printed book, which would have been the usual route. The essays were called for, submitted, reviewed, revised, and edited with the same academic rigor that an academic press publication would have demanded. But instead of the editors seeking a press and trying to line up a contract, and instead of contributors waiting for their pieces to come out in the book, the work went right to the blog.

There are always exceptions and you'll continue to see experiments and variations, but Farrell's observations about how blogs are generally used by academics remains correct. And so too, I think, will his predictions pan out. Other things will happen too, which makes the use of blogs all the more interesting.


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