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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

blogarship? scholarlog?

Orin Kerr asks his readers "how blogs have changed the ways in which they find out about and discuss new works of legal scholarship, as well as how blogs have changed how or whether they read different law reviews."

Most of all, law blogs have proven to me that I'm easily distractable.  Lord knows I love to read em.  But I love them most for law developments or academic gossip - to me blogs work best when they have a news hook, and less so for the dissemination of ideas and methods.

Nonetheless, Orin's commenters hearteningly observe that they would never read law review articles not pointed at and summarized by blogs.  It's nice to see that the professoriate has a new way to get its ideas out into the world.

But what else could blogs do for legal scholarship?  It is hard to go into details in blog posts, and many a professor is, I think, scared to throw a half-baked article idea out into the blogosphere, either from fears of preemption or because they think they'd look bad.  But here's some things blogging might do for the hopeful scholar:

  • practice If you're not too worried about the above concerns, the mere act of stating one's thesis and subject matter in blog form - in public, that is - may help to discipline and hone it
  • parsimony - If you value concise writing (and Eugene Volokh certainly does), the blogosphere, which celebrates the 200 word post, might encourage your facility with it.
  • lite social science - One could keep one's methodological and critical facilities in shape with incisive blog posts - though this is surprisingly rare, because even simple regressions take time.
  • feeding the beast - Lengthy, issue-specific blogging seems like it would force the blogger to keep up with developments in his field - or at least with newspaper articles covering his field.
  • get famous ... for the internet - Maybe the readers who adore your posts will be articles editors at journals you adore!  Maybe they'll be colleagues at other schools who wouldn't otherwise read your stuff!  If so, it contributes to my pet thesis that outsiders cotton to blogging more than do insiders.

So there you go - six ways to say that practice is good, and blogging is practice ... for the excitement of that initial SSRN working paper post!

Posted by David Zaring on July 6, 2005 at 10:00 AM in Blogging | Permalink

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» Why Blogs Will Not Replace Law Reviews: from The Volokh Conspiracy
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Comments

David, please explore this unusual thesis of outsiders vs insiders...

Posted by: Dan | Jul 6, 2005 2:00:02 PM

Yeah - I should have said insiders v. future insiders. Lord knows the writing on academic eminence blogs like left2right can be good - Don Herzog is particularly engaging. But check out that masthead - it's smaller than it was when it started, and it still includes lots of schmancy philosophes who never contribute. Maybe Becker-Posner is different, and the brand new TPM cafe has stars like Anne-Marie Slaughter and Elizabeth Warren, but there just aren't that many endowed chair bloggers out there (and many of those who are out there are prettty gunshy). Makes sense to me - why should these people blog? They'll just get criticized, they have no more reputation to make, and they can express their views at conferences where people hang on their every word. Better if you're new, or have a chip on your shoulder (hence the right wing blawgs).

I do think that blogging is elevating lots of profiles, though, meaning the outsiders may become insiders! Just a theory of course - and premised on a weird empirical claim: not "what about Larry Lessig?" but "why aren't there more Larry Lessigs?"

Posted by: David | Jul 6, 2005 3:23:41 PM

Perhaps because you're an insider the need to get a handle on what ideas are in currency - what's hot and what's not - is already available from other sources. You have many dialogues going, I'm sure, and that keeps you in the parlance. That is part of what you probably mean by "feeding the beast" (although, as you say, keeping up to date on one's own is equally vital).

For those of us with noses pressed to the candy store window, it can be hard to garner a sense of not only what the key issues are but also how they are being discussed. The way discussions are framed - if this is part of what you mean when you say the "methods" that are being disseminated - is highly valuable to see, at least as one is learning the rules and parameters of engagement.

The academic gossip is useful, too, but more to remind us how reputation is such an odd, amorphous, and constantly constructed thing. The quickly dropped attempt to say *who* is hot and who's not (as well as the resistance itself) was illuminating. It bears remembering that academics assess the hell out of each other. (Sure that's true elsewhere; but this is where you folks operate, so the example is at hand.)

Finally, I think it's interesting that the academic stars aren't writing that much yet. Perhaps their reputations are dangled on the masthead as a lure - and then withdrawn for fear of damaging those reputations? (particularly if they want to blog more lightheartedly, anecdotally, or personally?) And of course, they are so busy. But if I were of their ilk, I would consider blogging anonymously - in part to see if my ideas would be heralded without the weight of my established name behind them.

Posted by: Tiger | Jul 6, 2005 3:56:51 PM

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