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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

More thoughts about blogs as a law professor's medium

My prior post about how blogs might be improved as an academic medium has generated a lot of engaging and insightful reactions.  To continue the dialogue, let me share some additional thoughts:

1.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the reactions of a number of prominent bloggers have a  Panglossian flavor:  Christine Hurt's negative response to the idea of improving blogs is tellingly titled "Improving on the Perfection of Blogs"; posts from Stephen Bainbridge (calling blogging a "hobby") and Ann Althouse (calling blogging "life" and "art") suggest in various ways that we already live in the best of all possible blogspheres. 

Ironically, I largely agree that the blog medium is already wonderful for many of the reasons they (and Daniel Solove and Rick Garnett and Kaimi Wenger) suggest.   I certainly have no interest in urging Christine or Stephen or Ann to change their blogging ways.  But the latest census suggests that barely more than 1% of the roughly 10,000 full-time faculty members are active bloggers, which suggests to me that enhancements to the medium might draw more law professors into the blogsphere.  (I suppose I reveal my own Panglossian side when I suggest it's an obvious good to have more law professors blogging.)

2.  Lest my first post be misunderstood, the very last thing I want is for blogs to become more like traditional law reviews.  Traditional law reviews have many benefits, but they (and other forces) have tended to push legal scholarship in directions that do not effectively serve all segments of the legal community.   Beyond Judge Edwards' famed critique of "impractical" scholarship, consider practitioner Stephen Carney's thoughtful comments (scroll a bit) explaining why blogs "are better for me than L.Rev.s will ever be."

I am eager to enhance blogs as a medium for law professors largely because I believe blogs can and should help fill a scholarly gap created by the modern realities of traditional law reviews.  Notably, Larry Ribstein has already been working on related topics for some time, and I am pleased to see he thinks "one strand [of the blog medium] will inevitably be as informal scholarship."  And Marty Lederman's helpful comment about the SCOTUSblog forums highlights how the blog medium can be tweaked to be a very effective scholarly gap-filler.

3.  I liked Daniel Solove's insight about blogs helping to "develop some professors into public intellectuals," and it made me realize that it is perhaps this feature (power?) of the medium that I  may be most eager to enhance.  Articulated differently, I justify spending a lot of "office time" on my Sentencing Law and Policy blog because I believe the medium enables me to simultaneously engage in the holy troika of law professor tasks (scholarship, teaching and service).  And yet, I think the technology and the norms of the blogsphere might be enhanced to even better serve these ends.   My original post was really seeking to explore whether others had thought about ways the technology and the norms of blogging could develop to serve the "public intellectual" goal even more effectively.

Posted by Douglas A. Berman on August 3, 2005 at 02:49 AM in Blogging | Permalink

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