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Friday, July 29, 2005

Blogs and Academic Disciplines

Today marks the end of my two-week stay as a guest-blogger here.  I'm grateful to my hosts and to everyone who's reading along.

Let me close with a quick reflection on blogging by law professors. Nicole was asking earlier about the relationship between law school professors and "real" university professors.  I think the connection between blogs and an academic discipline offer one way to answer her question. The more that blogging can displace an academic discipline, the less that discipline can be said to resemble the "real" work of a university professor.

Blogging is changing journalism profoundly, displacing media employees with a swarm of analysts and fact checkers. Bloggers decentralize much of the analytical work of the MSM journalist, and even some of the fact-gathering work. Will it do the same for academic disciplines?

It's hard to imagine that blogs will seriously affect work in some fields, particularly physical sciences. Perhaps blogs could serve as a forum to popularize work in some social science disciplines. This could happen either by publication on the blog of shorter and less nuanced versions of full-blown academic work, or by commentary that connects serious academic work with current events (Brad DeLong's blog and Dan Drezner's blog are nice examples of the latter).

But what if analysis of current events essentially defines an academic discipline? To the extent that legal scholars comment on Supreme Court decisions or current legislative debates, a pithy blog entry (or a set of ten connected blog posts) creates real competition for the 50-page article. As legal academics work out the relationship between blogging and other scholarly activities, both the topics we study and the methods we use will change. I predict that the need to differentiate legal scholarship from blog commentary will speed up our reliance on analytical methods from other disciplines. It will also shift the favorite topics for inquiry away from last year's Supreme Court Term and the legislative debates that are already covered in the news.

I'm not saying that blogging and academic work will become antagonistic. But legal scholars will need to show how the blog format serves as a supplement to their other academic work, and not an efficient replacement for much of that work. If that distinction does not become obvious to readers, legal scholars will look more and more like misfits in the university.

Posted by Ron Wright on July 29, 2005 at 01:37 PM in Blogging | Permalink


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» Bloggers Just Wanna Have Fun from ProfessorBainbridge.com
Douglas Berman asks:How might we improve blogs as an academic medium for law professors? With this question, I mean to pick up some themes that Ron Wright raised in this recent post about blogs in the academy. Ron suggested, inter [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 1, 2005 11:15:25 PM

» Do bloggers just want to have fun? from Ideoblog
Steve Bainbridge reacts with horror to ideas floated by Ron Wright and Douglas Berman on blogging as a supplement to academic scholarship. Steve says bloggers just want to have fun. This picks up on some posting I did a little [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 2, 2005 9:50:01 AM


I think the best thing about the legal blog for the legal community is that it allows for continuous discussion. The blog, or any other form of dynamic environment, provides a better structure for such discourse, when compared to the static pages of a Law Review.

I think the limiting factor on blogs is their lack of prestige and acceptance. Once the network of individuals using this system grows, such limitations will evaporate and the benefits of such dynamic environment will be realized.

In the end, I think blogs will become extensions of legal periodicals. Imagine a world where an author could post an article, receiving critism or feedback from that article and link to other articles written in other academic fields, via a dynamic system.

Posted by: Aaron Wright | Jul 30, 2005 3:59:04 PM

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