This past weekend a panel discussion was held at the annual meeting of the OAH on whether blogging ought to be considered scholarship. I didn’t travel to the OAH this year and even if I did I likely would not have attended this particular session since I don’t work in academia and the question and broader topic is largely irrelevant to me. Still, I do interact on occasion with academics and once in a while I have to deal with their skepticism about blogging.
For what it’s worth, I largely agree with Joseph Adelman’s assessment of this issue:
I wish we could stop having these existential conversations and just talk about what we can do with blogging. Instead of a panel framed around the question, “Is Blogging Scholarship?” that forces us to defend blogging, why not a series of panels that feature the work that bloggers do as part of the profession. Make it three parts for the legs of the “stool” on which faculty are evaluated. A panel called “Blogging as Scholarship” might highlight the work of historians who do use the blogs for scholarship of various sorts. “Blogging as Teaching” could examine how scholars integrate blog posts as reading assignments, to supplement and extend classroom discussions, and to invite students to do more public writing. (Note that I’ve written on this issue for The Junto.) The point is probably clear, but a hypothetical third panel would think about “Blogging as Service,” inviting scholars to consider ways to make blogging part of their service to their departments, universities, the profession, and local communities.
To put it more abstractly, I want to transcend the existential questions about whether blogging is scholarship, or scholarly, or service, or research-oriented, or part of a professional portfolio, and instead presume that the work does count for something so that we can talk about what we’re doing, how to improve it, and what it means as part of our spectrum of writing and engaging with publics.
The problem with the existential conversation is that no one is listening that isn’t already convinced by the role that blogging can play in a reflective life. And for those who aren’t convinced, who cares. No one that I know started blogging because they were curious about an abstract question surrounding the role of blogging as scholarship. And I would venture to assume that no one started blogging because they thought they would be rewarded for it. As the make-up of this particular panel suggests, there are different ways to utilize this particular digital tool.
It’s going to take some time for this generation of scholars brought up on social media to gain positions of influence within departments that result in non-traditional practices gaining increased value. I see Jeff McClurken in the vanguard of this evolution. In the meantime, talk to one another about best practices along the lines suggested above.
Finally, let’s not over think these things. JUST DO IT!