According to a recent count by Daniel J. Solove of George Washington University, 130 law professors have active blogs. David Chalmers of Australian National University lists 85 philosophy professors or Ph.D. students with blogs, mostly oriented to the discussion of philosophical issues. In both of those disciplines, those who don’t either blog or read and comment on others’ blogs are cutting themselves out of an increasingly important set of discussions. Casual empiricism would suggest that blogs play a less important role in the social sciences, the humanities, and the hard sciences — for the moment. But in those disciplines, too, blogs are becoming more prominent and more widely accepted.
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.
The questions, for a place like U. of Chicago poli-sci, would be much starker — I’d guess something like the following:
* If you listed, in order, the world’s five most important active researchers in his academic subspecialty, would Drezner be on the list? What number?
* Is that academic subspecialty one of most important in our field today, or at least important enough that we want to spend a twenty-year tenure slot on it?
Sara Donati reports on why getting your book published by a university press might not be such a cool idea.