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Boynton on Academic Blogging:
Robert S. Boynton has an interesting piece on academic blogging in Slate. An excerpt:
  . . . [A]cademic blogging represents the fruition, not a betrayal, of the university's ideals. One might argue that blogging is in fact the very embodiment of what the political philosopher Michael Oakshott once called "The Conversation of Mankind"—an endless, thoroughly democratic dialogue about the best ideas and artifacts of our culture. Drezner's blog, for example, is hardly of the "This is what I did today …" variety. Rather, he usually writes about globalization and political economy—the very subjects on which he publishes in prestigious, peer-reviewed presses and journals. If his prose style in the blog is more engaging than that of the typical academic's, the thinking behind it is no less rigorous or intelligent.
  I would also add that, in some ways, academic blogging is more challenging than traditional scholarly writing. At its best, it's scholarship without a safety net. The traditional model imposes lots of layers of review between an author and his audience. An academic writer might start with a draft, and then review it himself; get reviews and suggestions from friends; get reviews from colleagues; suggestions from experts in related areas; reviews from workshops; and then reviews and suggestions from editors. By the time the article is published, it may reflect as much the views of friends, colleagues, and editors as the views of the writer himself.

  In contrast, blog posts are unfiltered. The author writes up a few paragraphs and presses "Publish," instantly exposing the idea to an audience of hundreds or even thousands of people (and in the case of the VC, maybe tens of thousands). A traditional draft with a dumb idea is never seen or quickly forgotten; a blog post with a dumb idea gets linked to around the globe and is preserved online in perpetuity.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Drezner on Boynton on Academic Blogging:
  2. Boynton on Academic Blogging:
C&F (mail) (www):
The "populist" aspect of blogs is remarkable. Blogs have the potential to bridge the gap between those who want to learn more about the law, but were never able to afford it, and those privileged enough to attend law school.

Which is why I'm distressed that a certain law blog started by a bunch of liberal former Supreme Court law clerks has fizzled. You'd think if anyone would want to get the message out to those lacking the privilege to attend law school, it would be liberals. Yet it's mostly conservatives - heartless, all of them - who blog. Why aren't more liberals - fans of the downtrodden, to be sure - freely giving their legal insights to the general public via blogs?

What gives?
11.16.2005 4:32pm
Michael B (mail):
To what extent, if any, the avowed "liberal" is in fact a substantive liberal vs. a quasi-liberal or pseudo-liberal is very much up for debate. Or from a different angle, if Locke and Mill help to form some of the middle registers in the classical liberal range (e.g., Kant and Hegel in the high range), I'd more than content myself with the former, albeit updating Mill a goodly amount. All up for debate, obviously enough, but the term has long been hijacked by political jackals and ideologues, bare minimum since V. I. Lenin.

Re, feedback. As the dry wit might observe, not something which is lacking in the emboldening 'sphere.
11.16.2005 4:58pm
Wintermute (www):
Regarding the original post, blog posts can be about something you've thought about for long enough to put it forward as your view, or they can be more of the kind of trial balloon you would float usually to friends educated in the law in a small group not pressed for time. The latter type of post, if posed as a question for discussion or a tentative conclusion, need not have mortifying consequences.

Blogging helps subsitute for and supplement in-person peer group discussion (that seems to be too rare today) in some watering hole after five. I enjoyed a group we had back around '91 that included Tennessee Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown, yeah, the TV Joe Brown, who was a very innovative trial judge, BTW.

Regarding the preceding comment, I haven't paid atention to any spread between lib &con, but I've been doing this long enough to avoid giving particularized legal advice online. I do enough pro bono, including unintended, without feeling a mission to spread my take on the law to laymen, although their questions and comments are usually welcome.
11.16.2005 5:09pm
breakdown:
As a 3L who only became blog-obsessed this past summer (A3G, I hardly knew ye...), I've got to say that I believe that legal blogs supplement traditional legal eduction in an invaluable way. Keeping an eye on the blogosphere is really the only way (or at least the most efficient way) to keep pace with the multitude of legal subjects and developments, and to feel engaged in those discussions and the legal community/academy at large. Academic blogs also enable law students to gain exposure to views other than those espoused by the relatively few profs they actually take courses with during the 3 years of law school, and to learn the important lesson that American legal culture may look a little different from what you might see in your 600-1800 person petridish at [name your law school].

The value-added from academic blogs to legal education cannot be understated in my view. When all's said and done, they have the potential to exert more influence over students than any law school -- students may stop going to lectures by profs (and they're highly unlikely to read more than a small handful of the articles those profs produce), but I don't doubt that many blogstronauts (myself included) will continue to consult the Volokh Conspiracy, Scotusblog, and Balkinization (among others) almost daily for quite some time after graduation.
11.16.2005 5:34pm
Bill (mail):
Peer review also pushes writers to mask controversial claims in jargon that makes them incomprehensible as well as incontrovertable. Law reviews are less guilty by far than most academic publications, perhaps because of who the peers are. And, admittedly, much rhetoric in law reviews is transparent and easily debunked.

Analytical fastidiousness and precision are virtues when they leave a product that can still be interpreted and evaluated. But if they do not they're of no value except for building yourself a job pays better than and enjoys more security than many, if not most, American jobs. I say kudos to Drezner for keeping the blog and my apologies that he was denied tenure. Kudos to law reviews and other journals publishing stuff that most of us can actually read with interest.
11.16.2005 6:54pm
no one:
"Why aren't more liberals - fans of the downtrodden, to be sure - freely giving their legal insights to the general public via blogs?

What gives?"

I haven't any idea if there are more legal bloggers on the right than the left, but there are certainly many lefty legal bloggers (e.g., Balkinization, at least some of the folks at concurringopinions.com, Leiter).
11.16.2005 7:06pm
Bill (mail):
Before we get all proud about how democratic blogging is, we should know something about who is reading blogs. If, for example, its 80% law school graduates and 15% would-be professional ideologues of one stripe or another, that does not say much for (in this case legal) blogs.

I do know that many public schools deny their students access to all "web hosting", apparently because of possible profanity. This is done through filter software such as "BESS". "BESS" and school administrators have proven unresponsive to my requests for access to volokh.com in the Athens (Ohio) City School District. Is this true of public libraries in at least some locales too? How many school districts filter out all "web hosting"? Does anyone even know this?

The "digital divide" is real, or at least has considerable evidence (uncountered by the political right) to support it. How can we be sure that a large majority of high school students have access to blogs, much less sufficient reason to take an interest in them?

Have Eugene or others tried to prevail upon those who provide content filters to schools and libraries to allow students access to volokh.com and other political blogs?
11.16.2005 8:32pm