Blogging and Scholarship:
As Orin noted, on Friday, I spoke on "Blogging and Scholarship" at a panel sponsored by the Section on Scholarship of the Association of American Law Schools. Here is the program description:
One of the most salient developments in the internet revolution is blogging. Blogging has become a widespread cultural phenomenon and has had important implications for politics, the media and education. This panel considers academic blogging and asks the question whether blogging is a new form of scholarly activity or just a diversion from the pursuit of serious intellectual inquiry.
While Paul Caron offers an accurate, but truncated, report of the talks here, it fails to emphasize the degree to which I endorsed blogging by scholars. Properly done, I think blogging can contribute quite constructively to one's scholarship and to making that scholarship accessible to a much wider audience. Ironically, many of the points I made in favor of the Joys of Blogging are expressed far better by Daniel Solove on Concurring Opinions than they were summarized by Paul. (Hopefully a podcast of the session will be available. If it is, I will link to it here. BTW, Dan also includes a nice set of links to other academic bloggers who have addressed the topic.)

I say "ironically" because Dan was not even at the session to hear my remarks, and is instead responding to Paul's report of my cautions to junior untenured faculty members. At the session itself, when I described the numerous advantages of academic blogging that Dan so ably and independently identifies, I hastened to add that, of course, these benefits accrue to junior professors as well as senior. But there are risks to junior professors not faced by those with tenure, and I did take some time on these dangers as well. There are two main ones: (1) Potential negative reaction by tenured faculty to one's opinions. This is especially true of opinions that run to the left or right of the bulk of the faculty. (2) The risk of distraction from the long-form scholarship that leads to tenure and, more importantly, generates the knowledge that makes one a genuine scholar rather than solely a polemicist or pundit.

I also explained why blogging is no substitute for long form scholarship using my recent Ninth Amendment article as an example. On the blog, I can assert that the Ninth Amendment originally referred to natural liberty rights, but I can only establish that by considering the evidence. And this took 80 pages to do.

During the excellent discussion, some of the points Dan made in mitigation of these risks were made from the floor by other bloggers, who were well in attendance, and I generally agreed with them. For example, those blogging about technical doctrinal areas are less subject to these risks than someone blogging on a general legal (and other) opinion blog like Volokh.

But I think it is cavalier not to caution untenured faculty about the risks they run within their own faculties when they decide to blog. Whether the potential benefits outweigh these risks is not only a judgment they each have a right to make, they possess the local knowledge of their faculties, and personal knowledge of themselves, that third parties like me lack. (The role of personal and local knowledge in a justification of liberty rights is heavily stressed in my book, The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law (Oxford 1998)).

PS: Larry Solum of Legal Theory Blog spoke about how the Internet generally is affecting scholarship itself. His was a fascinating take on a much-neglected subject, and I am afraid too much of the energy in the room was devoted the career issues I raised rather than his deeper analysis. I hope he blogs about this soon.

Update: Larry has blogged his thoughts here. Check it out.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Blogging and Scholarship:
  2. Lawprof Blogging: Scholarship or Distraction?:
You forgot to mention that one of the benefits of blogging compared to traditional law reviews is that bloggers aren't expected to fetishize footnotes the way law review articles do. The joke is that a law review article would support "Gravity pulls objects toward the center of the earth" with a cite to Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, but it's only funny because it's true.
1.9.2006 10:46am
RituallyJewcy (mail):
Good one
1.9.2006 12:26pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
After the way Chicago treated Drezner, and former conspirator, Levy, a non-tenured prof would have to be a fool to blog without deep cover.

Last week Chicago called me up to ask for money. I cited Drezner and Levy as the reason why I would not give them anything.
1.9.2006 1:52pm
cfw (mail):
1. Good blogging is probably more valuable, in the near-term, than law review articles, or law books, yes? Eg, VC or Instapundit can sell what they do, monetize it, at market values well above the market values obtainable for the law review articles and books generated. This will no doubt create conflict and perhaps jealousy. I suppose an argument can be made that it helps the individual but not the faculty as a whole or the academy. I consider this a weak argument. In fact, I suspect the successful bloggers in VC and Instapundit will help draw applicants, donors and new faculty to their schools.

2. Argument that long form scholarship is not suitable for the blog is true to a point. But professors can and should be like Churchill, who combinded short form articles, notes, memos, letters and the like into over 50 books, winning the Nobel prize. What is the point of having deep knowledge of the 9th Amendment that cannot be explained in less than 80 pages? A truly useful scholar should be able to mash what he knows or is thinking into small bits, or long passages, like Churchill.

3. Law review and book focused tenure decisions are no-doubt too narrow.
1.9.2006 5:44pm