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
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.