Publishing on the Web

Blogging and Various Online Scholarship

Our readings for this week challenge conventions in scholarly writing. The common theme, or question rather, throughout the readings ask if it is possible to consider online writing endeavors as ‘scholarly.’ The Cummings and Jarrett piece takes a fence-sitting approach by attempting to give blogging an appropriate place. I felt as if parameters were being set around the medium which doesn’t seem appropriate for something being freely published to the internet. The argument is made that serious writing projects, like a journal submission, should remain conventional while blogging and other internet mediums, like a wiki, should be left “for the rest of the time.”

Obviously, the main scrutiny of freely published internet works is that the peer-review process is nonexistent. You may occasionally have a panel of ‘experts’ that maintain watch over certain wikis but ultimately the internet seems to be a true test of thinking for yourself. I believe blogging, and other similar free-publishing digital works cannot be examples of true scholarship. There is a risk associated with elevating blogs and other similar mediums to the level of recognized scholarly work.

I believe that trends in academia slowly trickle into the mainstream over slow periods of time. Given the nature of the internet, such trends are likely to occur at faster paces. One of those trends could easily be recognizing blogs as accurate sources of information. Where do we draw the line? Are blogs written by Appalachian State University graduate students to be considered scholarship? Is App not prestigious enough? What about Duke? If the idea of blogs becoming recognized sources of accurate scholarly work becomes popular, then a trend of so-called ‘credible’ blogs would likely follow.

Taking internet sources at face value, and teaching the public that it could potentially be okay to do so, could be detrimental to society. Such things are already somewhat prevalent. Fake news persuades political opinions, affects national health and safety, and runs the risk of placing peer-reviewed scholarship back years. Obviously these are my own highly opinionated statements based on how I interpreted the readings.

With that out of the way, other parts of our readings focused on blogging in general and what makes a good blog. The Quicksprout article suggests that longer blog posts, those over 1500 words, are more enjoyable for readers and tend to draw more traffic. While some data is given (who can refuse data from charts, right?) this is still something I am hesitant about. The article comes with a counterargument, however, that if you can say something in 100 words instead of 2000, then you should do so. I would think this is something relevant to what kind of blog you are writing. If you simply created a free blogger account to share some ideas with the random public, without the hope or need for monetization, then shorter posts to simply spew a few ideas onto a page is useful. If you are creating content for subscribing readers, then longer blog posts are surely going to be more successful. I’m certainly open to thoughts here.

The final point I would like to discuss here is Rule #3 from Fogarty (Quick and Dirty Tips). I discussed the idea of placing parameters over something that should be a free area for thinking and creativity at the beginning of this post. By default, a blog post will likely make a point, be motivated, and provide context (or at least be contextual enough where it could be inferred). Respect is a unique parameter to place on a post.

Obviously here, in an academically sanctioned environment, respect should come first. In an anonymous private blog you made to rant about and verbally destroy your most hated sports team, is respect really part of the equation? I suppose this relates back to the idea of scholarship in blogging. Respect should always be priority in scholarship and if you were attempting to create a scholarly blog then perhaps respect IS a parameter you should place on your work. I will leave this with one lasting thought. During my short 1.2 semesters here, I have read many passive-aggressive scholarly pieces that I would absolutely say fall short of respect and tolerance.

If you were in Dr. Goff’s reading seminar last semester, you may recall my review of To Serve God and Wal-Mart by Bethany Moreton. If you were not, the work was essentially about how Wal-Mart has had noticeable political influence among voters. Moreton frequently refers to conservatives as “Wal-Mart voters.” No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, you would expect scholarly work to be a bit more respectful, but that is not always the case. If such loose standards exist within traditional academic writing already, is it not hypocritical to ask the same of a simple blog?

3 replies on “Blogging and Various Online Scholarship”

You make a lot of good points about the potentially serious drawbacks of blogging. Are there benefits to it, even if they don’t necessarily outweigh the negatives? While there is certainly a risk in treating blogs like an academic source, there is also opportunity there. Bouncing ideas off of the public, or your peers, may lead to better work on a more formal platform.

There are certainly benefits. Obviously lower barrier of entry to access information, low pay walls, and basically no requirements to post information. If we translate these over to academic circles, then that means the public potentially gets easier access to quality information. The exchange of more informed, ‘higher quality’ ideas if you will, could definitely improve scholarship all around while also benefiting society – hopefully that doesn’t sound too conceited. I don’t want to make it seem like scholars are the end all be all of information either.

In the blog, you said that “the peer-review process is nonexistent.” I would venture so far as to disagree. While there is no pre publishing peer review, the malleable nature of digital publishing allows for significant peer review as an ongoing process through commentary. While academia has placed pre publishing peer review as a critical piece in the process of writing history, in many ways it seems that often enough it is post publishing peer review that matters more.

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