I don’t blog a lot. The reason is not that I don’t have the time but that I don’t always have the motivation to do so. In a post over at LSE Politics and Policy blog , Pat Thomson discusses how she finds time to blog and how blogging relates to the work/leisure-time dichotomy.
First let’s get our definitions straight. I am not talking about diary-like blogs. I do like those blogs and I read quite a lot of them but they are definitely part of the leisure-time kind of blogging/reading, which is fine, but should be excluded from the present discussion. The blogging that I am interested in, is similar to what is called ‘academic blogging’. I don’t like the term because it seems to imply that it is what academics do when they fail to publish; a conclusion that is demonstrably false. The blogs that I find more interesting are those of smart people who comment on an array of contemporary issues. Famous examples would be the LSE blog that I linked above, crooked timber, newapps, feminist philosophers and others similar. These blogs are not ‘academic’ in the strict sense of the word, meaning that their authors do not focus only on the narrow subjects that they are professionally specialised in but rather apply their analytic abilities to many different issues.
This kind of blogging is important to the society, because it acts as a bridge between academia and the real-world. Most debates in academic departments especially in sub-fields like political philosophy require an extensive background, making the debates inaccessible to the people outside the ‘discipline’. Most of the posts published in the aforementioned blogs are easily read by people who are not professional philosophers, economists, or what have you, filling the gap between society and academia and in some cases inspiring people who live outside the universities to inquire into fields that are not relevant to their jobs or related to their education. This is important because it breaks the monopoly that academics have on some subjects, bringing new perspectives into the equation and providing a more open-minded forum for testing new ideas or for getting more engaging feedback from people coming from different countries and backgrounds.
I’ve went on too much about what kind of blogging I am referring to and why I think it is important. Now I want to say a couple of things on the issues raised in the linked article. I don’t think that we can neatly classify this kind of blogging in the work/leisure-time distinction, but that in itself doesn’t say much since most people cannot easily distinguish between the two anyway. Especially with the rise of smartphones and tablets (god bless) the boundaries become even more blurry. If we were to follow the distinction then we could reach two opposed and I think misguided conclusions. The first would be that we take time from our academic committments to do something that would otherwise be part of our leisure-time activities, reducing in effect our work-time and expanding our leisure-time. The other one would be that we expand our work-time into our leisure-time and masking it in a less formal attire to fool ourselves. If we accept the distinction, then both can be true and it becomes a matter of opinion whether one believes the former or the latter.
The thing is though, that at least in my case, the periods that I blog the most are the periods that I am most productive. When read a lot, I think a lot and when I think a lot, the thoughts want to get out. Some people just record their thoughts on moleskins, in earlier periods people used to communicate their thoughts through letters and later through emails. Today some people publish their thoughts on blogs and on social media sites. There is nothing special about it other than the new method of recording and communicating one’s thoughts. The only difference is that it is instant, cheap, easy and can sustain discussions across timezones and continents.
Today is all about being relevant. Blogging can facilitate relevance: ideas that are not appealing are exposed as such and others that need systematic attention are brought into the surface. It therefore acts both as an inspiration and as a check. The inspiration part I think is the most important since creativity is something lacking from many academic disciplines. The reasons are rather obvious: people get the same kind of training, which affects not only the way their thought is framed on the specific issues relevant to their field, but also the overall way that they approach reality and form opinions on new issues. Blogging is sometimes a reality check, something that is often missing from academia.
The argument advanced here has been focused on what society has to offer to academics, although obviously the opposite is true as well. Smart educated people can only be an asset to any society. Academics think, read and write for a living, so they are the most likely to be able to express what others not comfortable with writing think. This creates a form of social allegiance and a feeling that similarly-minded people exist. Alleviating intellectual loneliness is one of the most important assets that academic blogging has to offer to the world.
Maybe it is best to leave it here and listen to what others think about the points raised in this post and in the article linked.