One of the conversations Georgetown CCTers, myself included, are going to be taking part in this Saturday at the Eastern Communication Association conference concerns the blogosphere as a space for knowledge production as we move further into the 21st Century. Of course, for me, as someone who has been blogging consistently since I was sixteen years old, this question almost seems absurd. To me it seems obvious not only that blogs can be spaces for knowledge production but that they already are. They fill this role just as conversations and debates, written letters, e-mails, and instant message correspondence do, not to mention art in its various forms, fictional media, and reportage. In fact to my view nearly any space through which ideas are circulated can potentially be a field for the generation of new thought.
But I think for most of those in opposition to the idea that blogs can play this role in our critical community, the issue is not comparisons to these media of communication I’ve listed but rather to academic journals and books. The fear I hear most often is that blogs are an untamed space where anyone can say anything and serious academics therefore shouldn’t take bloggers’ claims seriously because they haven’t been peer-reviewed. And to this I say a resounding yes. I have no desire to set these media in opposition to one another but rather would see them as compliments, and I read this very point of weakness as one of blogging’s biggest strengths.
The reason I align blogs more with conversation, debate, and letters is that I see it as a pre-journal stage of writing. A single clear thesis does not yet have to be crystallized. Supporting evidence does not have to be entirely amassed. Blogs can be a space to get comments from peers and move towards that finished product or it can be a post-journal space for following up with new examples or deal with developing problems. Plus, how many of us have seen an academically interesting film or had a half-formed thought about a cultural phenomenon that does not sit neatly inside our research agenda? With blogs we can share those ideas which may really help someone else working more immediately in that area without fully investing ourselves in their questions.
Additionally, I think the problem of time-elapse, the space between writing and formal publication, is importantly abridged such that politically charged knowledge that needs to circulate immediately can move quickly without the time it takes to put out a print journal or a book.
Of course the real rub of this issue comes in terms of whether academic departments and tenure committees will find a way to honor and reward academic work done online, but I believe that is a somewhat separate question, about which my feelings are not as nearly clear or strong though I hope to hear some diverse perspectives this weekend.
In finale I will leave this with a link to one of my favorite academic blogs, Henry Jenkins’ Confessions of an Aca-fan.