Any site that attracts a stable group of contributors in its comments threads creates a sense of stake-holding among the participants. It’s the tension in the online public sphere. On one hand, a huge agora where unlike opinions and backgrounds clash and intermingle, sometimes productively, sometimes not. On the other hand, online discourse is also a cradle that nurtures connections, a shared sense of mutual community, among small subsets of users.
, Easily Distracted, 11-05
The pertinent question for bloggers is simply, Why? What is the purpose of broadcasting one's unfiltered thoughts to the whole wired world? It's not hard to imagine legitimate, constructive applications for such a forum. But it's also not hard to find examples of the worst kinds of uses.
A blog easily becomes a therapeutic outlet, a place to vent petty gripes and frustrations stemming from congested traffic, rude sales clerks, or unpleasant national news. It becomes an open diary or confessional booth, where inward thoughts are publicly aired.
Worst of all, for professional academics, it's a publishing medium with no vetting process, no review board, and no editor. The author is the sole judge of what constitutes publishable material, and the medium allows for instantaneous distribution. After wrapping up a juicy rant at 3 a.m., it only takes a few clicks to put it into global circulation.Ian Tribble
A key theme at last year’s conference was the idea of a “virtual global university”—not in the sense of one more institution being formed to compete with all the other brick-and-mortar and online schools, but rather as an organic, emergent property resulting from crossing all these disciplinary, institutional, cultural, and national borders, as a phenomenon arising of its own due to information technology, globalization, and new transdisciplinary ideas and research programs. Participants say it’s been the most enjoyable activity they’ve been engaged in as a member of the academic community because it is so free-wheeling and yet intellectually challenging and productive, too. It is as Matthew Greenfield says in his comments: “Real academic innovation within a discipline almost always depends on stimulation from outside that discipline. I am not even talking about true interdisciplinarity….
There’s a lot of talk in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) about Franklin this week. That spirit of generative amateurism, exploratory practical knowledge, and so on. That’s the dream that still lies somewhere deep in the DNA of scholarly life and which fights its way to the surface now and again. I have no idea how to make it more than a brief gasp of freedom in between episodes of stricture, how to change the spirit and culture of inquiry in subtle but pervasive ways. There are few real villains arrayed against that shift, much as it would be convenient to think otherwise. Mostly it is responsible people behaving responsibly, or busy, productive people whose own arrangements work well enough for them, well enough that they don’t really see any need for sustained change.