Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Juan Cole, blogging and the academic

Juan Cole

Leibovitz, L. (2006, June 2). Middle East wars flare up at Yale. Jewish Week Online. http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=12578. Accessed 5-07.

Drezner, D. (2006, July 24). The case of Juan Cole. Daniel Drezner weblog. http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/002814.html. Accessed 5-07.

From 2006 Chronicle set of essays on blogging and academia

Chronicle Review (2006, July 28). Can blogging derail your career? Volume 52, Issue 47, p. B6, available http://chronicle.com/free/v52/i47/47b00601.htm. Accessed 5-07.

Vaidhyanathan, S. (2006, July 28). The lessons of Juan Cole, from "Can blogging derail your career?" Chronicle Review, v52, i47, p.B6. http://chronicle.com/free/v52/i47/47b00602.htm. Accessed 5-07.

There has never been a better time to be a public intellectual, and the Web is the big reason why...par. 2
The blogosphere is an excellent vehicle for the kind of intellectual ascendancy he has achieved. Dozens of important intellectual and academic blogs are being written for a wide public — and they are clearly being read, influencing the agenda, if not the content, of debate in the mainstream news media. -par. 4
But blogs expose us in some alarming ways.-par. 5
He used to be harmless. Now he is dangerous enough to try to stop. I'm thrilled to see the membrane between the academy and the public more permeable and transparent than ever. But such progress has its victims. -par. 5
But Cole's experience has shown us all just how tenuous academic freedom is when it comes to stuff that really matters. Thank goodness for tenure. Imagine what his critics would do at Michigan if they thought they could drive him away. If the academy is worth anything, it will continue to protect and reward him — and the next wave of public intellectuals. -par. 7

Drezner, D. (2006, July 28). The trouble with blogs. from "Can blogging derail your career?" Chronicle Review, v52, i47, p.B6. http://chronicle.com/free/v52/i47/47b00701.htm. Accessed 5-07.

...a senior colleague once told me his secret to academic success: One bad article equals five great ones. His point was that the worst thing a scholar can do is to publish too much, as opposed to too little. Any substandard publication creates a black mark that is difficult to erase. -par. 1
The trouble with blogs is that they seem designed to provoke easy doubts. Blogs are an outlet for unexpurgated, unreviewed, and occasionally unprofessional musings. What makes them worth reading can also make them prone to error. Any honest scholar-blogger — myself included — could acknowledge a post or two that they would like to have back. At a place like Yale, one bad blog post can erase a lot of good will very quickly.-par. 4
Today's senior faculty members look at blogs the way a previous generation of academics looked at television — as a guilty, tawdry pleasure that should not be talked about in respectable circles. -par. 5
In a perfect world, blogs would play no role in hiring decisions. In the world in which we live, perhaps university committees should consciously factor in the positives — quality blogs allow scholars to link grand theory to real-world events, cultivate new ideas, and spark public debates — that come from scholar blogging. Apparently, it has become impossible for the negatives to be ignored. -par. 7

Althouse, A. (2006, July 28). Exposed in the blogosphere. from "Can blogging derail your career?" Chronicle Review, v52, i47, p.B6. http://chronicle.com/free/v52/i47/47b00702.htm. Accessed 5-07.

Successful blog writing is sharp and clear. Controversial opinions will look quite stark. You lay it on the line, and you mean to startle readers and make your opponents mad. Academic writing is temperate and swathed in verbiage. It creates a comfortable environment for academics and wards off casual readers. In the blogosphere, you're newly exposed, and it's a rough arena, where you have far less control over what happens to you. That's part of what makes blogging empowering and, often, great fun. But it's a big risk, and of course, it risks your career. -par. 3

Cole, J. (2006, July 28). Juan R. I. Cole responds, from "Can blogging derail your career?" Chronicle Review, v52, i47, p.B6. http://chronicle.com/free/v52/i47/47b00902.htm. Accessed 5-07.

Academics cannot easily be handed a pink slip, but they can be punished in other ways. The issues facing academics who dissent in public and in clear prose are the same today as they have always been. Maintaining a Web log now is no different in principle from writing a newsletter or publishing sharp opinion in popular magazines in the 1950s.

The difference today is that, because of Internet neutrality (which may not be long with us), an academic's voice is potentially as loud as or louder than those of corporate-backed pundits. Occasionally, my Web log has generated as many as 250,000 unique hits and over a million page views per month. Entries have also been sent in e-mail messages in numbers that cannot be traced. My Web log is, for the moment, certainly a mass medium. -pars. 2-3

The ability to speak directly and immediately to the public on matters of one's expertise, and to bring to bear all one's skills to affect the public debate, is new and breathtaking. -par. 4

Damrosch, D. (2007, Mar. 9). Trading up with Gilgamesh. Chronicle Review, v53, i27, p. B5. Online, Log-in required. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v53/i27/27b00501.htm. Accessed 5-07.

The lesson I would draw from my Goldilocks experience is that it is neither necessary nor desirable to dumb our projects down when writing for a general audience. At the same time, we need to write quite differently when we want to reach beyond the comforting confines of our disciplinary coteries. It is good to have a clear and vivid style, but equally, we have to retrain ourselves to write for readers who don't already know what we're talking about, and who need to be shown why they should care about the things we know and love so well. The trade market can bear na impressive degree of scholarly substance if we can teach ourselves to reach out to a substantial nonscholarly clientele. -par. 11


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