Friday, May 18, 2007

How bloggers affect the academic ecosystem

Resources below deal with this topic. Here are four ideas I'm working on.

1. Blogging is part of an international trend toward transparency in general, which has brought pressure not only on academic institutions, but also on governments, businesses, and individuals. This phenomenon in general is guided by several principles: first, that transparency is valued by the public, which tends to reward agents of transparency, if only indirectly; second, that those who are more transparent put back-pressure on those who aren't, so that institutions or individuals that continue to hide information about their true activities, interests, or purposes eventually come under suspicion;

2. That the academic world can be described as a kind of ecosystem, with a power structure (food chain) of delicate interdependence; that researchers and professors, by establishing a direct line of communication with the public, cut out the middleman in the image and knowledge-delivery mechanism, in a way that will ultimately change that ecosystem, and will cause adjustments, if not outright attempts to control it, by universities and their committees that to some degree are defenders of the status quo. The university can be seen as constrained by its need to present itself as defender of academic freedom, and freedom of speech, yet the ambivalence of university administrations to what is seen as publicity-seeking is longstanding and precedes blogging.*

3. That the academic blogging community by its nature has become a loose confederacy of experts in different fields, with certain characteristics in common; that, because of their interaction with each other, they have more potential to be influenced by each other, and show the benefits of cross-disciplinary influences.

4. That blogging puts a public face on academics who have to some degree become accustomed to the protection of the university and its public image machine; that, by actually creating one's own interaction with the public, a blogger faces not only the adjustment of the university to the new decentralization caused by the personalization of media, but also the adjustment of the public, which, formerly used to directing criticism to the local newspaper or to the secretary of the Chancellor, now finds another representative of the university to open a dialogue with. This last possibility may be the most difficult for the blogger, and may in fact be the most threatening to the university, which may have gotten used to the fact that professors represent the university wherever they go, and whatever they do; but, in the past, this was not always recorded in print archives, forever.

I welcome your comments. I may tone down mine, if they don't sleep well.


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