May 30, 2003

"Scholars Who Blog"

In their skeptical moments, academic bloggers worry that the medium smells faddish, ephemeral. But they also make a strong case for blogging's virtues, the foremost of which is freedom of tone. Blog entries can range from three-word bursts of sarcasm to carefully honed 5,000-word treatises. The sweet spot lies somewhere in between, where scholars tackle serious questions in a loose-limbed, vernacular mode.

-- David Glenn, "Scholars Who Blog"

"Is this a revolution in academic discourse," asks David Glenn, "or is it CB radio?" The answer, of course, as Glenn goes on to suggest, is neither. He cites a number of academic bloggers, including Kieran Healy, Matthew Yglesias, Henry Farrell, and some pseudonymous adjunct who confesses that she's "a bit of a Luddite" (ack! now what made me say Luddite?...).

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at May 30, 2003 01:19 AM

As a student about to enter grad school, I can't tell you how grateful I am for scholar-bloggers. Never mind occasional grumbles that you guys don't peddle a rainbows-n-lollipops vision of academe; I can get that from the web sites and the glossy brochures. I can even say that I've learned more useful stuff about academic life from IA, Timothy Burke, Matthew Y, HigherEd, and a host of others than from my profs & academic advisors. Not that I think they're deliberately withholding information (are they?), I just think it's hard to deliver complex and somewhat unnerving truths to over-eager undergrads. So thanks, all of yez, for your honest on-the-ground reportage (oh, and I don't think CBs allowed for this kind of nuanced, reflective discourse...).

Posted by: rose at May 30, 2003 02:47 AM

Getting rid of the term "blog" would be a major step in the road to respectability. It always reminds me of P. V. Glob's book, "The Bog People", which Alexander Cockburn did indeed blog about. Blogging just sounds too much like one of the more private bodily functions.

Posted by: zizka at May 30, 2003 04:52 AM

You may be onto something. Any suggestions for a better term?

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at May 30, 2003 04:56 AM



Posted by: Josh at May 30, 2003 05:09 AM

I should have seen this coming. Some egghead sees a new fad, overanalyzes it, and takes all the fun out of it. Contrary to popular belief, blogs are not going to "revolutionize" the world or any crap like that. It is a bunch of goofy people writing goofy stuff because they are goofy. That's it. QED.

Oh, yeah. And Mrs. Lemon was not too thrilled with my condom experiment post. Now that's goofy stuff.

Posted by: John Lemon at May 30, 2003 07:16 AM

(Sorry, just a brief interjection...)

Go you, Rose!

(Okay, done now.)

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at May 30, 2003 01:50 PM

"And Mrs. Lemon was not too thrilled with my condom experiment post."

I suspected as much...

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at May 30, 2003 01:59 PM

zizka, "blog" is the word now; get used to it or choose to suffer the rest of your life. It's ludicrous to blame words for being "ugly" -- and more ludicrous to treat the process of language change as some sort of degradation. Here, let me remind you of the similar passions of Jonathan Swift:
"I have done my utmost for some years past to stop the progress of mobb and banter, but have been plainly borne down by numbers and betrayed by those who promised to assist me."
--The Tatler, September 28, 1710
Walter Scott talks about an old lady who died in 1788 who had known Swift well; the worst trouble she got into with him was over the word "mob." "'Why do you say that?' he exclaimed, in a passion: 'never let me hear you say that again.' 'Why, sir,' she asked, 'what am I to say?' 'The rabble, to be sure,' answered he."
So carry on fighting the good fight against that horrid word "mob," I mean "blog," but I would think your energies could be spent on more productive things.

Posted by: language hat at May 30, 2003 03:14 PM

Phonaesthetics, I tell you! English hates velars and labials syllable-finally!

*is dragged off foaming at the mouth*

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at May 30, 2003 04:06 PM

I like the term "blog." Of course, this is coming from a person who also likes the terms "dumpster diving" and "curb shopping," excellent pursuits all I might add!

Posted by: Cat at May 30, 2003 05:29 PM

Hurrah for dumpster diving!

Posted by: Rana at May 30, 2003 06:28 PM

Well, for a long time the real word was rapeseed oil, but that was hard to sell,so now it's canola oil. The word is only a couple years old. Let's kill it while it's young, like a vealcalf or squab. When I started my site a year ago, I didn't even know the word blog.

Posted by: zizka at May 30, 2003 07:57 PM

I think Zizka is right.

Of course it would be ludicrous to blame the word. But words carry complex connotations and resonances, which means some words will seem beautiful and melodic to some people, and others harsh and ugly. Of course it's all in the eyes and ears of the beholder (ie, not something that inheres in the word, for which the word should be held responsible), but that doesn't make the perception any less relevant. And language as living strikes me as a double-edged sword: it also implies that we needn't stick with a word if we don't want to.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at May 30, 2003 08:06 PM

O-O-O... K. Let's try this: is "log" an ugly word? Is "block" an ugly word? Should we get rid of, or at least avoid using, one or both? If not, what's the difference?

Posted by: language hat at May 30, 2003 09:15 PM

Well, if we're going to seriously think about alternatives, can we have some examples? What would be a pithy, yet euphonious word that could replace "blog"?

Posted by: Rana at May 31, 2003 02:40 AM

"Log" and "block" are pretty well entrenched, but I'd get them too if I could.

Posted by: zizka at May 31, 2003 05:45 AM