Monday, April 25, 2005

Why do academics blog ?

While trying to look up Tyler Cowen's post on Bangalore for an earlier post, I came across a nice thread that started with a question by the Crooked Timber's Eszter Hargittai: what are the academic contributions of blogging?

In a thoughtful post, triggered in part by Eszter's question, Tyler Cowen presents several possible models.

While these models are fine, Cowen's last point gives the game away: "blogging is a fundamentally new medium". Thus, its academic use -- or, for that matter, any other use -- is yet to acquire a clear shape (or a few well defined shapes). Different academics have taken to blogging for different reasons. For an academic in a highly specific scientific discipline, use of a blog as a vehicle for my academic pursuits is certainly limited; that is why I use a different blog for my academic concerns, and I fully expect it to have a rather limited audience.

However, an academic in the sciences does have other concerns, too, and some of them could be of general interest; he/she needs some way to express these concerns, and to have them discussed and debated. For example, one of the recurrent themes in this blog is the state of higher education in India. Blogging fits these requirements perfectly. As Henry Farrell put it in a recent post: "blogging offers academics a means of connecting with [the] wider public without having to leave the academy. ... [It] does give license to write in a freewheeling way, to speculate, to polemicize and to give a bit of free rein to your hobby-horses".

All this, and then the fact that no academic has been fired (um, ... yet) because of blogging!