In the academic world, opinion on blogs and blogging is notoriously sceptical and heavily divided. The justifications of this condemnation should be challenged. With reference to both sceptics and advocates and an exploration of scholarly blogs, the question of whether you should bother reading this will be determined, or whether your time would be better spent finding a journal with all the citations, peer-reviews and credentials which allegedly make scholarship legitimate.
Legitimacy is at the core of academic scepticism. This can be attributed to doubt surrounding authorship; the trust allocated to those with elaborate qualifications eclipses that given to an outsider of the scholarly world. Typical academic resources are subject to rigorous processes of filtration and peer-review designed to eliminate the inaccuracies which potentially plague the blogosphere with its lack of centralising or moderating control. This hole in the fabric of blog credibility has been most famously exposed by Professor T. Mills Kelly and his students who demonstrated the vulnerabilities of the internet and how information posted online cannot be taken at face value.
Though the professor was right to highlight problematic online resources, the conclusions of his work are outdated and focussed in extremity. Since the world of Digital Humanities has progressed, do blogs now have a place in academia? Answering this question partly lies in tackling credibility. Some responsibility remains in the hands of the reader; with every piece of writing conjured up in scholarly research a judgment call is made regarding reliability. If the legitimacy of an academic journal is entrenched in credentials, peer-review and citation, blog sites where these elements are present surely makes them a reliable source. Blogs including The Many-Headed Monster and Conviction are run and managed by highly qualified scholars, challenging the shouts of the sceptics. In terms of credibility, it is in part up to the reader to determine the reliability of the online resource they have dug up; although there is an extensive number of unreliable sources out there, those which remain trustworthy cannot be dismissed.
A consistent feature of the blogging world is the comments function and attention must be drawn to its potential as a process of peer-review and discussion. Allowing for a significantly wider audience, the questions, and ideas posable through the blogging platforms acts as both a system of revision as well as once of communication. Invaluable to scholarship, communication through scholarly blogs may act as a means of spreading knowledge, expressing views, and sharing research in progress or excluded from academic journals. Accessibility cannot be viewed as burdensome and problematic, with platforms such as blogging having the invaluable potential to refine and improve the academic world.
In terms of credibility and accessibility, it seems that the warnings of T. Mills Kelly are well-intended but now irrelevant. The work being done outside of academia productively destabilizes the Eurocentric norms of academia. On the internet, where extremists and madmen can post overbiased and inaccurate information, brilliant scholars and budding citizen historians can bring important, revolutionary research to the wider world; it is left to the reader to determine who she can trust and up to the blogger to make sure the reader can trust them. So, can we use a blog as an academic source, or does it remain that blogs are applicable only as supporting actors in the sea of ‘truly’ academic sources? It has become apparent that the resolution to this question lies not only with determining whether a blog is reliable, but with changing the preconceived, negative attitude entrenched in the academic community. The academic blog increasingly deserves a place in the scholarly world as a legitimate source and as a platform for wider research and valuable discourse.
Citations (because I must?)
Applebaum, Yoni, ‘How the Professor Who Fooled Wikipedia Got Caught by Reddit’
Crystal, D, Language and the Internet
Zou, Hang and Hyland, Ken, ‘“Think about how fascinating this is”: Engagement in Academic Blogs across Disciplines