academic rigor and blogging

I’m intrigued by the discussion about rational ignorance between Lago and Joi. I understand both of their points, but there’s a deeper issue at stake here. What is the purpose of a blog?

For Lago, it is a publication, an expression of well-thought out arguments exposed in a public discourse. For Joi, it’s a journal of musings, ideas, etc. In arguing that Joi is being irresponsible (or ignorant), Lago is demanding that Joi’s production conform to his standards. He is judging Joi as a spectator, rather than trying to judge him from the production perspective. [I can’t help but insert that Nietzsche would tell Lago that he’s being a fool right here.]

Normally, when we critique production of ideas, we do so in context. What i publish in a peer-reviewed journal has a totally different tenor and level of expectation than what i write to my grandparents. What i say depends on who i’m talking to. What blogging means is different to almost every blogger. Thus, to judge them based on one standard of value is totally dangerous. Read blogs in context:

1) What is the writer trying to say?
2) Who is the writer speaking to?
3) What level of expertise is the writer trying to assume?

I am an academic, but i don’t view myself as an expert on all intellectual thought. Does that mean that my blog should only stick to that which i feel as though i have an expert voice on? Personally, i don’t think so. When i feel as though i’m an expert on something, i write an article for peer-review, not a blog entry. My blog consists of half-baked ideas, emotional ramblings, things that make me smile… I love throwing out things that i’m thinking about in class, not because i’m an expert at them, but because people love to throw stuff back. It’s an opportunity to learn, to play, to blow off steam. I encourage my readers to read me in that light, not as an expert in everything i post about. For example, i don’t consider myself an expert at Nietzsche. But i’m enjoying thinking about his perspective on the world and hearing other people’s connections.

We all come from different places. One of the nice things about blogging is that we can throw out things and hear other perspectives on the material. In academia, you get narrower and narrower. Blogging is a relief from that.

Lago, since i can’t comment on your blog, i’d encourage you to stop yelling at the Internet and/or the TV and shift your mind into seeing what value can come from these kinds of information presentation. When the Discovery Channel puts together a fluff piece on lions, think about how many people who knew nothing about lions suddenly are intrigued by lions and trying to learn more; you may be an expert and it may not have satisfied your need for expert analysis, but good came from it. When it comes to Joi’s blog, a lot of people who read Joi’s writings have never thought about some of these things before. Suddenly, they’re exposed to it. And frankly, people who are exposed to new ideas from friends are far more likely to dive into them than when hearing them from experts. And if you want to be helpful, add to the discussion on his blog; i’m sure people would be glad to learn additional information.

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6 thoughts on “academic rigor and blogging

  1. lago

    Well, if you read the entire post, the point was that Joi and I have different ways of looking at the cost/benefit of writing about ideas. As Joi said in his blog entry: “If you read on in Lago’s post, he does raise a very interesting way to look at the trade-offs of shallow vs rigorous. What is the cost of rigor and is it worth it?” That’s pretty much the whole point of that post, to examine the unexamined decisions we make when we think or write.

    I’ll be helpful by suggesting that Nietzsche may not be the best role model out there for your quotation needs, given his feelings on women and the degradation of culture as expressed in Beyond Good and Evil.

  2. zephoria

    Lago – i did read your whole post and i think that it has value. But i think that you are missing the point that *we* is not a universal. The metrics by which we examine our decisions are entirely different depending on the person.

    As for Nietzsche… i’m not saying he’s not a mysogynist elitist bastard. My arguments above apply to Nietzsche as well. I read him for the value that he has, not simply for his failings. I do not disregard something because it doesn’t live up to my standards. Personally, i think the Nietzsche’s arguments on aesthetics and the value of the creator as opposed to the spectator are quite valuable.

  3. Caterina

    Hear hear.

    While I agree with many points in Lagos’ post about rational ignorance, I agree with danah that it doesn’t much pertain to blogs. Much criticism of blogging centers around its offhand and untutored nature, while I believe that that is one of its strengths.

    And I too am a feminist who admires many misogynist and occasionally iffy thinkers, including Nietzsche.

  4. David Andrew

    The debate about structured vs unstructured also appears when people talk about the role of reflection in learning – some argue that reflection is free floating and others a structured activity. People develop their thoughts in different ways!

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