Sunday, 14 January 2007

Little Circles "Blogging," Conventional Wisdom declares, "is a poor representation of your intellectual output. Why not spend the time you devote to blogging writing conference papers four people will hear or articles eleven will read?" On its face, the idea that bloggers aren't serious scholars requires an unintellectual notion of what constitutes "serious" scholarship. To not produce useless intellectual artifacts is to be unprofessional. To participate in a culture of engagement—one in which ideas matter in ways they seldom do without the life-support of seminar rooms and qualifying exams—is to be unprofessional. To be professional is to embrace the intellectual isolation responsible for so many unreadable articles and books. Not that all articles and books are unreadable. Far from it. But pull your five or ten favorite books from the shelf. Scan the acknowledgment page. Now marvel at how frequently the same names appear. You see, small circles of serious readers exist, but they are largely closed to young scholars in remote climes. But the people they read? These scholars and their students occupy the upper reaches of the discipline. They already belong to a serious, engaged intellectual culture. They already possess what so many on the professional peripheries desire. They already have what many academic bloggers hope to create. They have every reason to consider blogging unnecessary and unprofessional. The articles they help place, the dissertations they direct, the books they review—all the useless intellectual artifacts others lack the time and resources to read with the attention they deserve? They've earned the privilege to read them in a professional capacity. Most scholars haven't. And sometimes, they blog.

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