What Norms Should Guide Academic Bloggers?

>> Wednesday, February 24, 2010

As Rob mentioned already, I spoke at an ISA panel on blogs and the academy last week. Key questions included whether or not blogs matter for policy, to what extent academic blogging is reshaping the profession as a whole, and how to mitigate the perils of blogging especially for junior faculty members. (The background paper for the panel was an article I co-authored with Dan Drezner. It won’t be published in International Studies Perspectives until this summer, but it’s in the ISA paper archive if you want to check out the current version here.)

Anyway, Stephen Walt pointed out that the blogosphere remains an essentially lawless place. Although Dan has written before about some emerging norms of blog etiquette, I think it’s safe to say that adherence to these so-called “norms” are hit and miss among political bloggers, including academics. They’re also often up for debate – remember the uproar last year over whether or not the institution of anonymous or pseudononymous blogging is good or bad for the blogosphere. Joseph Nye left us with a set of questions about what academic norms in the blogosphere should look like.

Having already used up considerable time during discussion playing a YouTube video for illustrative effect, I yielded my time to the other panelists on that question, but here’s how I’d answer it today:

Academic bloggers should acknowledge their brokerage position between the academic world and the public, and they should strive to set a good example for both communities. Vis academics, this means modeling the ability to communicate complicated concepts intelligibly. Scholars should be unafraid to do so with wit and even snark at times. Vis non-academics, scholars should model the ability to communicate in an intelligent, fact-based way that respects the right of others to disagree, that enhances deliberation instead of polarizing, and that raises the level of public discourse instead of lowering it.

And though I hardly live up to the ideal of "intelligent intelligibility" in this long-winded and not-very-snarky post, these are the strategies I will strive for as I blog here and elsewhere.

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