It wasn’t that long ago, maybe two years now, that I read a column in the Chronicle of Higher Education that spoke of the uncertain risks and benefits of professorial blogging. The idea of the “blog” seems to have originated, by popular consensus, in 1997 when the notion of a “web log” or online journal was shortened to “blog.” Many unfamiliar with the growth and development of this digital medium over the last decade-plus continue to look at the authorial exercise askance, convinced that it is a practice of conceit and self-indulgence. On one hand, that may not be untrue. Yet, as the New York Times in today’s article titled, “Big Blog on Campus,” notes, blogging has become mainstream and even a desirable activity within the academy.
As more and more respected scholars in various fields pick up the digital pen of blogging to express opinion, insight and scholarly research, it seems that this activity will undoubtedly become as normative as email did in the early-to-mid 1990s as the preferred, and now standard, method of on-campus communication. What Blogging offers scholars that our professional writing does not is the access to a wider audience.
In my young academic life I have published more than twenty-five articles and I’m currently completing two books. While two or three of those articles have appeared in publications that are relatively mainstream and one of the books is being published by a popular press, most people will simply never read that work of mine with the exception of those with access to theological libraries or personal subscriptions to the various publications. Many within the academy, as it is rightly expected, write only to their peers to continue an ongoing scholarly conversation within a given field. It can be rather insular.
But with the advent of the Internet and the easy accessibility (and limited financial investment required) any armchair theologian, law scholar, biologist, historian and the like can connect with the latest thoughts, opinions and research of those professionals in the field.
In theology, for example, I think of the work of WIT: Women in Theology, An Und Für Sich, Faith and Theology, and others who compose the next generation of Christian scholars. Meanwhile, established theologians and scholars like Philip Clayton, J. Kameron Carter, Cornel West, and others have really engaged social media, blogging and the Internet to share their work and interact with a broader audience. Likewise, co-ops of theologians have sprung up as is found in the Pray Tell Blog and CatholicMoralTheology.com.
There are also sites like America Magazine, Commonweal Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, First Things and Christian Century, among others that provide more popular commentary on faith and current events.
I’m not sure where I fit in the whole continuum of the theological blogosphere. Generally, I conceive of DatingGod.org as a hybrid of academic and popular writing that appeals to a broad audience. I am always pleasantly surprised to discover through emails and comment postings the expansive and various readership of this site. I encourage others to continue to bring the academic conversation into the public square, if electronically, so that all might be able to access the work of those who teach and learn professionally.
Who knows, maybe one of the requirements for tenure in the next 10 years might be “blogging” alongside professional publications, conference participation, teaching and academic service.