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Why We Blog: An Essay in Four Movements

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Abstract

This essay comprises four parts, each by one of the co-bloggers at In the Middle (http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com). Karl Steel argues that the benefits of academic blogging outweigh its potential humiliations, and that academic conferences should post their papers publicly and allow for comments so that conferences, in a sense, never end. Graduate students and junior scholars should be encouraged to blog to help build a community and a trade in ideas, and to accustom them to the feelings of exposure and humiliation common to all writing, which will thereby train them to become more confident scholars. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen examines some of the difficulties posed by the age of e-medieval: an internet culture of negativity. Blogging entails finding strategies for managing harsh or off topic comments, as well as for coping with unwanted attention. Drawing on the pedagogical distinction Nancy Sommers makes between process and product, Mary Kate Hurley examines the role blogs might play in creating a communal space in which to share unfinished ideas. Blogs might be an ideal medium for the process of thinking, rather than the finished work of having had thought. Eileen A. Joy argues there may be more value in thinking and “working through” our scholarship online, in an “open” environment that promotes and invites democratic, catholic, and convivial support, as well as the accidental tourist and silent voyuer, than there is in the traditional “finished product” of a journal article or book. It pleads, further, for a better awareness of the fact that intellectual property is always co-extensive and communal.

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