Saturday, May 01, 2010

My SBL Paper on Weblogs and the Academy

I just got word that the paper I submitted for this year's annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature has been accepted. The paper will be presented at the Blogger and On-Line publications unit. I'm especially hoping that this will be of interest to all of you academic bloggers out there.
Title: "Weblogs and the Academy: The Benefits and Challenges of Biblioblogging."

A growing number of scholars have entered the world of academic blogging. Indeed, the influence of “biblioblogs” in the scholarly community is becoming increasingly evident in a number of ways. Alongside the names of the institutions where they teach and the titles of their previous books, academic publishers are now including the internet addresses of scholars’ weblogs on the book covers of their recent monographs, somewhat blurring the lines between print publications and on-line offerings. Moreover, a careful analysis of the blogosphere reveals ways in which scholars are “testing out” hypotheses prior to publishing them in academic journals. The on-line academic blogging community has thus become an important sounding board for scholars, at times playing an important role in influencing material later published in peer-review sources. Other benefits may also be recognized, e.g., humanizing scholars, drawing attention to important works published in obscure places, etc. At the same time, there are certainly pitfalls involved with engaging the blogosphere. Above all, blogs are not “peer-reviewed” sources. Identifying helpful sources from unhelpful ones is sometimes a difficult challenge. Moreover, while information produced by bloggers may be retrieved through search engines, finding the most helpful material often requires sifting through a great amount of material, taxing the patience of researchers. This paper will analyze the academic value of blogs, discussing ways to maximize the benefits of such websites while also offering suggestions regarding how to deal with the challenges inherent in consulting them as academic resources. In particular, the presenter will draw from his recent experience of completing a Ph.D. dissertation on the historical Jesus and the way his participation in the academic blogging community enhanced his work.

I'll be talking more about this paper as I continue doing the research for it.

In the meantime, I'm definitely interested in getting feedback. I'm going to put together a bunch of questions and see if I can get some input from other academic bloggers.

I want to thank Dr. Robert Cargill--archaeologist, YouTube sensation, and all-around good guy--for the opportunity to present this paper. I'm really look forward to this.


Richard Fellows said...

I'll be interested in your thoughts. You will need to distinguish between the academic biblioblogs and the popular ones, which tend to be strong on entertainment value and light on original research. I see huge benefits in the electronic media. Feedback is often very swift, whereas it can take decades to get freedback through the printed media.

Perhaps you could address the question of whether posting material on the web or in blogs prevents one from subsequently publishing it in print. Also, I would be interested to know if there are ways of publishing material in print, while still being at liberty to maintain an updated version of it on the web. The problem with print material is that it can't be kept up to date with new insights or corrections.

Anonymous said...


Sister Mary Agnes said...

I have been meaning to write a comment on this post for a week! Sorry it took so long... I just want to point out that some bloggers (you are one of them) make it easy to differentiate between academic blogging and informal conversation through a blog. They do it very simply through the footnotes.

It seems to me the inclusion of footnotes on serious academic posts is a good way to share sources and ideas with other scholars. The fact that sources are cited immediately shows that the post has research behind it. At the same time, bloggers can post lighter, more informal stuff on the same blog and not worry about being misunderstood.

To help scholars who want to use blogs to find helpful sources, I wonder if it would help to include the sources in the labels of each blog. For example, the last name of authors or even the title of each work cited as a label. Those label tags might make relevant sources show up more easily in search engines. People can also click on your label and instantly find every time you have used that label throughout the blog.

Just a thought. Congratulations on completing your dissertation!