Whilst I don’t think there would be much gained from all academics Twittering their days away, I think there is a need for a change in the academic attitude to the blog. Despite the blog being one of the earliest examples of social media, great swathes of academia have failed to adopt the technology (or have adopted it in an extremely safe manner, i.e, ‘the research project blog’). Is it because it is a technology without purpose, or is it because it opens an academic’s opinions up to the sort of scrutiny that would otherwise be lacking?
As this is my 398th Webometric Thoughts’ blog post, readers will not be surprised that I am a fan of the blog. I am a natural blogger in that I am always happy to proclaim my opinion, no matter how outrageous it may appear to others (…you don’t want to get me started on vegetarianism). But shouldn’t all academics be natural bloggers? Up and down the country academics are constantly proclaiming their opinions in lecture theatres, journals, books, and conferences, but relatively rarely in blogs. As blogs provide an opportunity for the sharing of opinions far beyond the academic community, and engaging in debate today rather than in six months time, surely blogging should be a part of every academics output.
Whilst debate is an essential part of scientific progress, I am always surprised by the lack of scientific debate. Whilst I have heard of great debates conducted through the letters pages of eminent scientific journals, and have occassionally seen the rigerous questioning of a paper presented at a conference, in general most scientific publications pass with very little debate. Academics are generally a pleasant bunch, and if you don’t make many waves, noone will bother you. After all, hardly anyone will read your paper anyway.
The blogosphere, on the other hand, is a very different beast. It thrives on debate, to the point that some people surf around merely looking for someone to argue with! Wouldn’t it be good for both the arts and sciences if academics were forced to defend their ideas in the blogosphere more often? Especially those which are seemingly indefensible.