My response to this question: Are you serious? No! Not in anyway.
The session was impressive. The chair of the session was Jeffrey Pasley of the University of Missouri who contributed to the team blog The Common Place. The participants run some of the more important blogs out there like Ann Little of Colorado State and the blog Historiann, John Fea of Messiah College and The Way of Improvement Leads Home, Mike O'Malley of George Mason University who has a blog called The Aporetic, Ben Alpers of the University of Oklahoma who is part of the team that writes for the U.S. Intellectual History Blog, and Kenneth Owen of the University of Illinois at Springfield and writes for The Junto blog. These blogs have large audience-on blog terms-and each is very different from the other.
Little said "no." Her reason: "Blogging is not scholarship because at least in the case of single-authored blogs, it is not peer reviewed." All the others said some version of "yes." They were wrong.
Every point Little made has merit. She noted that a newly-minted Ph.D. needs to worry about getting published in traditional venues and that blogging takes time away from that effort. She is right. Blogging is not peer-reviewed and does not count for tenure or promotion. She is right. Blogging can "advance and promote" scholarship, but it is not scholarship in and of itself. She is right. John Fea admitted that everything she said was correct: "This is the way things are."
I would have made other points. Very few historians blog and there is a reason for that. We have many outlets for getting our views out there: books, journals, anthologies, classrooms, conferences, and journalism as either a source or a guest contributor. There is not a lot of value added in this medium. Blogging is a mighty perishable medium. Traditional research and publications endure for decades. For some fields of scholarship that move slowly-like history-that is an important consideration. (Some historiographies move rapidly others see one major work every two or three decades). Will the article published in a journal be available in a library in 25 years when some grad students who is 5-years old at the moment wants to read and then cite the work. Will that be the case with a blog? No idea, but my guess is not. I want endurance, which is why I try to avoid citing websites. They change often quite frequently and I want people to look at my source material as well as my findings.
Nor are there any quality filters. Peer-review is a gate keeping mechanism to ensure quality. There are other mechanisms in place in different mediums to ensure quality. The professional reputation of journalists, editors, and literary agents keeps them from pushing forward bad ideas. With any blog, anyone with an internet connected can post anything no matter how dubious.
Media formats have changed fairly quickly over the past three or four decades. There is nothing to say that will not happen again in the next decade or two. In fact, the electronic communication media seems to be moving away from blogging. Just type "Is Blogging Dead" into Google and see the results.
The other participants said, there was value in blogging. I would not dispute that, nor did Little. Fea said many colleges are taking a broader view of scholarship, using the ideas of scholarship that Ernest Boyer advocated. I doubt that. More importantly, his position did not rebut Little's argument. O'Malley said scholarly communication is constrained to a few mediums and there are other ways to do this and the blog is one way. Maybe, but only maybe. Alpers and Owen were more enthusiastic, but not convincing. Owen noted he is trying to use his blogging for tenure purposes and that his university is using the Boyer model.
Like Little, I have invested a good deal of time and energy into blogging. I have done so with a realistic understanding of its limits. Some people believe it helps authors connect with other writers and with their audiences. Maybe, but I think that is more the exception rather than the rule. If blogging really works well, it can help build a reputation just like an article in The New Republic, but an article in The Atlantic or The Huffington Post or an op-ed is not scholarship. Bolstering your reputation is never a bad thing.
To see the entire session, go to Youtube. The question and answer session is quite interesting.
You can also read the contributions of each participant:
- Ann Little, "Off to OAH to Answer the Question: Is Blogging Scholarship?"
- Mike O'Malley, "Blogging and the Return of the Repressed"
- John Fea, "A Few Thoughts on OAH Panel "Is Blogging Scholarship?
- Ben Alpers, "Is Blogging Scholarship?"
- Ken Owen, "Is Blogging Scholarship: Refelections on the OAH Panel"