Scholar in Training

The blog of a new postgraduate student hoping to make it against all odds in the harsh world of modern biblical scholarship. Wow, it almost sounds like a Hollywood blockbuster...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Blogs: An Academic Issue?

Having browsed the web a little in preparation for a plenary seminar we're having about biblioblogging at Sheffield on the 5th December, it seems as if blogging as an extension of scholarly activity is a little controversial with some. Two recent fairly negative articles about blogging have recently appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education (in July and September), written by the same person under a psuedonym. They make some salient points, one being that maintaining an academic blog could possibly damage career prospects. That might not matter too much if, like some of my Sheffield tutors who blog, you have a distinguished publishing record - but if, like many (the majority of?) bibliobloggers, you're a graduate student, it could matter. A lot.

Of all the criticisms, this seems the most practical and pragmatic one. Just because I happen to blog, does that mean I'm damaging my future job prospects? If I have a political opinion that I air on my blog, or a faith perspective, or something else that would fall into a 'personal' realm, could I lose out on jobs that I would have got if I didn't have a blog? Well, if that ever happens, then I don't think I'd be truly happy in those jobs anyway. I don't want to engage in dispassionate scholarship. I passionately believe that my personal life is tied up with my research, sometimes in small ways, but more often than not in major ways. I am a Christian, after all.

I quite the way Sepoy on Chapati Mystery puts it: "As a scholar, it is not coming out of the ivory tower into the real world, it is bringing the world into the ivory tower." Rebecca Goetz is also pro-blog as far as academics goes. See also the if:book blog entry about a meeting that they had on academic blogging.

So, where do I think biblioblogging is headed? Group blogs, certainly. It'd be really cool for, say, the SBL Johannine Literature group to blog about their papers, work, direction, etc. It would make it a lot easier for people who haven't ever been to SBL (like me!) to meaningfully contribute something next year (when I do plan to attend!). However, I'd love to see, at some future point, a Sheffield Biblical Studies Dept. blog, where the whole department (and maybe ickle grad students like me) can engage with the online world of biblical scholarship in a collective way, and let everyone else know in an open and accessible way about the cutting-edge stuff being done here. Something like the Chicago University Law School blog - though this idea would depend on whether Sheffield Unversity would be happy for its staff to do this! (And, of course, whether the staff wanted to as well!)

There are many more questions and issues involved in biblioblogging at the moment, and I'm looking forward to hearing about the SBL biblioblogging session. Mark Goodacre has posted a link to one of the papers being given, which I haven't yet had a chance to read. (See also Rick Brannan's paper.)


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