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Wednesday, June 14, 2006



Some observations:

1) as bloggers have repeatedly shown, an educated person or persons - with a wide set of interests and enough time - can fairly speedily gather and digest that specialised knowledge and apply it to opinions (i.e. "fisking") that surf on a wave of 'facts'.

2) the products of the culture of academia are indeed painfully shut away from the world. They are paid for by public money; so why can't they be published online and made searchable by the public? Think of the cost<->benefit of compensating all British academic journals for publishing their journal contents online for free (maybe one year after they appear in print) in searchable form. Academics can get stuff like this online through "ATHENS", you say? Ever tried doing that? It's clunky, it's Balkanised by publishers, it's a time-consuming pain. Google Scholar and Google Print help somewhat, but both have a long way to go.

3) one problem is "preaching to the converted", by publishing in a politically-aligned magazine. That's one of the interesting things about blog aggregation services like Technorati (if it worked) and BritBlogs; it breaks that logjam. And, to a lesser extent, keyphrase searches through Google News.

Doug Hudgeon

My experience is that blogs are anti-polemical. I've recently done an analysis of hits on my blog and found that the most popular articles are those that I spent the greatest amount of time writing and contain the most detailed analysis. Of course, my experience may not be representative as my blog is aimed at a specialist field and my readers are, for the most part, sophisticated consumers of information in that field.


Surely the effect of the media's desire (and by extention, the public's) for quick and comprehensible soundbites is that academics will need to lift their game. The ability to effectively communicate an idea in a way that non-practioners can understand is vital for an academic to influence public debate, and there should be no shame in that fact.

From what I've seen, there are too many academics in the social sciences whose sole audience is other academics. If the media desire for pithy explanations can change this, then bring it on!


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