U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Is Academic Blogging A Zero-Sum Game?

In February of this year I offered some reflections on blogging as a professional historian. In that piece I hoped to add to David Sehat’s earlier series, as well as make an argument for what I called the “blog-as-lab approach.”

In today’s post I offer some reflections on the hazards and usefulness of blogging through another post by Edward J. Blum at Religion in American History. Blum’s post, overall, looks at blogging through a somewhat jaded lens and offers six “reservations and lessons” for others—especially junior scholars—looking to make their mark through blogging.

I agree with several of Blum’s points. But I also agree with a commenter who nudges us to consider some positives.

Problems arise in relation to the respectability of blogging when one views it as a zero-sum game in relation to other publishing endeavors. The fact is that blogging and paper publishing are synergistic. Blogging can quicken one’s paper publishing efforts—whether it be by my blog-as-lab theory, or simply by helping you break writer’s block. And publishing helps your blogging because it brings respect and awareness to your overall work, whether it be presented in scholarly formats, or in snippets. Academic publishing brings attention to one’s (valuable?) non-peer-reviewed work.

All thoughtful writing is valuable. And the web, when other writers do their homework, actually helps prevent intellectual theft. When you get your thoughts “out there” in a coherent fashion, others will find your work.

There seems to be a deep-seated tendency in human nature to get at sources and roots—a tendency which profits historians immensely. People seem want to know who thought of something first and give honor. But maybe my observations are too one-sided, too optimistic? If so, let me offer a pessimistically worded conclusion:

Academic blogging will die as a useful endeavor when the zero-sum-game folks win. – TL