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Blog // Thoughts
January 19, 2008

Henry Jenkins Reflects On Blogging, Academia And Being A Public Intellectual

Henry Jenkins’ blog, Confessions of an ACA/Fan is one my favourites and one the most conistently high quality academic blogs out there. Henry has just returned from a blogging break with an excellent reflection on the stresses of blogging, the role blogging has played in his academic life (and the life of his teaching institution) […]

Henry Jenkins’ blog, Confessions of an ACA/Fan is one my favourites and one the most conistently high quality academic blogs out there. Henry has just returned from a blogging break with an excellent reflection on the stresses of blogging, the role blogging has played in his academic life (and the life of his teaching institution) and the place of blogging in the wider intellectual culture.

“I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I see this blog as an experiment in how academics might use emerging technologies to expand their role as public intellectuals. For too long, academics were dependent on old media channels to get their ideas out to a larger public. One of my early blog posts centered on my concern that academic publishing had become a kind of ghetto which was cut off from the larger conversations which impacted our culture. I had hoped that blogging might provide an alternative means of circulating ideas and engaging in conversations.”

Blogging can’t fully replace conventional academic work in fields like theology, philosophy or sociology. But, in many ways it can, does and maybe should extend this work towards a range of audiences that simply can’t access a lot of academic journals and may not be fully active in reading more detailed books.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that a theologian is failing their vocation by not blogging. But, then again, they must surely be failing if they elect to have no mechanism for broad access to their work and in this age, no mechanism for hosting active and public debate of their work. Blogging isn’t the only way to do this, but in the absence of another public platform for debate, it perhaps the most obvious route to take.

Like Jenkins, I’ve been “encouraged” by friends, readers and critics to shorten my posts and like Jenkins I’m abivalent about that. Most the posts that have attracted a lot of comment and discussion have been longer (like the Godmen post, which was followed up here). If one is to make one’s thinking public (and not just one’s opinions), then some kind of extended format is required.

There is a useful analogy here between blogging and magazines and, in particular, the essay form. The blog as serialised-essay has a lot of potential for those of us looking to popularise our ideas in a non-populist way. We are seeing something of a split in the magazine trade, with some magazines going the way of short or almost no comment, just features, while other magazines are embracing the long essay form. Vanity Fair, Monocle, New York Magazine – these are all doing well and all embracing a “high-content” approach.

[tags] Theological Method, Writing [/tags]

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