The paper vs. blog argument…

My post ‘the nature of academic discourse’ seems to have hit something of a nerve, viagra which I thought was worth summarising here. Not surprisingly the issue of traditional academic output (such as published papers or books) vs. blogging comes to the fore. Sarah Stewart and Leigh Blackall challenge the current predominant norm of not counting blogging, arguing that it has an in-built quality assurance mechanism – through peer commenting and referencing and through ratings like technorati. Karyn Romeis points out that blogs report on ‘what’s happening now’, whereas peer reviewed papers are ‘old news’ because of the lead in time for publication. She thinks this time lag is particularly difficult for those working at the cutting edge. She also agrees with Sarah and Karyn:

Considering the readership of the blogs I would be likely to cite, I would contend that the level of expertise represented and the willingness to refute, rebut, challenge, defend, revisit, question etc. etc is far more rigorous than the peer review process. Sadly the assessing organisation does not agree.

David McQuillan celebrates the ‘stream of consciousness’ nature of blogging, suggesting that it is a valuable ‘route to publication’ and that by making thoughts public as they happen they are there and accessible for others to review and provide their perspective on. However Martin Oliver (a friend and someone I totally respect academically) suggests that there is potentially an information overload issue with blogs:

Please, don’t condemn me to having to wade through pages of peoples’ blogs in order to find the one or two good ideas in there!

He argues in favour of the traditional method, which he describes as ‘slow publication’ (reminds me of the ‘slow food’ movement and also Peter Goodyear’s call for more ‘slow learning’). Martin says:

It [blogging] has its place, but so does the discipline of shaping ideas in a format that can take a year or more to come to fruition. Distance brings its own perspective, and can help discern what’s of lasting value, rather than momentary excitement.

Which I do think is an important point.

My own view? Actually I think I agree pretty much with all these comments. However we need to be careful – I don’t think a direct comparison of journal papers and blogs is appropriate; people blog for a whole range of reasons not just for academic recognition and institutional ‘performance ticking’. I think what we are seeing is a confused transition, whilst we try and work out the co-evolution of tool use and our own working practice (both as individuals and as a society). Similar arguments are being raised of course about email (I haven’t dared open my email yet this morning having not looked at it since Friday…) but I think Patrick McAndrew pretty much sums it up and comes up with some nice lateral thinking on the issue of email overload!!

3 Responses to “The paper vs. blog argument…”

  1. leighblackall Says:

    Hello again Grainne, thanks for keeping this going. I agree with Martin on the importance of the slow philosophy, but don’t agree that that excludes blogging by any means. Slow, considered and a well supported blog posts are just as possible as in the the trad channels. But what is possible in blogging (exposing the lead up and background to that slow blog post) is not possible in the trad publishing channel.

  2. Gráinne Says:

    Yes good point - ie both are important - the trick is for us to find the balance between the two… I do worry about Martin’s inherent worry about information overload which begs the question: What is the best media for communication and what is the best media for assimilation of information and the big questio: what is the best combination of both?????

  3. » Blog Archive » Slow learning Says:

    […] is the same true for learning? I’ve mentioned before Peter Goodyear posing the idea of slow learning. Clearly the social and communicative aspects of web 2.0 […]

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