"In the mechanical age now receding, many actions could be taken without too much concern. Slow movement insured that the reactions were delayed for considerable periods of time. Today the action and reaction occur almost at the same time. We actually live mythically and integrally, as it were, but we continue to think in the old, fragmented space and time patterns of the pre-electronic age."
Sounds as if this was written today, doesn't it? In fact, this was put into print 43 years ago by Marshall McLuhan in Understanding Media. This passage came to mind as I read Phil Ford's post Anarchy in the AMS , a blog version of a presentation he gave on Nov 1, 2007 at the American Musicological Society Annual Meeting in Quebec City. A couple excerpts:
"And it is here that the abstract and intransitive power of the blogosphere becomes a very great virtue. No-one can shut anyone else up, ideas can cross-pollinate unpredictably, and since the blogosphere is not a zero-sum enterprise, there is nothing forcing people to "take a side" with this or that school of thought. Those who gather around their shared faith in Academic Theory X might face questions from which they would otherwise be insulated by institutional mechanisms. And I suspect that this is something a few academics secretly resent and fear about blogs. They don't want someone who hasn't been properly housebroken asking cheeky questions, and they don't want to be denied the institutional authority to control the discourse.
"It is "cool," in the McLuhanesque sense: readers can profitably interact with it in a wider variety of ways than they can with more traditional forms of academic communication. Blog writing tends to be "porous," filled with open spaces that readers can fill with their own contributions. This kind of writing doesn't make the "hotter," denser kinds of academic writing obsolete, of course, but I would guess that as academic blogging continues to grow it will "cool down" academic discourse generally. Whether this is a good thing or not is a tough question, and maybe at this point an unanswerable one."
This last observation is what caught my attention. Also from McLuhan:
"Hot media are, therefore, low in participation, and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience. ... The principle that distinguishes hot and cold media is perfectly embodied in the folk wisdom: "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses." Glasses intensify the outward-going vision, and fill in the feminine image exceedingly, Marion the Librarian notwithstanding. Dark glasses, on the other hand, create the inscrutable and inaccessible image that invites a great deal of participation and completion."
McLuhan defines 'hot' media as those that do not leave much to be filled in or completed by the individual and are low in participation. In contrast, 'cool' media as those that provide a meager amount of information and so much has to be filled in by the individual. The user experience is quite different. Cool media are high in participation and offer small amounts of information. Scholarly blogging is all about participation and often consists of half-baked ideas.
Blogging is therefore a cool media, especially in contrast to the relatively low participation and high information levels of traditional scholarly communication (e.g. journal article).
Slow movement in our scholarly communication insured that the reactions were delayed for considerable periods of time. Some would say this was to control the discourse. With blogging, the action and reaction occur almost at the same time. We actually live mythically and integrally, as it were, but we continue to think in the old, fragmented space and time patterns of the pre-electronic age.
So, yes. Blogging can cool down scholarly communication. In my opinion, Mr. Ford, that is a good thing for my profession - librarianship.
Since you have read this far this must be a topic of interest. You may wish to take some time to read and participate in ACRL's Establishing a Research Agenda for Scholarly Communication: A Call for Community Engagement. One of the many challenges:
"When faculty employ and create new forms and techniques, evaluating their work against traditional measures is a particular challenge. Although studies document the conservatism and constraining influence of scholarly promotion and tenure review processes and reward systems, we do not yet have deep insight into how they can evolve to recognize and embrace new forms of scholarship. The problem is acute for the creators of digital scholarship, which rarely enters the formal publishing stream, yet is a creative, scholarly act that can influence and underpin both present and future research. But authorship of these programs is not yet rewarded as a form of scholarly communication of the first order in most disciplines."Sphere: Related Content