blog networks as faculty commons

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The past week has been hectic--the combination of japanese, houseguests, and pulling off a wonderful blog panel at MEA took a lot out of me. So blogging has been unsurprisingly light. However, when your houseguest is Jill Walker, and your weekend cookout guests include both Jill and Seb Paquet, it's hard not to generate some new blogging may pick up a bit as I work those out.

The blog panel at MEA was not as well attended as I'd hoped (we were towards the end of the day, alas), but it was great fun to be a part of it. If you couldn't attend, Collin Brooke did a wonderful write-up of it. Thanks, Collin!

And if nothing else, the panel provided a wonderful opportunity for the five of us to all meet each other--Jill and Seb had never met any of us before, and Alex and Clay had each only met me. The face-to-face interaction is obviously not a necessary component for collaboration and connection, or the panel never would have happened to begin with, but it certainly is a welcome and strengthening addition.

Last night Seb and Jill and I were talking about how the connections we've formed through our blogs are actually more important to us in terms of collegiality than the connections we have to people that we work with. I "know" Jill and Seb better (at least professionally) than I know most of the people in my hallway. I think this will be increasingly the case for academics--social software tools will foster and support collaborative networks that cross disciplinary and institutional boundaries, and those networks will become the important spaces in which creativity research develop. As Jill said, these social-software-supported networks have become closer to the ideal of the faculty commons than anything on a real campus has ever been.

So, what happens to research and scholarship--what happens to the current concept of a university, in fact?--when these formerly invisible colleges become not only visible, but more important than the traditional, geographically and disciplinarily (not a word, I know, but there isn't one for what I want) bound colleges we're accustomed to?

Virtuality simply isn't going to replace physicality in toto; there's too much value in physical presence. That's why Jill and Seb and Clay were all willing to trek to Rochester for this panel--it was worth the expense (in time and money) to be able to connect in a physical space. Location matters--I live where I live for many reasons unrelated to my job, and that's true for most of the people I know. So how do we blend our modes? How do we get the most out of the emerging blog commons? I don't have answers yet, just questions.

7 TrackBacks

Liz has a nice post noting how networks of blogs have made the "invisible colleges" (the links of colleagues not connected formally by institutional affiliation who share thoughts, writings, and professional gossip, and frequently play a major part in ... Read More

Due to a pretty horrid mix of plumbing emergencies and empending work deadlines, I missed Liz, Alex, Jill, Seb, and Clay's presentation at MEA (not to mention the rest of MEA). I'm particularly angry at myself, because I only briefly saw Jill and Alex ... Read More

When I started reading blogs one and a half years ago, it was the academic blogs that fascinated me. I liked the exited debates between blogs and in blog commentaries. The blogs I started reading were mainly written by people Read More

You can be one too from Julie Leung: Seedlings & Sprouts on June 16, 2004 2:30 AM

Saturday afternoon we caught the boat to Seattle and met the lovable luggable pink Patrick who sat in a chair along with a bunch of bloggers hanging out on the waterfront for the Anon-o-Con. It was a fun meeting,... Read More

Catching up on Liz Lawley's (Mamamusings) blog this morning I noticed in her June 13 entry she used "discipinarily" because "there isn't one [a word]" for what she wanted to say. And why not! I try to be attentive of... Read More

Akademiker och blogging from Det perfekta tomrummet on June 21, 2004 5:08 PM

Elizabeth Lane Lawley skriver intressant om vilken betydelse blogging kan ha f�r n�tverkande bland akademiker. Se �ven ett inl�gg p�... Read More

Blogs and scholars from Imaginary magnitude on June 26, 2004 6:46 AM

Elizabeth Lane Lawley make some bold predictions about the use of blogs for creating contacts in the academic world. Blogs... Read More


Any chance you could sponsor a similar forum during this fall's Brick City Festival. I do try to make it there at that time to see my son in the Stonehurst Regatta.

I think you're onto something here. My sense of why it's the case: I self-identify with a field (rhetoric) that is often simply a specialization within English departments, and an interest in technology subdivides me even further. As tight as the money has become for most humanities departments, the emphasis has shifted from trying to hire a critical mass of colleagues to making sure that all bases are covered. That kind of attitude rewards both specialization and easy categorization, and both work against the kind of conversation and collaboration that I saw each of you advocating in different ways on Friday. I haven't been blogging for that long, but already for me, it's become almost a secret, extra-departmental life that's proven more generative...

Which is all to say that I don't have answers either, but I think those are the right questions to be asking.


All I see is the potential for vastly improved academics in all universities who jump at the opportunity to support the collaboration that seems to be occuring with social software in academia - think of the wealth of knowledge that could be further shared and therefore further developed! Discipline or department does not matter since the technology is accessible and easy to use; faculty need only to participate and foster conversation. Almost instantly you can now introduce new material in your lectures that a week ago you had never even heard of because you discussed the topic with another professor across the world.

I'm excited, especially if it ever comes to that point. :-)

I was there and it was a terrific panel. Thanks so much for convening it. I will be citing it in my PhD dissertation, which constructs a theory of community beginning with the question "what is virtual community?"

Perhaps, in a couple of years time (so as to get a better sample, still there are too few academic bloggers), it will possible to measuresuch blog-triggered collaboration that you are talking about by bibliometrical methods. One would look for co-authorship of papers among people that are bloggers.

Hey, it is not the tools as such that drive the emergence of new clusters of scholarly communication. The tools are useful - think of the difficulty of running the Royal Society's international networking without the printing press or the letters-through-the-mail network run by Oldenburg - but they are used by people that pick up these tools. One should study scholarly communication from an STS-perspective, not from a blogg-perspective.

And one should also study failures. For every Jill-meets-Seb-meets-Liz, there are millions of meetings happening through other media.

I think scholars love to gossip and network. They will keep doing this using any available tools, including blogs, faxes, phones, meeting over beer, going to conferences, chatting in the university library, letters delivered by pigeons, whatever. This networking phenomenon is the thing to study, not scholars using just blogs.




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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on June 13, 2004 6:34 PM.

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