It certainly can be, according to Margaret Schilt in “Is the Future of Legal Scholarship in the Blogosphere,” reposted in Law.com from the “Legal Times.” Her article provides a very helpful thumbnail summary of the major legal blogs, but also reflects on the trend of legal scholarship toward this more informal and community-centered form of scholarship.
The recently released Ithaka report on university publishing noted that an increasing amount of scholarly communications takes place over informal channels, where the blog is becoming increasingly important. But who are legal bloggers, and do they think they are committing scholarship with their postings?
Schilt observes that most legal bloggers are not the “young turks” one might expect, but mid-career professors who have tenure. There has long been a debate whether new modes of scholarly communications will be adopted more readily by the young, to whom they may be more familiar, or the older, tenured faulty who can afford the risk. In law, apparently, it is the latter who are turning to blogs.
This is good news for shared scholarship, since this group of bloggers tends to be very familiar with traditional scholarship and able to translate that level of work to the blogosphere. Schilt makes specific mention of my favorite legal blog in this regard, Balkinization, where Jack Balkin of Yale leads an in-depth discussion of current events and recent works of legal learning.
What are the benefits of blogging, as Schilt sees them? First and foremost, a blog reaches more readers than does traditional scholarship. Also, it encourages rapid feedback. Some comments may be inane, of course, but there is also the potential to open up the scholarly enterprise to participants long excluded and to make the dialogue amongst traditional participants more lively and immediate.
Interestingly, Schilt also suggests that there may be a “reputational bonus” in blogging, since it can increase name recognition amongst one’s peers. Finally, she points out the value of the blog in teaching, offering a chance to encourage class discussion to continue in a public and accountable forum.
Blogs, Schilt concludes, “are where scholarly dialogue increasingly takes place.” Although it looks different from the traditional journal article, and its pace is accelerated over that of conventional scholarship, the blogosphere “still looks and feels a lot like scholarly activity.”
By the way, the Ithaka report mentioned above has itself become the subject of this rapid and interactive process of “peer-review.” It is now available in a “CommentPress” version from The University of Michigan. This software allows the report to be read in its entirety, but also lets readers insert comments at different places. You can read as many or as few of the comments as you like, but the availability of this important report in a “2.0” version speaks volumes about the trend toward more collaborative scholarship.