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BLOGGING  April 2006

BLOGGING April 2006

Subject:

The Way of the Blog : Publish or Perish

From:

Steve Cavrak <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

UVM Blogging <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 3 Apr 2006 07:47:48 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (122 lines)

Blog or you won't be read
Opinion
James McConvill
April 3, 2006
http://www.theage.com.au/news/education-news/blog-or-you-wont-be-read/ 
2006/03/31/1143441336237.html?page=2

WITHIN the next 12 months, every academic in an Australian law school  
should be blogging on a regular basis, or seriously considering their  
future in academia.

This is not such a crazy proposition. It is probably still the case  
that, in Australia at least, blogging is considered a distraction  
from true scholarship, rather than a new addition to it.

This was the case also in the US, but is rapidly changing. According  
to a study by George Washington University Law School professor  
Daniel Solove, there are now 182 law professor blogs in the US, up 40  
per cent from just five months ago.

Later this month, law professors from around the US will converge  
upon Harvard Law School for a conference [1] devoted to exploring the  
impact of blogging on legal scholarship.

In Australia, most academics in law schools are happy to pump out  
their one or two journal articles a year or the occasional book, and  
occasionally consult Westlaw or Lexis to update themselves on legal  
developments.

Academics cannot be criticised for this - it's what is expected of  
them - just as workers in the Cadbury factory are expected to pump  
out the Freddos and family-sized blocks.

But surely it is time to open up this traditional approach to  
examination. Surely things can be done better.

There is a touch of arrogance in how scholarship is defined in  
academia. The majority of law academics still consider great tombs of  
case extracts and heavily footnoted law journal articles to be the  
only way academics can possibly devote themselves while maintaining  
credibility.

These books and articles are such a great contribution to the  
profession and the community, it is argued, that there is no time for  
anything else. The manner in which law schools are funded, and  
academics promoted, certainly provides some justification for law  
academics maintaining this view.

But it is time to get real. Yes, books and articles are of some  
service and it is a credit to academics to complete a book or write  
an article that is accepted by a reputable journal, but the value of  
legal blogging can no longer be discounted.

According to my count, there are fewer than 10 law academics in  
Australia who blog regularly. This should change. Blogging is not a  
distraction from scholarship - instead, it should be recognised as  
being the most effective mechanism for legal scholarship.

Blogging requires law academics to sharpen their writing skills -  
what is expressed in 10,000 words in a journal article must be  
expressed in 1000 words maximum in a blog post. This is do-able.  
Journal articles are supposed to be a forum for novel ideas that add  
to the existing literature. If a novel idea cannot be expressed  
concisely in a blog post, I believe there is something wrong with an  
academic's writing skills. Blogging will help improve these skills.

BBlogging also allows for ideas to be circulated immediately, which  
is useful for law academics because the law is constantly developing,  
with legal issues arising daily. Having to wait months or even years  
for an article to be published in a law journal takes the buzz out of  
jumping on an emerging issue, and therefore probably deters many  
academics from having a go.

The added beauty of blogging is that academics are not burdened by  
having to pad their contribution with references to articles and  
books by others - who says they know any better anyway?

In return for this sharp, snappy, relevant writing, which blogging  
demands and facilitates, the reward is that many more people are  
likely to read what an academic has to say (some law blogs in the US  
attract more than 5000 readers day). At a time when universities are  
moving towards research quality frameworks and impact ratings, this  
has to be a good thing.

It is said that the average law review article in Australia is read  
from start to finish by three people. Months of intense scholarship  
is devoted to enriching the minds of three people - these inevitably  
being academics, students and the occasional practitioner. On top of  
that, you might get 50 to 100 people (at most) reading the article's  
abstract or introduction.

So government funding is being pumped into a system that is based on  
an interpretive community of academics competing for the article with  
the largest number of footnotes and most sophisticated use of prose.

Why not reallocate that funding towards law academics reaching out to  
the world through effective blogging? Blogs can be easily found  
through a simple Google search (unlike many Australian law reviews,  
which are still only available in hard copy via the library, and  
American law reviews, many of which are accessible only via Westlaw  
or Lexis), making them a handy source of research for students,  
practitioners and other academics.

Moreover, the succinct and contemporary nature of blog posts help to  
make the law understandable and accessible - promoting the  
fundamental principle of the rule of law.

If Australian law academics really are serious about being  
progressive, relevant and dynamic, blogging cannot be resisted any  
longer.

Law schools need to be smart and think laterally about their  
research. Blindly adhering to a "traditional" understanding of  
scholarship that fails to embrace the huge potential of blogging will  
be what distinguishes the quasi-TAFEs from the real 21st-century law  
schools.

James McConvill is a senior lecturer at La Trobe Law School, Melbourne.

[1] Bloggership: How Blogs Are Transforming Legal Scholarship, April  
28, 2006. http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/home/bloggership

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