Friday, February 19, 2010

Delayed Live-Blogging of the IR and Blogging Panel

. Friday, February 19, 2010

Sorry IPEers; the interwebs at the Hilton Riverside are quite terrible and I can’t get it up and running in the ballroom. So I’m going to take notes during the roundtable (just as if I was live-blogging the panel itself) and I’ll post everything once the roundtable is over and I can make it back to the lobby.

And Drezner is up first. Introduces the panelists: himself, Nye, Walt, Carpenter, Farley and of course, Will! Room is pretty full; I’d say about 100 people in attendance which is by far the largest panel I’ve seen at the ISA meetings thus far.

Drezner: Blogs have risen in prominence over the past five years and have been leaking their way into policy circles and informing debates. Also, the rise of blogging institutionalization within foreign policy magazines and other general interest publications.

Blogging is also increasing in prominence within the academy and that the first IR bloggers are now getting tenure, opening the door for changes within the discipline and a new acceptance of blogging.

With new technologies like Twitter, FB and YouTube, blogging has become much more accepted and a bit arcane.

Drezner just brought up the ability to link debates across the blogosphere and bring in differing specializations, viewpoints and ideas. It creates a quick and easy forum for bloggers to discuss new issues.

The rise of full-time bloggers and how academics with limited time compete for readers with these institutionalized bloggers like Andrew Sullivan and Glen Greenwald.

There is also a major identity issue for bloggers: do you want to be seen as a serious scholar or as a blogger/scholar? Is there a difference? Does blogging inform and make your scholarship better?

Walt is up: He’s discussing how and why he first got into blogging. Dr. Walt blogs at Foreign Policy Magazine Online along with Dan Drezner. Walt sees blogging as a direct route to policymakers, direct political discourse and a way to actually inform the debate. It is a way to reach a large audience on a daily basis with academic tidbits in a way that the world never had before the 2000’s.

The blogosphere has become a counterweight to the MSM and governments have lost some of their ability to control information and spin the direction of news stories. With readership growing at high quality blogs, blogs are really starting to have an impact on political discourse.

Walt argues that writing scholarly work is quite different from writing on a blog. Writing on a blog requires a different mental approach. He’s arguing that academia needs to incentivize blogging as a way to disseminate information to the masses and as a way to ensure that the questions we are asking are interesting and can potentially impact the real world. He also brings up the potential for conflicts of interest and disclose any ties to topics that they discuss on their blog. This would ensure credibility to the blogospshere, especially in the absence of rules and norms to direct the behavior of bloggers.

Farley is up next: Farley blogs over at Lawyers, Guns and Money à Farley’s talk is going to center around blogging as an unemployed academic and then as a junior faculty member on the tenure clock. He argues that if blogging informs policy and scholarly debates, we should allow junior faculty to engage in the debate and put out their analyses and views and not just reserve the right for senior, tenured faculty members. Farley asks a really interesting question: Is there a distinction between blogging in a “political science department” and a more policy-oriented political science department? With Farley and Drezner at policy-oriented institutions, they may have more leeway from their departments to get out in the blogosphere and make an impact.

Farley also discussed the rifts that may emanate from being a blogger and patrolling the comments sections of blogs. It takes time to go through and fight back with commenters and other bloggers and is that really a good use for our time as academics?

He also wonders whether bloggers will be relevant five years from now and whether they may be replaced by some other social media in the years to come. It has become quite difficult to break through into the blogosphere, especially if you weren’t part of the first two waves of blogs.

Charli Carpenter is up next: Charli blogs at the Duck of Minerva and Lawyers, Guns and Money. Charli and Dan wrote an article that is under review on blogging and IR. I’ll find an ungated version of the paper and post it up. Charli brings up an interesting question: does the stature of the blogger matter and should we only be reading those well known blogs or should we be reading blogs that have high quality posts, regardless of whether the author has a fancy title and the CV to back up his online musings? She brought this up in the context of a blog on Somali Piracy that was written by an undergrad doing a study abroad research program and whether her blog should link to that blog in the blogroll, even though the author was a mere undergraduate.

Charli brought up Joe Nye’s op-ed in the WaPo on the irrelevance of academia and the need to re-connect IR scholars and policymakers. Dan wrote a response titled “Academia Strikes Back” and the debate raged on in the blogopshere for a pretty good amount of time.

She ended her talk with a question: Are blogs healthy and useful?

And Will is up next: He is going to focus his talk on the invisible college of the blogosphere and the intellectual community that blogs have created. He argues that he isn’t blogging to necessarily inform the debate and the policy community but rather to tie in academic theories of International Relations to practice and reality. He finds it a useful tool to judge and think through topics that he otherwise wouldn’t have time for. He also sees blogging as a way to write a little bit everyday which helps his academic writing.

Blogging also increases mentorship within the academy, especially if senior faculty take part in blogs with junior faculty and grad students. It also informs the students that we teach every day. Blogging is an extra tool within the classroom to connect students with theory and reality and has the potential to be very useful and informative.

He also argues that blog posts allow scholars to write a couple of paragraphs and get working ideas out there into the digital world and get immediate comments and criticisms and engage in a direct discussion with fellow bloggers. Will just threw out a couple of shout outs to Drew Conway over at ZIA and Emmanuel at IPE Zone! He also argues that blogging actually doesn’t take much time. Since we’re all reading all of the time anyway, it doesn’t take much time to write two to three paragraphs and post it up.

Joe Nye is up now: He blogs occasionally at the Huffington Post and reads blogs a couple of times a week. But he says that blogs have limitations and that although he reads blogs occasionally, he’d rather spend his time reading peer-review articles. What he loves about the blogosphere is the iteration after writing a post. You don’t really get that from writing an op-ed or an academic article. You may get a couple of emails, but an actual online real time discourse doesn’t really happen with an old school op-ed piece.

Nye argues that scholars should be spending their time on policy debates and blogging. But he is worried about the “cost of standards” in that blogs aren’t edited, don’t have fact-checkers and are hard to cite in a serious manner. Should we keep our blog writing separate from our scholarly writing?

It’s question and answer time!

Peter Feaver from Duke asks a question about norms and comments and also about how blogs can impact tenure decisions as well as any future political appointments and the possible need to refrain from putting your viewpoints on the web b/c they may damage future possibilities.

Stephanie Carvin who came to ISA from the UK and blogs at the DoM asked about how departmental blogging dynamics work. In the UK, they are encouraged to blog and they have a departmental blog where all of the academics write together. The dynamics are different in the UK from the US.

Nye calls for a certain amount of civility in the blogosphere and the need for decorum and a need to hold back from too much “snarkiness” in blog posts and discussions.

Drezner pushes back on the role of snarkiness and wit in blog posts and argues that both of those things are good, make our writing better and more interesting and draws readers. He also argued back on the senate confirmation process and the effect of blogging on future political careers. He finds that as a problem of the confirmation process and not of blogging. He said that the profession needs more humor and snark.

Farley agrees that snark, wit and humor are good things. He said that he uses a class blog when he teaches and he has his students adopt pseudonyms when they post on the blog so that they have the freedom to put up their views without it coming back to bite them in the rear in the future.

And Charli just played a funny Star Wars themed video on blogging. If I can get my hands on it (hopefully Charli can post it on YouTube), I’ll post it up. Charli also agrees that snarkness is a great tool to use, but there is a fine line between snark and stupidity and offensiveness. We need to stay on the right side of the line and also be respectful to fellow bloggers and commenters.

All of the panelists agree that we shouldn’t be engaging stupid comments. We should just ignore them and only engage those that are smart and relevant.

Drezner closes with the observation that not all blogs and bloggers need to adopt the same set of norms. The aims of blogs differ and imposing a unifying set of norms may actually detract from quality and the goals of their own blogs. Blogging provides a forum that people otherwise would not have and imposing a system of norms on all bloggers may block the entry of new bloggers into the blogosphere.

Walt closes on the need for academia to accept blogging. It should not be required, but it should definitely be accepted within political science departments and scholars should not be punished for blogging.

UPDATE - 1:56PM --> Here is the video that Dr. Carpenter played:


Drew Conway said...

Many thanks for the shout out, Will! Though, I am sure everyone but Charli was scratching their heads at the reference :-)

Wish I could have made it down to ISA this year, but I am sure we will have a chance to catch up in person soon.

Sarah Bauerle Danzman said...

Will officially inspired me to re-start blogging. we'll see if it sticks.

Kindred Winecoff said...

Drew -

As the only grad student on the panel I felt I had to represent. (I really like your stuff, btw.)


Please do! The place needs a woman's touch.

Alex and SBD informed me that I somehow neglected to mention Thomas by name. I intended to and feel bad that I didn't. Mea culpa.

Emmanuel said...

Alex--many thanks for the mention!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the shout out. For clarification, my comment was on 1) Can departments have successful blogs? My experience was that while we get along very well in my department, the blog was "inorganic" and it never really took off as a result.

The second question was about appropriate tone - or the delicate balance of academia and snark.

FAB panel. Certainly one of the most interesting so far - but then again, I haven't presented yet. ;-)


Alex Parets said...

Thanks for the clarification Stephanie. Hope the presentation went well today. It's always nice to meet another IR blogger.

Delayed Live-Blogging of the IR and Blogging Panel




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