In a blog (or, as he calls it an “article”) entitled “Professors, Start Your Blogs“, Dan Cohen argues that professors and other academics such as graduate students (whom he calls “professors-to-be) should start their own blogs for professional and scholarly use. In other words, Cohen is saying that professors and other “experts” should use blogs to share their knowledge about their particular subject of study with an audience.
Overall I agree with his claim that a blog (the term is a shortened version of weblog or web log) is a good way for academicians to share information about their academic interests and knowledge with an interested audience. Having a blog enables a person to post information that they want to share or that they feel readers want to (or even should) know. In some regards a blog has certain advantages for sharing information than more traditional academic platforms such as books or journals. Among other things a blog is relatively easily accessible, all a reader needs to do is type in the blog’s url or search for the blog’s name on Google or Bing or whatever search engine they prefer, rather than finding a book or article (or having to find the article in a scholarly database which requires a password). Another advantage that blogs have over journal articles or books is that they can be edited or updated by the author much more quickly and easily without having to print a whole new edition . Finally reading a blog is free for the reader which could make readers more willing to check out the blog and its contents, helping the author of the blog to attract more viewers (and giving the blog author a space to advertise any books that they write).
But perhaps the greatest advantage of a blog is that it allows readers to give immediate feedback and input. With a book or a journal readers would have to give feedback to the blog author by writing a letter or sending an e-mail (or in many cases by “getting around” to doing so, often figuring out that too much time has past and its not worth sending the letter or e-mail). When readers comment on a professor’s blog post this allows for a discussion between the blog author and the various leaders, much like a classroom. Not only can a professor use their blog to share their knowledge, they could also benefit from the comments, especially if some of these comments mention (or better yet link to) sources that could be of use to them in future research.
Considering the various benefits that blogging offer, It seems that the argument for professors using blogs is quite compelling. However, I do not share Cohen’s belief that blogging is part of a professor’s “duty as professors, experts, and public servants”. That statement seems a bit too strong for me. There may be some legitimate reasons while some professors may not want to blog.
A final thing that I like about Cohen’s article was how he responded to “biases” and misconceptions that some in academia have (or at least had when the article was written back in 2006). Cohen states quite cogently and concisely that “blogs are just like other forms of writings, such as books” (or in others blogs are just another form of writing). Like any other form of writing, it is possible to find blogs that have good academic value and blogs that don’t. Some blogs could be quite erudite and can contain a lot of useful information, while others may cover such mundane topics as a person’s preferred breakfast meals.