Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Academic Blogging and Mixtapes

In response to the ISA controversyMarc Lynch compares hip hop and mixtapes to academic blogging, an unlikely sort of endeavor that ultimately works. Here are two notable paragraphs

That's what academic bloggers have been doing for the last decade: ignoring hierarchies and traditional venues and instead hustling on our own terms. Instead of lamenting over the absence of an outlet for academics to publish high-quality work, we wrote blogs on the things we cared about and created venues like the Middle East Channel and the Monkey Cage. Academic blogs and new primarily online publications rapidly evolved into a dense, noisy, and highly competitive ecosystem where established scholars, rising young stars, and diverse voices battled and collaborated.
Blogs and other online publications should be seen as the equivalent of the mixtapes in the hip-hop world.Mixtapes emerged in hip-hop, far more than in most other musical genres, as a way for rising artists to gain attention, build a fan base, display their talents, and battle their rivals. Sometimes they would be sold at shows or on websites, but more often they would be given away for free on the Internet. Mixtapes would often feature tracks that weren't quite ready for prime time or were recorded over somebody else's beat, but demonstrated the quality and originality of the artist's vision.

This is a nice way of thinking about blogging because it captures both the nature of blogs and the periodic establishment reaction to them.

It is amazing to think about how slowly academia moves. I've been blogging for eight years, which is a pretty long time, but still I was very late to the game. Academic blogging goes back a long way, yet too many professors still view it as some newfangled and potentially dangerous activity. I've long since taken for granted what blogging is all about, which makes it easy to forget that there are plenty of others who feel it's a threat, or a waste of time, or an exercise in insulting others.

Instead, like a mixed tape, you put things in exactly the way you want them, communicating exactly as you want, which makes your own research that much more enjoyable. It's rough and people can get annoyed by it--even criticize it--but it's all yours, and you can put more polished work in other, more traditional, venues.


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