I'd like to pull up a discussion from the comments on Alun Salt's recent post: A Blog Carnival / Journal Proposal: The Past Discussed Quarterly, because the comments bring out some really interesting issues concerning the matter of academic blogging. This is, to me, exciting stuff!
One issue under discussion is the matter of proper citation in blogs and how to transition the various modes of citation in a blog from links or other less formal methods to something more appropriate for the scholar publication of the PD(Q). I'd like to propose two ways of looking at the matter of citation that maybe get to bigger issues in academic use of the New Media.
Blog as Genre
One is to propose that blogs are by nature a more informal genre, and therefore do not require the same kind of scholarly apparatus that a proper article would have. Newspapers, non-scholarly books, and other genres regularly tread the fine line between fair use with proper attribution and intellectual irresponsibility. In fact, I might go so far as to argue that the relative dearth of citations in blogs is inherent in their very nature. By genre a blog is more like other forms of informal scholarly production. For example, even the most fastidious scholars might not include proper citations in an email, or a newsletter article, or a informally distributed copy of a public lecture. Thus, formal citation in a blog is good practice, but not an inherent component to the genre as it would be in a scholarly publication. In some ways the system of formal attribution is what makes a scholarly article, a scholarly article.
Blog as Medium
Another perspective would be to say that a blog is a medium (I think this is danah boyd’s point recently) and that what makes a blog a blog is that it has all the accoutrements of that medium – hypertext being among the most obvious. Many bloggers (myself included) use hypertext in mildly experimental ways that go beyond merely citation (which I am quite irregular about). Many of the hyperlinks in my blog are there to encouraging intertextual readings both within my blog and between my blog and other blogs, traditional media sources, and things like video, podcasts, et c. elsewhere on the World Wide Net Web. Stripping those things from a blog and putting them in footnotes is sort of like offering someone a cup of decaffeinated, clear, lukewarm “coffee”. And saying, "see what you are missing by not drinking coffee?"
The point of this is to beg for some clarity. If the goal of PD(Q) is to present in a different medium the genre of blogging, then we simply need to convert the text of the blog into the more formal medium of paper. This then begs the question of what is the value of blogging as a scholarly genre? I am not sure I’d be interested much in reading a less formal, less edited, less substantial kind of scholarly output especially as the great swells of unread scholarly articles continue to bear down on my fragile intellectual raft. That is to say, I am not sure that blogging as a genre is very compelling unless we begin to beef up the quality of a blog post into little “working papers”. In this case we are talking about doing something like what has been done over at the PSWPC site. Or we could define blog posts more rigorously by length (<1000 words) and produce a volume full of Archaeological Notes (somewhat like those called Project Notes on the Antiquity webpage). Perhaps including comments along with the post is exciting and transparent, and this is what the Valve has done to make their book events more interesting, but these were focused moments in the blogosphere that made use of blogging as medium rather than a genre of writing. They allowed for books to be discussed soon after their publication (see below: speed) and to capture scholarly opinion in its evolution.
As a medium, however, blogging remains quite exciting. The significance of blogging is that we have conversations like this that have flow between posts and comments in this blog, on other blogs, more formal scholarly publications, video, podcasts, the popular press. Reducing these links to footnotes strips a blog of what makes it so interesting. The best blogs, at least they sees to me, are liminal, interstitial spaces between other media, genres, and ideas.
It also has a speed. We can comment instantly and off the cuff – like a lunchtime conversation here at the American School – on a topic, recent article, review or lecture. A call for papers or conference notice can also use a blog page to generate contributions and interest.
Finally, many blogs are good because of their scholarly coherence. David Gill’s blogs, Looting Matters and the History of the British School at Athens are great examples of that. Any individual post from the blog is hardly as a meaningful as reading it regularly.
This post is not meant to be negative (I clearly owe Alun a beer sometime), but ask what seems to me to be the bigger questions, what is the goal of producing PD(Q)? What aspect of blogging do we want to bring to the attention of our non-blogging colleagues? Do we want to communicate the genre or the medium (or is the medium at some point really the message?). I think our discussion of citation, which to my mind foreshadows the much more difficult question of criteria for inclusion in PD(Q), is the tip of an interesting and important iceberg bearing down on practitioners of the New Media. As I am putting together material for my annual review, I myself find it easier to attempt to translate my blogging habit into something my more tradition-bound colleagues will understand (i.e. I got 40,000+ words over 12 months -- so whatchu got?), than sell them on the value and significance of participating in the medium itself.