Bradley Wright’s Weblog: Scholar’s Prayer
Bradley is a Christian and a sociologist who does a lot of interesting reflections on Christianity from an often humorous sociological viewpoint. Today, he posted this prayer on his blog from Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of all medieval theologians. As a student and quasi-scholar, this is the kind of thing that I should definitely be praying. In fact, I think that all Christian scholars should be praying this:
You who are the true source of life and wisdom and the Principle on which everything depends, be so kind as to infuse in my obscure intelligence a ray of your splendor that may take away the darkness of sin and ignorance.
Grant me keenness of understanding, ability to remember, measure and easiness of learning, discernment of what I read, rich grace with words.
Grant me strength to begin well my studies; guide me along the path of my efforts; give them a happy ending.
You who are true God and true Man, Jesus my Savior, who lives and reigns forever.
I posted on academic blogging recently, and the conversation enlarged at a post on Scot McKnight’s blog. This discussion then spilled into a discussion in my history class today, which had some good thoughts raised. Here’s some thoughts that I’d like to collect from those sources and from my own thoughts as to the current state of academic blogging.
- Blogging is not currently regarded as a reliable source within academia (generally speaking)
- Blogging is one of the best sources for recent history (quick, highly responsive publishing)
- Blogging can be looked at as a primary source, much like other diaries, memos, etc.
- Blogging currently lacks conventions that would allow for us to easily ascertain reliability
- Blogging is not distinguishable from other Internet sources according to the major citation standards.
So, that’s things as they stand right now. What I’m interested in is the following question: what can blogging do to become more recognized as a reliable source? Many answers to the question will involve similar mechanisms to the print world (ie. editorial oversight, peer reviewing), but I’m not particularly interested in those, as they erode the unique characteristics of blogging.
So, I’ll venture a few answers to my own question and hopefully get some discussion happening. I’ll ask it again: what can blogging do to become more recognized as a reliable source?
- Include biographical details (preferably an “About” page). This helps to communicate to your readership the authority that you have on a given topic. This could include qualifications, credentials, experience, and other things pertinent to you knowing what the heck you’re talking about.
- Cite your sources. There’s simply no way around this. Contextualizing what you have to say within a larger body of knowledge is one of the fundamental laws of respectable scholarship. I would also suggest that bloggers try to cite as much print material as possible. This might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but print sources are at this point held to be more authoritative.
- Have a comment area. Not only that, but build a lively comment area where respectful dialogue, dispute and argument takes place over the content of the post. This type of commenting can be a way to expose your ideas to the (hopefully) the same kind of criticism that editorial oversight and peer-review systems accomplish.
So, once more, what can blogging do to become more recognized as a reliable source? (Feel free to disagree with me too!)
I had a great conversation with one of my professors after class today. (Of course, I have to say that because he might be reading this!) We talked about topics far and wide pertaining to the life of the Christian who wants to be a faithful intellectual.
As exciting a topic as that is, it’s not what I am particularly aiming at for this post. As our conversation meandered around (as good conversations do), we started talking about the issue of academics and blogging. There’s a ton of useful, relevant writing occurring on blogs, much of it by academics with excellent credentials. However, this is a new medium for the academic world (and really, the whole world), so how to handle blogs as valid sources—if indeed they can be valid sources—is a pressing topic in today’s world.
While I am certainly interested in what my readers think about this, I’m especially curious to know if anyone here knows of any useful articles, blogs, etc. that describe the issues here and the criteria for judging blogs to be useful. We’re actually going to talk about this in class next week, so any sources that can be used as a basis for this discussion would be greatly appreciated!
EDIT: I emailed Scot McKnight about this as I posted it, and he decided that it was a good enough topic to dedicate a post at his site to. There’s some good discussion happening there.