Jason Sperb at Dr. Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope has written a review of an essay by Julia Lesage in Jump Cut about web 2.0 tools for film and media scholarship (especially social bookmarking and blogging.) I left a comment there, so click over if you want more thoughts on that.

Chris Cagle (whose own blog is Category D) has responded in a separate post at Dr. Mabuse with some thoughts about blogs, including a taxonomy of the functions of academic film blogs: 1. Scholarship; 2. Popularization; 3. Heterodoxy; 4. Film Culture. Scholarship refers to blogging that is basically the promotion of traditional work, or that takes its form. Popularization presents scholarly work to a non-expert audience. Heterodoxy uses blogging as a way of exploring scholarly concerns that don't find a place within established institutions of scholarly discourse. And film culture engages with cinema on lay terms, i.e., on the same terms as non-scholarly blogs.

I would add another kind of taxonomy: in general blogs combine two features, prose and links. As prose, blogs can take the form or reviews, polemics, expository writing, etc. Scholarly blogs can adopt the prose style of scholarly These forms can include links, but blogs can also function in a way that makes the links the main event. Blogs function as filters when a blogger makes a habit of scanning news, blogs, calls for papers, viral videos, whatever, and blogs the ones he or she finds interesting. Some people find this stuff more useful than others (I can't get enough of it), but just about all bloggers do it sometimes. I see filtering as potentially scholarly (calls for papers) and potentially "film culture" (passing along news items) and often a cross between the two, especially when one studies such things as viral videos and the contemporary media industries. (You might think of this entry as filtering since its main purpose is to point out a pair of blog posts elsewhere.)

In addition to these categories, I think it's useful to see the function of blogging in terms of what it offers us that other forms of publishing do not. Scholarly blogs do several things better than journals, conference presentations, and books:
  • they respond to current events as they happen and follow no schedule but the blogger's
  • they have the potential to speak in a more authentic, spontaneous voice
  • they allow for the cultivation of an individual's persona and allow for the reader to follow that persona day by day
  • they are networked to other writers by hyperlink
  • they have comments and links that allow for instant reader feedback
  • they are not subject to any formal process of editing or review
  • they are available to anyone who is interested for free
As scholarship or conversation or filtering or personal journal, blogs by academics have the possibility to do things that traditional publishing can't do. But one thing that really excites me about blogging is that it can bridge the gap between scholarly and popular writing. As it happens, people who study media professionally and people who write about it professionally or just for kicks have many common interests. Blogs allow us to explore them together, and this has the potential to extend media scholarship beyond the often insular world of academia and assert its relevance. It also allows the scholar to write in a less formal style, and it's fair to say that scholarly writing stands to benefit from this.

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