Friday, 30 May 2014

Presenting Legal Academia 2.0

Wednesday's symposium on the Nadon Reference was a great success. CPAC's cameras captured the event so it will be available online at some point if you weren't able to make it in person.

I presented my Legal Academia 2.0 thinkpiece. It went down well, though as I accept, the idea is emergent rather than dominant. Online academics remain a subset of the legal community and there is still (as I acknowledge in the paper) an important role for the old model and Legal Academia 1.0.

Randy Barnett posted some thoughtful comments on the paper on the Volokh Conspiracy last week:
There is one thought I would add to Professor Daly’s insightful observations that he might want to integrate into his flow charts. The best academic blogging consists of professors who are blogging about subjects within their scholarly expertise. In this way, Legal Academia 1.0 is related to Legal Academia 2.0.
Short form blogging that is based on the essence of long-form scholarship is completely different than opinion blogging, whether the opinion blogging is by an academic or nonacademic. Of course, it is challenging to blog in a way that is consistent with one’s long-form scholarship. But it is entirely possible to do so and is something I urge young scholars to try (after tenure). And I also have found that blogging has improved my academic writing as well. With some effort, even Tweeting can be informed by and consistent with one’s more complex academic expertise.
I believe this is why academic blogs — such as ours, Balkanization, or the Originalism Blog – that are an extension of the academic expertise of those who blog there, are worth reading for reasons other than the pleasures one gets from reading pure opinion blogging. And I think this is why we have the readership we have.
I think Professor Barnett is on the money, although I think non-tenured academics like me also have a lot to gain from online engagement. Writing regularly is important, and writing regularly for an audience helps keep one's prose clear and crisp, for otherwise readers will go elsewhere.

I tend to keep my observations within my field of expertise; and long-form blogging has helped me enormously in developing my ideas. My recent paper "Unreasonable Interpretations of Law" is a case in point. I decided last Fall that I would write an article on the subject and began to post fragments of my argument. Putting my thoughts down on paper was extremely useful, as was the process of responding to readers' observations and comments. In the old, unconnected world, the process would have been mostly internal and I would not have had access to the rich resources made available by the Internet.

Yet blogging also reminds me of the aphorism that life is best organized as a series of daring raids from a secure base. A blog is as good a place as any to give voice to innovative thoughts. Again, the process of writing and receiving feedback proves helpful, giving a good indication of whether I am treading too far from safe territory. An occasional retreat is a modest price to pay for testing the limits of my capabilities. 

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