academic blogging

One idea I’ve been batting around is to make a blog on information theory — an academic blog where there is discussion and posts of interest to the IT community, reviews of books, papers, and so on. It lacks a vision now, and the more I think about it, the less useful it seems.

In areas like economics, cultural criticism, literary/media studies, and journalism, academic blogging has found a good niche. John Holbo at Crooked Timber has two good posts on literary studies, and Wally has his essays on seriality and narrative. The strongest selling point is that blogging allows a sort of public hearing on a draft of new ideas without the formality of a graduate seminar or conference. It can enhance dialogue, which is good when you are trying to work out new ideas. These blogs deal with issues of interpretation.

In my academic world, interpretation has a different meaning than it does in media studies. I am constantly in search of “a result” — some objective (assuming basic axioms) result, codified into a theorem. In this setting, “interpretation” is a question of providing a context for the result, a heuristic for understanding it, or some possible design implications.

A partially worked out idea holds no water in information theory. You can have some pretty graphs which may indicate something, but discussion of what those implications may be is far less important than finding a clean result.

I may have an opinion that some area of research is uninteresting or barking up the wrong tree, but there’s little gained in a dialogue with someone in which they tell you your research is boring.

I don’t know if it’s just that my area of engineering is not amenable to the usefulness that blogs can provide, or if I’m just being obtuse.

0 thoughts on “academic blogging

  1. *sigh* Long ago you promised me that if you ever linked to Wally’s blog, you’d use the phrase “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” since I have never found an appropriate way to use it in real life.

    (Hi, Wally… I know you’re reading this.)

  2. Seriously though:

    You’re right that some subjects lend themselves more readily to this or that ‘publishing’ forum. Much of the essence of blogging seems to be its very personal nature, and a personal stamp in engineering seems less (outwardly) desirable. Then again: can you imagine what Steve Wozniak would’ve done with a blog? If he’d had the time (and that’s a serious concern), it’d’ve been the bright center of the hobbyist universe.

    But a blog could ideally serve as a clearinghouse for ideas, both your own and others’, and the center of an intellectual community – a crossroads. In academia there’s a hell of a need for that as well. And certainly there’s some sharing of conceptual work to be done? Of directions for research?

    This is to say: you’re right this is a nontrivial question. But better to give a try at a new medium and find something other than what you wanted, than to write it off at the outset…

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