Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Yes, within the past twenty-four hours I've managed to post more than I have since mid-October of last year. Now back to Jeff Jarvis...

I've been thinking more about this whole issue of "scoops" versus collaborative effort, precisely because although I'm by no means a journalist it's a problem I've wrestled with myself as someone who works in and out of professional academia. There have been many times when I've felt I had to contain my blogging enthusiasm when working on a particular research project, especially when my work is directed in part by others. I think this may be a generational thing, since whereas I figure that by posting about what I'm working on I can draw additional sources out of the woodwork that I never would have found on my own some of the people I work with positively freak out when they find out I've been blogging about my research (even in the most general of terms).

I guess this is where I have to agree with Jeff -- as far as the "scoop" is concerned, I think it's a terribly overrated commodity in not just journalism but most other intellectual endeavors. Being first is still important in the scholarly fields, which hasn't quite surrendered the old mantra of "Publish or Perish", but in the grand scheme of things isn't the humanistic enterprise better served if things are done thoroughly and thoughtfully, rather than as quickly as possible so as to beat out potential competitors? I am delighted when someone reading my blog sends me an email and turns me onto a lead in my research that seemingly comes out of left field. While I'll admit that it is tempting to regard my work as some sort of proprietary information that depends on me and me alone for its deeper meaning, I know that I am at best just one piece of the puzzle, and that in order to make sense of even the simplest of problems I'll need the help of my peers and the extended community of amateurs and professionals alike to lend their wisdom and expertise.

But at the same time what I have to say matters, precisely because I'm going to bring something to the table that is entirely mine. The Internet would be a useless invention if people didn't keep their individual genius, as six billion times zero is still zero. You can't aggregate crap and pretend that it will magically become more useful than the voices of dedicated professionals, although what the 'net and in particular the blogosphere has done is expand the definition of what it means to be an authoritative voice by "professionalizing" the wider circle of amateurs. I think this is what Jarvis is getting at, in which case I couldn't agree with him more.

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