Monday, August 21, 2006

On the Problem of Blogs

As anybody reading this knows, currently blogs are everywhere. They have become one of the 'new media' of our time. People use blogs to express themselves and find others with similar proclivities. Is a democratisation of voices a good thing? Naturally, one is inclined to say 'yes'. The question I wish to ask though is about potential downsides.

In the blogosphere, there is no quality control or qualifications required. This is part of their liberating potential. However, what if a person posses as one thing, but is in fact another, even if they do it honestly? Then it seems highly likely that problems could arise. Imagine a high school student who claims to be a qualified medically trained person handing out advice to people with serious illnesses. One can imagine that the results would be bad. Similarly, a person posing as a psychology professional could mislead their readers in a serious and harmful way, with bad advice.

The reason for raising these questions though concerns a less extreme case. There is a blog I have followed for a while that gives out advice on academic matters. For instance, one recurring theme concerns the nature of scholarship. The person presents themselves as a professor, which indeed they are. There is a big 'however' here though. This is not a good professor. As this is someone I know in real life, what I say here will be guarded. The facts are all accurate though. This is a person who teaches at a third rate State school. Their last real publication was in 1999 (they claim a later one, but it never appeared in print). They got sacked from one job, were denied tenure at another and when eventually tenured at their current location, were denied promotion from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor. To me at least, this seems like a weak record. Real academics publish. This one does not.

I am not certain that the advice that this blogger gives out is necessarily bad. However, if you were a young professor, would you take advice from such a person? I would think not. Fortunately, it appear that this blogger is read by few real academics. However, it makes one think. Do you, dear reader, know whether I am qualified to talk about philosophical matters? As it happens, I am. I have a pretty successful career. The point here is that it seems like the whole blogosphere should have a 'pinch of salt required' warning label on it, that it lacks. I think that this is a problem. So, remember when exploring the blog domain, be critical and be skeptical. As Shakespeare said "...all that glistereth is not gold."

The CP


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The entire internet is a hive of information, which everyone should be wary of. It needs respect. A lot of the information you will find is purely subjective opinion. Flakey unreliable crap talk. If you can understand that then just flow with it. Just like the junk mail or the editorials of a newspapers you don't have to look at it.

1:32 AM  
Blogger ToastedSuzy said...

In my experience, real "academics" with publications and tenure can be pretty stupid too.

Just thought I'd point that out.

I pose as a friggin' genius on my blog, but in real life, I'm just a little above average.


ps. Also, I'm a man.

2:10 PM  

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