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'An aphorism, properly stamped and molded, has not been "deciphered" when it has simply been read; rather one has then to begin its interpretation, for which is required an art of interpretation.' -- Nietzsche, 'On the Genealogy of Morals'

intellectual blogging « Previous | |Next »
January 24, 2007

I've always been puzzled by the big gap and antagonism between academics and bloggers. I make sense of the conflict as one of an inside and outside of the modernist liberal university, and many conservative academics blogs are deemed to be unscholarly, nay unsavoury, as they belong to trashy pop culture. This position, however, is undercut by the academic bloggers and their success in establishing debate and dialogue in civil society.

I understand the tensions as philosophical conversations started out with its foot in the academy in Adelaide. However, the daily post of the weblog was too alien for the academic research way of working. What this points is not a rejection of blogging but a need is to experiment with different ways of working and writing to that currently practised in academia (a monolithic series of texts) journalism (partisanship) and the little magazines (essays).

However, I fail to understand the distinction between between "academics who blog" and "academic blogs" that Acephalous insists upon, but I guess the distinction makes some sense within academia. Maybe the former write about academia as a workplace, whilst the latter write about their research interests?

I would have thought that what the intellectual orientated blogs have done is deepened the activity of public intellectuals, heightened the closure of academia and the failure of many academics to be public intellectuals, and showed how intellectual life in Australia is not confined to the liberal university. So the category intellectual blogs, introduced by Kugelmass Episodes, makes sense, as it transgresses both the conventional academic way of writing and thinking and the essay writing of the little print magazines that cluster around the universities.

This makes the university more porous in relation to civil society, and it offers another pathway out of the modernist liberal university to the hegemonic neo-liberal one. It can only help broaden and increase the vitality of our intellectual life in these deeply conservative times, with their return to positivism of the 1930s, a fundamentalist Enlightenment, and cultural conservatism.

From my perspective there is no need to add that "intellectual " to mean culture and politics, or code culture as literary, since public intellectual life ranges over those issues that people find interesting and of concern in their family life and in their activities in civil society. These concerns shift, are very diverse, and may well push the boundaries of what we understand culture and poltiics to be. There is a lot of diversity amongst intellectual blogs, and the terrain is constantly shifting. As N. Pepperell over at Rough Theory puts it, there is a need to be critical of academic tendency:

to overgeneralisation that has been so characteristic of analyses of blogging since its advent - blogging as revolutionary, blogging as detrimental, blogging as a fad, blogging as the new mainstream, etc. I guess my question is: why are we so tempted to generalise this medium? Does it need to be one thing? Do its mechanics really dictate a strong and pregiven trajectory for the realisation of its potentials? Do we need a consensus on where “we” are going, with our writing in this form?

There is little need for consensus at this point, since intellectual blogging is only at its emergent stage.

Academic blogs like have their roots in their research ---a PhD in this case---and then they develop connections from this base, though with some degree of anxiety. This anxiety is an expression from inside the university, and it relates to the unease therein about blogs and their connection to academic research and teaching. Outside the university there is no such anxiety. Here the concern is more about how small and incestuous the Australian blogosphere actually is.

In my own case the writing and content is a way of becoming familar with the philosophical material that I have not previously read. It is a shift from the Germans--- Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche , Heidegger, Adorno--to the French poststructuralists with Nietzsche as the link or bridge. The writing is a process of becoming familar in the sense of a trying to understand the concerns of the latter (with limited time to do so), to use one's philosophical skills to introduce new and interesting ideas into our intellectual culture and to question the strong “anti-theory” trend that has reacted to the academic reception of poststructuralism.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 05:04 AM | | Comments (2)


Thanks for this! I'm glad the term "intellectual blog" is proving useful to you, as it has so far to me.

I think you did characterize the distinction between academics who blog, and "academic bloggers," sufficiently well. To "academics who blog" I might also add those people who use blogs for social networks, for instance through LiveJournal, and those who are doing other kinds of writing (such as creative writing or technical blogs). They too feel pressure to "get serious" and start posting on their actual research.

Looking forward to reading more of your reflections.

So academics who blog use their blog for more personal or experimental stuff rather than contributing to the public discussion in civil society on issues in our intellectual culture.

It's the latter that I find impoverished in Australia. For instance we have two good online magazines --Borderland and Contretemps that publish quarterly. What is lacking is an ongoing discussion about the material amongst the intellecual blogs during the next few months.

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