Tuesday, June 24, 2003

On responsibility and academic blogging

Language like that used in yesterday's post makes perfect sense to me, but I suspect others may find it as incomprehensible as I do hardcore quantum physics. And it makes me think about the role of a research weblog.

Is it my responsibility to "translate" work in my field so that every potential reader may understand it? If I don't, am I guilty, as Abe says in his comments to this post, of "intellectual balkanization"?

By creating a definition of "virtual" that relies on the latest in literary theory you dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the word as a means of *communication*. Your virtual just isn't going to get understood by most people, including many academics. Of course the word is never going to mean exactly the same thing to anyone, but it'd pretty nice if there was at least a common understanding. One that might help lessen the bounds between disciplines and create a more energized interplay of ideas...

First of all, I don't agree with his characterisation of my research in terms of the "latest in literary theory". In fact, part of me was put off by the implication that my work is somehow intellectually fickle or weak. But since I don't want to get stuck on defending myself, let's move on to this question: how does common understanding happen without common effort?

In other words, where does my responsibility end and the responsibility of the reader begin?

Is it feckless of me to suggest that a reader might try to learn some of my language, just as I attempt to understand what they mean by certain words?

Is it careless of me to say that there is a large body of peer reviewed literature on these subjects, and I would be happy to point interested people to sources that might answer their questions, and make myself available for further conversation?

Is it reckless of me to request that readers ask questions before they decide my words are meaningless?

The people that I know of who read this weblog comes from incredibly diverse backgrounds, but presumably they still find something interesting to read or think about, and believe it or not, some have even called my thoughts and writing lucid ...

But what do you think about all of this?


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