It should go without saying that blogging is an important and beneficial part of the academic landscape. The problem is that we still need to have these conversations. Some don’t see the benefits of blogging (the whole ISA debacle reinforces that idea), while others see this avenue as a distraction. In this piece, my first for RelationsInternational, I just want to highlight the benefits of blogging, which might not be obvious to some. I also want to encourage you to think about submitting to RelationsInternational if you are interested in speaking to the larger International Relations community and think you have the chops to blog (handy link here and above).
I have moved over to RelationsInternational because I want to build. The Duck of Minerva and Political Violence @ Glance have done a wonderful job of building up the blogging community in International Relations. Add to that E-IR, International Political Economy at North Carolina, Monkey Cage (and others) and we have a growing group of outlets. Yet, we always need more to some extent. It is important that diversity grows in the blogging community. Diversity increases positive outcomes. Expanding the range of voices and perspectives can only really be a positive development. To that end, our mission here will be to serve the community as a new strong voice that examines International issues in an academic manner.
The style of RelationsInternational will be diverse in perspective and background. Some of us are critical/normative, others are quantitative/positivist. I have never had an allegiance to one perspective or the other. It has always been true to me that whatever your perspective, what matters is the work you do and what your goals are. There is some bad qualitative work, and there are many bad pieces of quantitative work. Mediocrity has no methodological bias. Our goal is to expand what we know about the world.
Blogging is important because it expands our outreach efforts seeking to cross the nexus between academia and policy. The infamous Kristof op-ed in the New York Times went about making this point horribly, while the basic thrust of the idea still matters and always has. Engaging policy questions is an important part of our work in International Relations. To ignore this and not seek to translate our work to actionable ideas and handy summaries limits the audience of what we do and locks us in the Ivory tower. Blogging goes a long way towards bridging this gap and likely will increase in importance because of this fact. We can ignore blogging, say it detracts from our work, but the bottom line is when I apply for grants and seek to understand how I exchange the knowledge my work develops (knowledge exchange in UK academic speak), blogging is an important way of doing this.
Blogging is also important as a form of mentorship, to communicate ideas. This is an important task of RelationsInternational. Seeking to help others and impart knowledge, however limited that might be, is important. There are many forums to do this, but a lasting form such as this blog will hopefully be a critical part of the dialogue.
The last reason to consider blogging and its importance goes beyond communicating the nature of our ideas, but to seek the engagement and collaboration of our work as it develops. The piece I wrote on Digital Games and IR was one of my favorites, not because it was a nice piece on the nature of our field and research, but because it showed how much interest there might be in this strand of work and offered many suggestions and ideas. We have so many ideas on this project now, it is almost a full fledged book and grant proposal.
I have learned much from this blogging enterprise and I hope to learn more in the future. The critical question is not so much about what I gain, but what can you gain? What can you offer? There is an obvious role that blogging plays in the academic community. The question is will you be part of it?