Has “Google” changed us? Can’t say yet.

By | February 24, 2014

This week, a tweet from Jim Groom led me to Sue Fernsebner’s blog on digital scholarship and got me thinking. What exactly is digital scholarship? I hadn’t yet started reading this week’s articles. Once I did, they pushed me to ask the question even harder. And no, I don’t have any answers – just more questions.

First, what exactly is digital scholarship in International Relations? A number of my colleagues at other institutions are writing blogs. Others are tweeting interesting articles and other material that I can use for research. I am still excited about twitter and am finding material to use in my research or in my course on gender next year that I may not have found on my own. But given the pressure of writing blogs often and writing quickly (in order to get noticed), what is the value of those pieces? It could, perhaps, serve the same function as the more traditional op-ed piece did in the past. But collectively, do these posts add up to new knowledge? How do we judge that? Equally important for academia, in general: how do we measure and evaluate such scholarship for tenure, promotion and such?

Second, Google brings up my class blog on Indian foreign policy as its sixth/seventh entry when one types “Indian foreign policy blog” on the search engine. The entries are written by my students, who are being introduced to the topic probably for the first time in their lives. That said, they are capable of asking good questions. Already, in class, I have highlighted some of their comments for use in my own writing – the comments forced me to think harder. But as a body of work, what do they contribute to the broader discussion on Indian foreign policy? And indeed, Google put that above a lot of sites that I would go to in order to listen to experts. What does that say about this debate on “post-theory” scholarship?

That is all for now. Perhaps, I’ll have time for a follow-up – I have more questions.

4 thoughts on “Has “Google” changed us? Can’t say yet.

  1. Courtney Clayton

    I enjoyed reading your entry this week. How interesting to hear that the search in Google brought up your students’ class blog. On the one hand, it is exciting to think that the work is “out there”, being discovered and read by others, which is part of the goal of getting students to want to engage in material. However, as you said, experts in the field will, perhaps, be left out of the debate if they (and we) cannot keep up with the data deluge (to borrow a newly-read term).
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Jim Groom

    I wonder if there isn’t some value to sharing the thinking process rather than understanding blogging as another deadline to meet. How you arrive at certain ideas, and where your various thinking processes take you as an academic seems to be an invaluable part of digital scholarship. Mapping it onto traditional ideas of publishing and the same expectations of polished, peer-reviewed writing isn;t very fair. Moving towards digital scholarship suggest that collaboration and sharing ideas is far more valuable than approaching them as if they’re developing in isolation.

  3. admin Post author

    Agreed, Jim. But I am a little unsure as to how best to do it. I understand that this what we are trying to think through. For those of us who were told in grad school that single-author books and articles were the only things that “really” counted towards recognition, tenure and promotion, this will require a paradigm shift. I think I will go back to to some of the suggestions from the reading materials from week five and see how/whether I can incorporate some of those ideas, build on what is already out there.

  4. Jim Groom

    I was thinking about this idea after I commented, and another thing blogging has given me personally is a certain amount of rpessure to write regularly. Not with the idea that it would be perfect, but that I would just write. The habit has helped me archive my thinking, while at the same time connect with a network of folks thinking through similar ideas as well. The combination has worked very well for me, but as with all things your mileage may vary.


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