When I teach Ethos to my composition classrooms I always ask my students for examples of people, publications or things with strong ethos, and people, publications, or things with a weak ethos. Blogs are always brought up as examples of a publication that possesses a weak ethos. From there we unpack that statement and eventually determine that blogs gain their ethos from the authors that write them. For example, Dr. Peter Cochran’s blog, which is almost universally respected as a great resource for those studying Lord Byron, possesses a strong ethos as it is written by a great scholar on Lord Byron. In contrast, the blog written by kittykat92834784391234897234891 probably isn’t the most reliable source regardless of the quality of content they produce.
With this in mind, I wonder where we fall on the blogging credibility scale. I’m sure it varies widely even within this class. Would the third year PhD candidate’s blog be more credible than my being a second year MA credentials? Probably. Would either of our blogs be accepted as a resource in a college research paper as a reliable source? Probably not. If our blogs are not considered a reliable academic source what worth do they hold in the realms of “facilitating academic collaboration, teaching and public engagement”? The people Tim Hitchcock uses as examples already have academic credibility. They have that strong ethos I talk about in my classroom, and would then do a much better job at “facilitating academic collaboration…” etc.
Seth Godwin might argue that our credibility or our readership is not what is important, but I can’t buy into that completely. Maybe I could justify blogging about my research as practice for when I do have the credibility. At the moment, however, it seems that I would need to publish my work for it to be viewed as legitimate, and I think legitimacy is needed to accomplish Hitchcock’s goals.
If you are already a well respected scholar, I think that publishing work openly is awesome. It’s academic work in an easy to view, easy to read format that is comfortable for people who are not academics. Personally, I’ve benefited greatly from blogs such as Peter Cochran’s, and even been able to share posts with people who would never actually read a scholarly article I sent their way.