Sunday, September 09, 2007
I’m discussing MLA style with my graduate students the week after next, a subject that never fails to generate
polite yawns passionate enthusiam from all concerned, and, by a circuitous route, this led me to thinking about blogs. Specifically, what happens when our article or book project incorporates material we’ve discussed on our blog, or at least says something which vaguely resembles (or more than vaguely resembles) something we’ve previously written on our blog. After all, one common argument in favor of academic blogs is that they allow us to wax eloquent (possibly) about our work-in-progress. To my knowledge, there are as yet no rules for defining what, in the context of later print publication, a blog post is.
1) Treat the blog as, in effect, a public working draft?
2) As a conference paper?
3) As a previous publication?
In the first instance, it wouldn’t be necessary to mention the previous appearance of your idea/concept/paragraph, much as one wouldn’t mention the (obvious) existence of a working draft--not necessarily even one circulated to a reading group (depending on a journal’s house style, as some don’t allow courtesy acknowledgments). The second instance commonly calls for some sort of footnote, briefly noting that such-and-such developed from a conference paper delivered at X. (But again, that doesn’t always happen.) In the third instance, you would have to go the whole hog and include formal permission from the previous publisher; in the case of a blog, obviously, that model wouldn’t quite function.
What think you? Or, if you’ve actually developed scholarly work from a blog post or posts, how have you gone about acknowledging it?
Holy mother of God, you mean we might have to document everything we’ve said previously on our blogs? I suppose this, more than anything else, might cause people to shy away from academic blogging.
Well, ideally, the answer to that question is “no.” As this is not an ideal world, though, and the Moses of academia has yet to bring down the appropriate commandments, I’m wondering if any protocol has emerged yet.
Think of it as claiming priority for your idea, however worthy it might be. You can’t claim priority on the basis of documents no one but you can verify. But if you’ve put it out there, in some fashion, where others can read it, then you can use that document to claim priority.
I may well be publishing a book of essays that includes a blog entry I wrote for the Moretti book event. I’ll treat it as a previous publication, as it is.
Where there’s a specific, identifiable blog entry that bears a close relationship to a more formal piece, I acknowledge the entry as a prior working draft. If we’re just talking about concepts that have been workshopped here and there on the blog, I’ll generally acknowledge this by including some kind of thank you to the folks who helped me refine the original concepts, and mention the blogs where these discussions took place.
I politely pretend that my blog doesn’t exist. This is the attitude I think the academy should take generally, if such isn’t already the case.
The problem with that—as Miriam points out—is that if someone Googles a passage from your book and lands (unknowingly) upon your blog, there’s no way to connect the printed word to the digital. Charges of plagiarism could follow. Or, and perhaps worse, the rumor mill could churn, &c.
That’s why I write as little as possible on my blog, remain anonymous, and discourage people from visiting it.
Nevertheless, I take your point, Scott (and Miriam).