Monday, August 07, 2006

Meta-Blawgging



(What is Meta-Blogging? Find Out Here.)


Now that Ian Best has graduated from Ohio State Univeristy Law School, I refuse to refer to him as "3L Epiphany"---let us all celebrate Ian for graduating and obtaining his degree of Juris Doctor, and let us all congratulate him for taking the Ohio bar!

As a 3L "blogging for credit," Ian was called "wildly ambitious"--I sort of agree with that assessment, but think that it doesn't capture the incredible utilty of Ian's project (nor the chutzpah of putting people on or off "the list"). To create a "Taxony of Blogs" is not just wildly ambitious--it's incredibly useful and, well, awesome. Not only does Ian's project showcase the vastness of the "blawgosphere," but it also brings order and hierarchy to madness. If not for projects such as this (and Crooked Timber's roundup of academic blogs) it would be difficult for the general population (or even the law student population) to know about all the different types of legal blogs--ranging from the academic to the professional to the personal. And while I have great love for deconstruction and other anti-hierarchical theories, well, I really appreciate Ian's categorizing the blogs by type (and thus, authority). I may read the personal blogs with interest (because mine is one such blog, sort of), but I now know where to go to get more specialized, authoritative analysis by law professors or judges. I have no illusions about my own (current) lack of authority, so much as I like blogging a bit about anti-discrimination law or federalism, it is good to know that there is such a utility as Ian's blog to find the more authoritative blogs on subjects ranging from immigration law to crimnal law.

I am to be included on the soon-to-be-updated taxonomy, but under what, I don't know. It is nice to be included though. I know I was ambivalent on this point before, to the extent of declaring "no, this is not a blawg," but I found myself wanting to be one. I was pretty happy to learn that Ian, upon reconsideratin, considered my "blawggish blog" to be sufficiently legal for for the taxonomy. (Note to law folk: "Sufficiently Legal" is a great name for a blog) I didn't want to be just another disgrunted graduate student blogger (not that they are not my natural kin folk)--I wanted to be a disgruntled graduate law/yer student blogger. And Ian's taxonomy--notwithstanding my original ambivalence about being included, and my eventual realization that if I am indeed an aspiring law professor I should write about legal things (and damn the insecurity of my as yet uncredentialed scholarly "authority)--has greatly shaped the scope of this blog. I found myself wanting to write more about the law and less about the personal (or, as a compromise, how the personal has informed the path through legal academia, but not to the ridiculous extremes as if I were some college freshman who had just learned that the "personal is the political.")

Thus, scared as I originally was putting my incipient, unshaped ideas out there, I'm glad I have. I'm glad I've tried my hand at blogging, very generally, about anti-discrimination law, feminism, federalism, and employment discrimination. I'm excited to try even more "serious" blogging about social organization theory. As this blog takes off in new directions, it offers me even greater rewards---personal friends, quasi-networking contacts, and the experience of putting my intellectual content out there and getting some useful feedback on it. Random law professors write me to tell me how much they like my blog. Some even write to say that I should tell them when I go on the market, "because we need more people like you." (I hope they remember me in 2009 or 2010, because that's probably when I'll go on the market.) I don't think my real-world alter ego would have such personal contacts with established law professors (who even volunteer to write letters of rec should I ever need them) or the opportunity to present at a colloquia this Fall without the efforts of my link-happy, verbose pseudonymous self. That is another utility in a hierarchical taxonomy--peverse as it is for a former deconstructionist to say this, being left out of the system makes you want to join it. And once you do, you realize how being in the system is not so bad. It's sometimes even great! It is not the spoon that bends. It is your mind.

To further demonstrate the growth in authority and importance of the blawgosphere, Ian has just updated his list of legal blogs that have been cited by court cases. There are 32 citations from 27 cases.

It is interesting to consider just how big the legal blogosphere (I can't keep up the "blawg" thing, it is just too ridiculous) is growing. A few years ago, there were very few legal blogs--now there are hundreds. The number of law professors blogging, according to the last census by Dan Solove, is 235. Law blogs aren't just read by lawyers, law students, or law professors--for some reason, the general public is also interested in what we write. Pretty cool.

It is interesting to consider the legal blogosphere, because there has been so much debate about the importance of blogging what with Glenn Reynold's rather hyperbolic love-fest, "An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths" and the response by the mainstream media (and other press critics) to Reynolds, Jay Rosen, and Jeff Jarvis. (Great article by Nicholas Lemann in Aug. 7 & 14 New Yorker) It's all a bunch of inflated rhetoric on both sides. On the one hand, I don't like a lot of the "MSM" for its obsessive focus on dead white women (Note to Greta: Natalee Holloway is dead. Deal with it.) and it does often drop the ball on a lot of stories. But that's not to say that I trust "citizen journalists" more than the MSM. If I read political blogs, they are often by former journalists--Josh Marshall, or Kevin Drum. I generally avoid excessively partisan blogs (of either persuasion), so I don't read them much anyway. I read a lot of MSM, except for certain special focus sites (academic blogs, feminist blogs, of course, law blogs). So in the debate over the communitarian"authority" of the citzen journalist blogosphere compared to "biased" or ignorant MSM--it's all a straw man debate. One side sets up the other as the epitome of ______, making all sorts of fallacious arguments about the other, and wayyy too exaggerated and inflated statements about its own importance.

Is that the case with the legal blogosphere? Notwithstanding the general debate about whether blogging is good or bad for untenured profs (not even being on the market yet, I'm just avoiding future googability while trying to do a bit of networking when opportunities present themselves), I think the legal blogosphere, particularly by legal academics, lawyers, and judges, is in good standing. As Ian's list demonstrates, the legal blogosphere is becoming more important and yes, authoritative. Law reviews are supposedly "the" standard in the legal academic profession. But because they're almost all student-run affairs of varying quality and prestige, it would be silly for the non-blogging (or anti-blogging) law professoriate to claim that that particular medium is the only authoritative source for legal analysis.

Moreover, as the legal academy is becoming more interdisciplinary, there is no such thing as a single authority on anything. Some "law and ____" scholars submit to peer-reviewed journals or selective academic presses. The imprimatur of authority of judicial citations is nothing to scoff at. I'm sure every legal academic dreams of judicial citations (not that they don't appreciate the self-referencing quid pro quo of law review citation). I'm not saying that judicial citations represent the apex of authority, and nor am I arguing that such citations automatically confer authority to the entire legal blogosphere. (Read Ann Bartow's take-down of Glenn Reynolds.) But I am saying that there is, or at least there should be, less of a schism between the more "traditional" legal academy (MTLA) and the new "public intellectual" legal academy (PILA). It is good to discover that in the act of writing to a larger audience, there can also be a deeper impact It is good to discover that being a "public intellectual" does not diminish "serious" scholarly authority. It is good that one need can write for two types of audiences and have two types of impacts that do not mutually exclude one another.

Perhaps what I've just written is a sort of Reynoldsesque hyperbolic love fest. Chalk it up to me being excited about presenting at my first law prof colloquia, even though I'm not yet a law professor myself--due in no small part to this blog. I'm not saying I'm a David and the legal academy is the Goliath (remember, I'm the Yentl) , but I do feel a bit like a party crasher. So if there is any mobility up Ian's hierarchical taxonomy, it is due in some part to the fluidity and accessibility of this medium. Anyone, even a fool like me, can blog. But not everyone can get published in a high-ranked law review or peer-reviewed journal or get cited by a court. I haven't yet achieved those imprimaturs of authority---but the positive feedback by "real law profs" and being considered serious enough to present at a conference is pretty neat. But I do not intend to "beat" the MTLA, I just want to join it. And that's the difference between me and Glenn Reynolds. Remember, Yentl only wanted to join the talmudic school, not abolish the system. And I am, as you know, The Vietnamese Yentl.

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