Monday, July 24, 2006

Brad DeLong on the Joys of the Academy & The New Blog Academy

Okay, so maybe I've been too hard on the Academy recently. Reading Brad DeLong's love letter to the institution where he works softens my hard heart:

I walk out my door and look around: at the offices of professors who know more about topics like the history of the international monetary system or the evolution of income distribution than any other human beings alive, and at graduate students hanging out in the lounge. It's a brilliant intellectual community, this little slice of the world that is our visible college. You run into people in the hall and the lounge, and you learn interesting things. Paradise. For an academic, at least.
Then, he talks about desiring a bigger audience and how he has one through the internet. He says:
Over the past three years, with the arrival of Web logging, I have been able to add such people to those I bump into — in a virtual sense — every week. My invisible college is paradise squared, for an academic at least.
And then he describes why he enjoys blogging:

Plus, Web logging is an excellent procrastination tool. Don't feel like grading? Don't feel like writing that ad hoc committee report or completing the revisions demanded by clueless referee X? Write on your Web log and get the warm glow of having accomplished something.

Plus, every legitimate economist who has worked in government has left swearing to do everything possible to raise the level of debate and to communicate with a mass audience rather than merely an ivory-tower audience. That is true of those on the right as well as the left. Web logging is a promising way to do that.

Plus, there is the hope that someday, somehow, all of this will develop in a way to provide useful tools for teaching or marketing one's books, or something — that Web logging is a lottery ticket to something in the future, unknown but good.

"Write on your Weblog and get the warm glow of having accomplished something," he says. I can't tell you how true that rings for me. Have you wanted, as an educated person at home changing diapers, cleaning the high-chair, teaching how to "carry the one" in math, just wanted to accomplish something? Blogging does that for me. If I write one sad little post and a few of you have read it, I feel like my ideas have reached, and hopefully, helped someone.

Blogging connects me to really smart people, people I'd love to have over for dinner, if I only had the time and they lived closer. Blogging connects me to their ideas. I think better thoughts, ponder deeper and more complex problems because of blogging. An ill-considered position gets corrected immediately or my idea is deservedly maligned. That's fair, isn't it? With commenting, there is no New York Times Editorial review board to sift through opinions and deem what is worthy/fit to print. Blogging is more egalitarian. Some would say more plebian. Naturally, I disagree.

Blogging is like live theater. The feedback is immediate and personal. You know if people agree or disagree. I'm still surprised that my post on Ayn Rand stirred so much controversy. Who knew she was such a beloved religious figure? Talking politics has surprised me further. Europeans who think my writing is polemic twaddle have written me and told me so. How great is that? Friends and family lurk and read and surprise me sometimes with opinions about my opinions. And then there is the rest of you who remain silent watchers. The mystery of people reading anonymously is fascinating, too.

So, Brad, has helped me lighten up (some) on the academy and reminded me why I love the Blogging medium. It's just plain fun (and not just for academics.)

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