Monday, January 11, 2016

How Far We Have Come

It was only two years ago that the ISA leadership was calling blogging "inherently unprofessional" and now we have a feature about the Monkey Cage and other blogs that demonstrate that poli sci blogging is not just accepted and appreciated but giving policy-makers and wider audiences better access to political scientists and giving political scientists wider audiences.

To be fair, the ISA mess was handled quickly as it became clear that the stated view was that of a minority of folks.  The battle to legitimate blogging was already won by that point, but some dead-enders were not aware of that.  We have many to thank for being the early adapted and early promoters--the Monkey Cage folks, Dan Drezner, Marc Lynch, Dan Nexon, Laura Sjoberg and many others.  I came to blogging relatively late--2009--when it was clearly becoming normal, so I don't really have a good grasp of what the first adopters went through.

All I do know is that there is a great thirst for better informed understandings of political stuff as the internet has become the normal way in which people seek to access not just news but insight about the world around them.  The various blogs, including those with which I am associated (Duck of Minerva, Political Violence at a Glance, OpenCanada), have become sources for Vox, Slate, Washington Post, and others who are looking for digestible bits of knowledge.  Journalists, policy-makers and politicians do not have the time or the expertise to plum the depths of academic journals.  They can read the shorter takes presented at the various blogs, as the Chronicle piece attests. 

And, as this quite suggests, the poli sci blogs can be a useful corrective to weak journalism:
If poli-sci blogs have helped inform reporters, says Jeffrey Smith, a former Missouri state senator who now teaches in the Public Engagement program of the New School, they’ve also forced them to up their game, providing "a check on some of the excesses of political journalists," including misinterpreting and relying too much on polls, and failing to provide context for the news.
The only quibbles I have with this piece are, of course, about the "advantages" econ has over poli sci. 
But over all, "political science still lags far behind economics" and has "fewer stars, less unified method," and is "less closely connected to business and money." All of that is "hard to overcome."
These are disadvantages?  Nay, they are strengths.  Econ may have greater legitimacy in policy circles, but I prefer to be in a field with multiple perspectives and methods, as no single method can get at every question.  And, no, being disconnected from business and money is a good thing, not bad.  Well, business.  More money would be nice, but blogging and other forms of online media are relatively cheap.  So, we are not that much at a disadvantage and we are less likely to pay attention to our paymasters.

It might be too much to say we are in a golden age of poli sci blogging, but perhaps not.  I am just glad I got on the train as it was speeding up.  The ride has been amazing, taking me to places that I would have never expected, both in terms of making me think harder about stuff and in terms of engaging with people I never would have. 

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