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Best Academic Weblog?

It's been a couple of days, and I've got a big mental list of things I've been meaning to yammer about, but that stuff will have to wait. Today, across several of the lists I'm subscribed to, the following appeared:

As a step toward recognizing the valuable contributions that weblogs are making to our field, Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy will be offering an award for Best Academic Weblog. The award will be given to the weblog which best meets the following criteria. The weblog must:
  • Be at least six months old from the date of submission for consideration.
  • Be updated regularly (an average of at least once per week).
  • Actively engage other academic weblogs; in other words, the blogger must be a public intellectual.
  • Deal with the kind of issues addressed in Kairos and other journals in rhetoric and composition studies.

Jenny is getting a host of comments regarding her suggestion that we develop counter-awards, which sounds to me like a much more entertaining prospect--be sure to track her comments from today...

I'm sure that some of this ground is being covered on at least one of my lists, but digest mode requires me to reserve any contribution for tomorrow. My initial reaction, though, is a mix. On the one hand, I'm glad to see that, at least in terms of computers and writing, there's acknowledgment that weblogs fill a different space in the media ecology--in other words, there's a difference between Kairos's "webtext" award and this new one, and appropriately so. And I think that it's valuable to start recognizing some of the quality blogs in our field. On the other, I'd dread having to (a) actually read all the nominees (a minimum of weekly posts and 6 months worth of activity = an awful lot of textual ground to cover just to get a sense of a single blog), and (b) coming up with defensible criteria for what makes a weblog worthy of recognition in this fashion. This is not a new issue, by any means--any attempt to evaluate weblogs has run up against it. On the third hand, though, I suppose that the conversations that will inevitably result will be valuable. If indeed we are going to start acknowledging the academic and/or scholarly value of weblogs, then these conversations need to take place (pace Jeff).

That's it for the moment--I'm sure I'll have more when the digests come rolling in...


Yeah. The main idea behind this award was to help legitimize the knowledge making that is happening through weblogs. Great premise, but when Clancy and I were discussing criteria, we realized how difficult it is to define what makes a good academic weblog. So we ended up trying to contextualize it more inline with what we thought Kairos was about, what Kairos might choose to give an award for, just as with the Kairos webtext award (which, too, is problematic in terms of its criteria). So I will be interested in seeing where this takes our sense of what is an academic weblog.

Agreed, Charlie. I think it helps that the C&W community has been a lot more innovative in terms of developing means of recognition than our beloved parent organization, which still focuses primarily on traditional published forms.

And I think that this is a more productive path to take than, say, bemoaning the rigid categories by which our work is mis/un/recognized. Trying to get new media to fit into the old categories has always struck me as the quickest, most efficient strategy for draining the life out of them. If that means struggling with criteria (rather than lumping weblogs into the webtext award), then I'm all for it...