Next week in Portland, I’ll be on a panel with Jonathan Kvanvig, Gillian Russell, and Brian Weatherson, with the title as above. Since Brian has already said something about what he’ll say, I figured I’ll post a bit as well, especially to elicit more suggestions.
I figured, since I’m still in graduate school, and therefore know less about the profession at large than the other panelists, I’ll mainly talk about blogging per se. (Most of the data below I gathered by using the list of blogs that Dave Chalmers maintains.)
When I began graduate school, only 6 of the blogs currently on Chalmers’ list existed, and half of them were non-philosophy oriented. Projecting current trends, by the time I graduate there will almost certainly be over 200, with over 150 on philosophical topics.
There have been some changes in the pattern of blog creation – in the first two years, there were only 6 or so blogs (out of 25) that focus on a particular topic (Will Wilkinson, Brian Weatherson, Greg Restall, Wo Schwartz, Clark Goble, and Jeremy Pierce – to the extent that BW and WS can be said to be topical), and more than half of the blogs were primarily non-philosophical. But in early ’04, a few more topical blogs were formed, and there was a burst in May/June ’04 as 17 topical blogs (and four others) were formed. This brought the total of all blogs from 38 to 59, with almost half of them topical.
Interestingly enough, the second half of 2004 had about the same rate of blog creation as the period before May/June, and was again about equally split between philosophical and non-philosophical blogs, mostly non-topically focused. However, in 2005, the pace of blog creation picked up (with another burst in January, that included my blog) and has tended to be more topically focused.
Interestingly, the topics have grown more specialized. Whereas blogs from before May ’04 that I counted as “topical” often talked about general language/epistemology/metaphysics/mind topics, some more recent ones have focused on philosophy of “real mathematics”, science ethics, and contextualism in epistemology.
Another interesting development has been the rise of group blogs. The first group blogs in philosophy appear to be the grad student blogs at Rochester, Brown, Syracuse, and Arizona as part of the burst in April and May of ’04, followed in June by topical group blogs on free will, religion, epistemology, experimental philosophy, ethics, art, and biology.
It’s interesting to compare the development of blogging in philosophy with that in other academic disciplines. In physics, the major blogs I glanced at mostly seemed to get started in ’04 and ’05, a bit later than in philosophy (though John Baez has been posting This Week’s Finds in Mathematical Physics since 1993!), while the major linguistics blogs seemed to get started around ’02 and ’03, just as in philosophy. I know less about where to look in other academic disciplines, but maybe Brian can use some of his connections at Crooked Timber (established in July ’03) to find out more about the history of blogging in other academic disciplines.
I’ve certainly found it quite interesting glancing through all these different blogs to find out when they were started; whether they focus on a particular topic, are about general philosophy, or primarily non-philosophical topics; and who writes them. The main philosophical benefits I’ve gotten (besides some quite useful comments on ideas I post!) are running into people at conferences who already have some idea of what I work on, and starting up e-mail conversations with people about my interests. I don’t think anything I’ve first written in a blog post has (yet) ended up in a larger paper, but some of it probably will before too terribly long.
Anyway, if other people have thoughts, I’d be glad to hear them (and possibly share them next week, if you can’t make it to the discussion in Portland yourself!)