From the Cathedral to the Bazaar

I chose the title of my first post from a series of academic blogs written by Mark Carrigan  that I have been reading over the past semester in preparation for my Digital Humanities final project. In his post, Carrigan quotes Professor Daniel Little of the University of Michigan on his views of how academic blogging has shifted scholarly publishing from ” intermittent, private productions of one off works” to iterative, dialogical forums. The full quote reads as such:

 Perhaps it’s time to move from ‘the Cathedral to the Bazaar’. These metaphors from the open-source software movement refer to contrasting models of [academic] development. In academic terms we might see them as referring to distinct orientations towards publishing: one which works towards the intermittent, largely private, production of one-off works (papers and monographs → cathedrals) and the other which proceeds in an iterative and dialogical fashion, with a range of shorter-term outputs (blog posts, tweets, online articles, podcasts, storified conversations etc) standing in a dynamic and productive relationship with larger-scale traditional publishing projects: the ‘cathedrals’ can be something we build through dialogues, within communities of practice, structured around reciprocal engagement with publications on social media platforms.

When I found this quote for the first time I was relieved to realize that over the course of the last five years, there have been huge strides made in the transition to what Little refers to as the new forms of open source publishing. I use the time frame of five years, as it is personally significant; in 2009 I began my undergrad journey. I still vividly remember some of my very first professors lecturing us on the dangers of online based research and publishing. They would all (or mostly all) espouse that the internet was little better than a cesspool of uneducated opinions represented by quasi professional websites. Five years later I end my undergrad career studying Digital Humanities, which at its core promotes the sort of open access global community that half a decade earlier was so railed against. The idea of academic blogging stood out to me as I began researching a final project for my Digital Humanities course at the University of Lethbridge, as it embodied the spirit of what I thought Digital Humanities to be; a shift from the Cathedrals of journalistic methods of publishing to the Bazaars of global academic dialogue.

Returning to Carrigans blog again, he says: “What I found particularly interesting in Little’s [description of academic blogs] is that he describes himself as an ‘open-source philosopher’. The integration of the blog into his working practices, such that it constitutes the starting point for traditional scholarship rather than something in opposition to it, is something which deeply resonates with me from the opposite end of the career spectrum.”

I believe that Carrigan and Little are both making compelling arguments for how in this case form  (blogging), is crucial for the development of content (academic discourse and development):

 The past six years have demonstrated to me the broad and expanding opportunity the Web and social media provide for scholars and thinkers. It is possible to reach readers throughout the world whom we would never have reached in the past through traditional journal and book publication. And I have found the medium to be a great stimulus for research creativity as well. I’ve written on topics that never would have come up for me in a more traditional research strategy, and these topics have broadened me as a philosopher and thinker. And I’ve formed new academic relationships through the blog and associated social media….

– Social media such as blogs represent an incredible opportunity for scholars to engage in discourse beyond the walls of academia. As I ponder graduate studies, the idea of blogging sprang to my mind when deciding what some of the most influential movements in Digital Humanities would be moving forward. Originally, I wanted to talk about how social medias such as Twitter, Facebook, Blogger (etc) were impacting scholarly pedagogy, though I realized that the scope of such a topic would be far too large for what I wanted to accomplish here. So instead I chose to focus on blogging, and will integrate some of the talk of other social medias around it as a central hub.

My inspiration for the study of academic blogs can in part be attributed to some of the form and content discussions in our early Digital Humanities classes. Another source that I would attribute significance to has been the idea of the Unessay: the deconstruction of formal academic writing into a style which favours content over form. Through this the idea of meta-blogging ( blogging about blogs) took form. In the context of Digital Humanities, I began asking myself how formal scholarly discourse has, and will continue to, evolve in the wake of what Saloman Kahn has dubbed the digital revolution.

As I delve further into this topic I will begin looking at some of the most salient topics in regards to academic blogging that I have discovered through the process of reading these blogs. For myself, I am most interested in watching a movement away from formal publishing venues ( most notably Journals), as to allow for academic discourse to evolve effectively. As these blogs develop I will focus on a handful of subjects that I think are useful for considering when engaging with the concept of scholarly blogging, such as integration with other technological platforms, creating digital personalities, and learning how to use blogs as a means of exploring and incubating new academic discourse.

To close, I want to leave you with another quote from Little’s blog ( which, for the record, if you haven’t heard of yet you should take a second to read). Above all else, I think he perfectly sums up why blogs are invaluable to Digital Humanities.

– The blog has also given me a chance to write about topics I’ve long cared about, but haven’t had a professional venue for writing about. These include things like the reality of race in the United States; the lineaments of power that determine so many of the features of contemporary life; and the nuts and bolts of education and equality in our country. And along the way of researching and writing about some of these topics, I’ve come to have a better and more detailed understanding of them. Not many philosophers have such a wide opportunity to write on a variety of topics beyond the confines of their sub-disciplines.


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