At Religion in American History, Edward J. Blum reflects on how blogging may influence a junior scholar’s career, for better or for worse, and raises several important questions that we have also been puzzling about here at The Immanent Frame. In his piece, he draws on his own experiences as well as anecdotal evidence, and lays out his reservations about the academic blogging enterprise:

Last summer, I was chatting with a collection of amazingly talented graduate students and newly minted PhDs in American religious history about the role of blogging. They all agreed that blogging was a godsend for those new to the profession, for it let them “be known.” Blogging offered an instant opportunity to present ideas, critique other works, and sound off publicly on any number of issues. Time and again, these brilliant scholars expressed their belief in the blogosphere: that it was the place to gain recognition.

I was worried. I wondered if the perils outweighed the possibilities. Paul Harvey’s American Religious History blog was created after I was finished with graduate school and had two monographs published. I was just at that moment becoming an associate professor and so “making a name for myself” had less immediate importance. I saw his blog and others as a place to promote and to play – not a place to stake a reputation.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about the academic turn to the blog, and my gravest concern is for junior scholars – knowing full well that by avoiding blogs, junior scholars may be missing out on many important opportunities. But here are my reservations and lessons:

A summary of his points are listed below:

1) Why would you give away for free the primary commodity you create?

2) Peer review matters.

3) Post-publication review matters.

4) Blog posts could hurt your reputation just as much (if not more) than help it.

5) Blogs often function like the current American media: extreme, partisan, and amnesiac.

6) Writing about [important issues, like religion in his case] flippantly or without review or without consideration can be extremely damaging.

Read the full essay here. For more discussion about many of these same issues, check out the SSRC’s report, “The new landscape of the religion blogosphere.” Although the report as a whole maps the religion blogosphere, section 2 places this field in the context of academic blogging in general. My previous here & there post, Web 2.0 & the pace of scientific debate, discusses one way in which The Immanent Frame has sought to respond to some of Blum’s concerns.