Is Thoughtful Blog Conversation Possible?

Reasonable Minds might want to ponder the question posed by Alan Jacobs in an article posted on Christianity Today.com, here: are blogs the friend of information but the enemy of thought? Here is how Jacobs describes the problems afflicting “the intellectual and moral environments of the blogs. There is no privacy: all conversations are utterly public. The arrogant, the ignorant, and the bullheaded constantly threaten to drown out the saintly, and for that matter the merely knowledgeable, or at least overwhelm them with sheer numbers. And the architecture of the blog … with its constant emphasis on novelty, militates against leisurely conversations. It is no insult to the recent, but already cherished institution of the blogosphere to say that blogs cannot do everything well. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought.”

I have to confess I think Jacobs is on to something important. There are a number of blogs I look at regularly precisely to get information related to my teaching and scholarship: e.g., scotusblog, religion clause, how appealing. I think real conversation via the blog format, is difficult. It can, for example, be very hard to convey important nuance and distinctions, or to engage in sustainable exchange that moves toward some sort of shared understanding. In practice, provocative and confrontational posts often pass one another in cyberspace like ships in the night. Jacobs’ article poses a useful challenge to a blog like Reasonable Minds, which hopes to do something different.

(Thanks to Rick Garnett, a Notre Dame law professor, for posting Jacobs’ article on Mirror of Justice, where some interesting, sustained, and thoughtful conversations have actually taken place.)

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