Patrick Dunleavy will give our 5th seminar in our NetworkED: technology in education series on 6th June 2012. His talk is entitled “The Republic of Blogs – a new phase in the development, democratization, critique and application of knowledge”.
He has given us a rough sketch of what he is going to be talking about, and from that I think we are in for an end of term treat. Essentially, Patrick will offer a provocative prognosis of the future of academic research, arguing that we are shifting it beyond the closed networks of traditional, institutional academics. Instead, we are seeing an opening up of debates, allowing access to a much larger public. And access here means not only access to view or read the debates/ research proceedings, but access to shaping them, by moving them onto blogs and allowing the online community to respond, without an outmoded or tribal insistence on academic credentials.
Patrick has been emphatic on the importance of this for a while. Earlier this year, he discussed the importance of blogging for academic researchers on the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog, insisting that “social scientists have an obligation to society to contribute their observations to the wider world” – but at the moment this is being done in almost resentful manner, which is somewhat unfair, if not immoral, if you consider that “the public pay for all our research, and then we shunt back to them a few press releases and a lot of out-of-date academic junk.” Patrick will continue to develop this point, giving it a historical perspective. He suggests that the current shift towards a “Republic of Blogs” mirrors the emergence of a “Republic of Letters” which heralded the age of Enlightenment. And where in that past event it was the dominance of Scholasticism that suffered its decline, this time Patrick predicts the demise of orthodox journals. The parallel makes sense: scholasticism was slow to adapt or even react to new scientific and technological innovations. Perhaps it could not, because it was inherently closed off to new ways of thinking. Traditional academic publishing too is failing to respond to our current paradigm shift, especially the rise of social media: technologies that enable easy, almost instant communication and information exchange. They allow participants to sidestep the slow, restrictive traditional publishing process. Though I am and always will be skeptical about technologies, and even more so suspicious about predictions about a rosy future due to technological revolutions, for some reason Patrick’s analysis of what is to come makes me happy. Because even if it won’t turn out as wondrously democratic as we would wish in the future, at least we can agree that the current academic publishing model will soon be on its last legs.

As ever, the event is open to LSE staff and students and we will also live stream it. Visit our CLT networkED Seminar Series page for more information, to view the live stream on the appointed time or to book online.