Are Blogging Scholars a Step Forward?


Making use of a father’s prerogative, I write once again to tout the podcast The Stories We Tell Our Robots, hosted by my businessman son Darien Bates and my English professor son Tobias Wilson-Bates. In their most recent episode (#17), they use the story of Scheherazade to explore “tech paternalism” or “techsplaining.” Apparently computer engineers selling apps often use apocalyptic language (they “boil the oceans,” in business parlance) to persuade the public (as in, “The world will fall apart if you don’t buy the latest one”).

I write here, however, about whether internet platforms such as blogs have been good or bad for scholars disseminating their ideas (episode #16) As Darien interviewed me about Better Living through Beowulf, I figured you all would be interested.

Positively, blogging scholars can reach wide audiences and can do so quickly. Negatively, blogs do not undergo the rigorous vetting process that academic scholarship undergoes.

In my interview, I expressed my gratitude for the hard work undertaken by scholars, which I make use of daily. In the podcast, I said that scholars that become bloggers are like reporters that become pundits: they make use of their hard-earned expertise but may no longer be involved in the hard work of tracking down leads and cross-checking sources.

Although I didn’t mention it at the time, I could also have said that bloggers are like popularizers, people who use their communication skills to share the intricate interpretations (in the case of literary scholarship) with a wider public.

Darien and Toby end each of their podcasts with a “utopia or apocalypse” grade. I gave academic blogging a 7, deducting points for the lack of rigor. Tobias, a young scholar building his resume, awarded a 5 while Darien, one of the readers that the blog aims to reach, gave an 8.

Check out their podcast, which is filled with humor and wit as well as intelligence. You can even meet one of my daughters-in-law, who has a fascinating take on Black Panther (episode #10).

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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