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Citing the blogosphere

I also meant to mention that the same Peter Dula essay includes, in a bibliographic footnote about recent critiques of Hauerwas, a reference to Halden’s blog. He cites “the numerous conversations at Halden Doerge’s wonderful blog, ‘Inhabitatio Dei,'” and provides the URL to Halden’s whole Hauerwas category (p. 390, f. 51). Maybe they are more common than I think, but this is the first time I’ve seen a blog cited in a serious academic journal. And it was used exactly right, in my opinion: as evidence of increasing “conversations” about a particular theme or direction of thought. (Not that that’s the only way blogs could be usefully cited in an academic essay, but it does serve that purpose well.)

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  1. July 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I’m suspicious of this practice in general, and have objected to it in the past. One of my major concerns is how difficult it is to maintain this sort of citation. I’ve cited important ecumenical documents from their online versions, only to have the links become outdated… and we’re talking links to the official website of the Anglican Communion, not a personal blog or a small-time outfit. My concern is that if there is so much link rot in even these sorts of sources, we’re certain to make a mess of things by incorporating blogs too thoroughly in research references that are meant to establish a firm basis for the work of future scholars.

    But I do agree with you that of all citations, something like this seems to be exactly what blog citations should look like. It strikes me as similar to a paper crediting a description or an interesting idea to personal correspondence or conversation with a colleague… these acknowledgments are very useful even if we aren’t privy to the discussion being cited, and at a place like Halden’s blog (which is public and will likely be publicly available and stimulating for some time to come), the attribution is only that much more worthwhile.

    • July 19, 2010 at 6:01 pm

      I thought about that post of yours when I sat down to write this one, but decided to leave this as a quick mention rather than anything substantial. Suffice it to say I completely agree with you: link rot is an important, almost decisive reason not to cite blogs in the printed media. Even granting the instability of web resources, like you say, that kind of citation can at least serve as an equivalent to citing personal correspondence; but one wishes it could serve as something more public and more durable than that, something to actually fit the medium as it serves us in via. I’m waiting for the day when libraries start storing backups of certain a-listers, at least, and providing long-term access to them. The URLs still wouldn’t be identical, obviously, but then it’s not uncommon to have to look up newer printings of old books either.

      That wouldn’t really deal with the other major issue with blog citations, though, which is how easy it is to go back and change old records.

  2. Rod of Alexandria
    July 19, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Interesting how Halden’s blog (and blogs in general have) has become a theological authority. Sometimes there are just rants, other times there are full scaled critique. I guess it is up to the academy to decide how much authority to lend to blogging.

    • July 19, 2010 at 6:13 pm

      I’m not sure if I would say “theological authority.” I think we have yet to see a citation to the effect of “As Halden Doerge has shown conclusively on his blog…” But to my mind, Halden’s posts on Hauerwas and all the comments that accompany them are solid evidence of a mounting critique of his ecclesiology as overly static, overly foundational, and overly dependent on the modernity it rejects—and the existence of that kind of critique is exactly what Dula wanted to indicate in his footnote. Even simple rants, which are perfectly legitimate blog fodder but unfit for a scholarly journal, would count as evidence there.

      • Rod of Alexandria
        July 19, 2010 at 6:19 pm

        By theological authority, I meant as part of the academic canon in the field of theological studies.

        Indeed, Hauerwas’s ecclessiology is highly problematic, among others but it is not his only blind spot.

      • July 19, 2010 at 7:36 pm

        Ah, fair enough. (Incidentally, I wasn’t intending to endorse that critique of Hauerwas—just the use of Halden’s blog as evidence that that critique is on the rise.)

  3. July 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    I hadn’t seen this. As far as I know its the first time my blog, let alone an entire category therein has been cited in an article. Interesting. I’ll have to get that Dula essay.

    Those interested in this issue of MQR should definitely get the festschrift as well. The essays by Dula, Bader-Say, and Kelly Johnson are all really solid, among many others.

    • July 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm

      It’s quite a compliment! I haven’t read the festschrift yet myself, but hope to very soon…

  1. July 21, 2010 at 10:08 pm

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