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if:book: aggregator academica

if:book: aggregator academica

Scott McLemee has made an interesting proposal for a scholarly aggregator site that would weave together material from academic blogs and university presses. Initially, this would resemble an enhanced academic blogroll, building on existing efforts such as those at Crooked Timber and Cliopatria, but McLemee envisions it eventually growing into a full-fledged discourse network, with book reviews, symposia, a specialized search engine, and a peer voting system à la Digg.

This all bears significant resemblance to some of the ideas that emerged from a small academic blogging symposium that the Institute held last November to brainstorm ways to leverage scholarly blogging, and to encourage more professors to step out of the confines of the academy into the role of public intellectual. Some of those ideas are set down here, on a blog we used for planning the meeting. Also take a look at John Holbo’s proposal for an academic blog collective, or co-op. Also note the various blog carnivals around the web, which practice a simple but effective form of community aggregation and review. One commenter on McLemee’s article points to a science blog aggregator site called Postgenomic, which offers a similar range of services, as well as providing useful meta-analysis of trends across the science blogosphere — i.e. what are the most discussed journal papers, news stories, and topics.

For any enterprise of this kind, where the goal is to pull together an enormous number of strands into a coherent whole, the role of the editor is crucial. Yet, at a time when self-publishing is the becoming the modus operandi for anyone who would seek to maintain a piece of intellectual turf in the network culture, the editor’s task is less to solicit or vet new work, and more to moderate the vast conversation that is already occurring — to listen to what the collective is saying, and also to draw connections that the collective, in their bloggers’ trenches, may have missed.

Since that November meeting, our thinking has broadened to include not just blogging, but all forms of academic publishing. On Monday, we’ll post an introduction to a project we’re cooking up for an online scholarly network in the field of media studies. Stay tuned.

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Filed under: academic, research

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