Creating Intellectual community in the blogosphere

by Anna Blanch on August 18, 2009

I am a scholar blogger – what does that mean?

L.L Barkat recently included this quote in a comment on a post of hers at Highcalling.com “Ceremonies will use gesture and movement: processions, recessions, comings and goings, dance, hugs, kisses, handshakes, joined hands, clapping, plantings, harvestings, offertories, receivings, denials, blessings, burials, tears, laughter.” (Gertrud Nelson)

L.L was wondering how we create community virtually.

I have found that some of the best gestures of community in the blogosphere are the expressions of a genuine desire to engage – to encourage, to spur on…to question, to seek clarity. For me, some of the great encouragement i receive from highcalling and other members of my intellectual and spiritual community are when they have reached out to me – to engage, to comment, to cajole!

Is the way i write different because i am a scholar who is also a christian who writes on literature and theology? because i am a woman?
Resoundingly Yes. Of course, but it would be different again if any of those elements were different. My motivation would be different.

I think we do have to consider the boundaries of the medium – you may not have physical, side by side, presence – but the body exists in its engagement with the mind, and spirit….that you can be involved in a real time chat or voice over internet (especially using video) is as close to body as you can get without being in the same location. In fact, sometimes i think we think we are present when we are int he same room as someone when actually our minds and hearts are not really focused on being in the moment. Maybe we should think about intergrating more realtime engagement into our blogging lives?

Yet at the same time our online identities need to mesh with who we are the rest of the time – I often call friends (or ask them when i see them), to check in with them following things I have read online, I like the community writing projects, but sometimes those don’t fit within the scope of my blog. I think developing a sense of physical community can also take place in the midst of (not that i have had a chance to go yet…) things like GodBlogcon or Band of Bloggers events.
I like the community writing projects that i’ve come across on other blogs, but sometimes those don’t fit within the scope of my blog. For many Scholar-bloggers including myself blogging is not about a portable ivory tower (though there is plenty who do….) but rather an opportunity to escape, to reach out and communicate with a broader community. For example, George Reisch and Randall Auxier’s column Don’t Keep Your Philosophy Under Your (Mr.) Hat argues that “The point of philosophy going pop is not to exalt the ivory tower and herd people inside; it’s to give philosophers a chance to leave.”

Academia.edu: One attempt
A further relatively new adaptation of the social networking concept is being employed by academics in the form of http://www.academia.edu/. Set up like a family tree it is a visual depiction of universities and departments which is designed to enable communication based on common scholarly interests. It is pretty sparse and i’m not sure where it will go, but i wanted to share!

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Anna Blanch is the founder of Goannatree, She is also writing a PhD dissertation in Theology and Literature at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

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