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Today A/Professor Luke Nottage and I gave a staff seminar looking at the whys and wherefores of blogging and academic networking sites. We extract below a summary of our conversation on these topics during the seminar.

“Blawgers Unite – New IT for legal teaching, research and outreach”
Luke Nottage & Tim Stephens

Staff Seminar at the Sydney Law School
Thursday 5 March 2009

1.From 20 years ago: websites (mostly one-way)

a. Baum and Nottage, Annotated Selective Bibliography of Japanese Business Law in Western Languages (Rothman 1998)

i. Inspired by Richard Susskind The Future of Law – hyperlexia & need for ‘legal info engineers’ (see also www.susskind.com)

ii. Marketed/updated through simple website at Kyushu Uni

iii. Although with clever “web counter” -> pattern analysis in Aust J of Asian Law (1999)

iv. Links etc still at www.law.usyd.edu.au/~luken/japaneselawlinks.html, but now updated/folded into AsianLII

2. From 10 years ago: blogs (more two-way)

a. “Blawgs” now huge in quantity and quality

i. Generally eg http://www.blawg.com/ (1347 active blogs, 100+ posts today) or http://abajournal.com/blawgs/

ii. Eg http://volokh.com/ (constitutional lawyer at UCLA, et al)

b. Closer to home: Kim “Weatherall’s Law” re IP (http://weatherall.blogspot.com/ until Jan 07, but now again at multi-author www.lawfont.com )

c. http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/timstephens/ (since Dec ’06)

d. http://eastasiaforum.org/author/lukenottage/ (since mid-’08, multi-author), overlapping (de facto since ’09) with http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/japaneselaw/ (less “high policy”, and/or longer versions – eg review of Epstein’s book on whaling)

i. 2008 posts to EAF updated/edited into: Nottage, Luke R., “Economics, Politics, Public Policy and Law in Japan, Australasia and the Pacific: Corporate Governance, Financial Crisis, and Consumer Product Safety in 2008 “ (November 3, 2008) Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/134 at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1295064 (88 / 354 downloads) = 26 Ritsumeikan Law Review (March 2009)

ii. More recent posts for teaching (eg “Alcohol and Law” x2)

3. Now: social and academic networking websites

a.www.facebook.com (for the young/at-heart)

i. Sydney Law School (official, student groups – one with 286 students, MIntTax students - 25)

ii. Luke Nottage

iii. ANJeL Inc Alumni (17 ex-mooters)

iv. Kyoto or Tokyo Seminars in Japanese Law (already 12)

1. Rits has also uploaded an interactive slideshow at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuG3xv8eV6k

b. www.linkedin.com (for professionals)

i. KARA (Kansai Attorneys Registered Abroad)

c. www.academia.edu (for academics!)

i. http://usyd.academia.edu/ -> Law (4)

iii. Vivienne Bath, Beth Goldblatt, http://usyd.academia.edu/LukeNottage

iv. http://usyd.academia.edu/TimStephens

4. The Future?


*************************

Blawgers Unite – New IT for Legal Teaching, Research and Outreach

Faculty of Law

Staff Seminar, Thursday 5 March 2009

‘Weblogs (Blogs) and Blawgs – I Blawg Therefore I Am?’
Tim Stephens

Blogging and Blawging 101

A blog is a website maintained by an individual with regular commentary, descriptions of events or other material. Note blog can be used as a noun and a verb – 'I have a blog and like to blog'. Term coined in 1990s to describe a web based diary through which bloggers would keep a running account of their personal lives.

Subsequently blogosphere has increased dramatically in terms of number of bloggers and the type or genre of blog out there. For instance the blog search engine Technorati (there are many others besides) tracks around 110 million active blogs. Tend to be quite ephemeral – some mainstays, but often bloggers move on and blogs disappear. Hence becoming ‘dotsam’ and ‘netsam’. Increasing tendency for blogs to be interconnected, and part of social networks through blogrolls and links to sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Academia and so on.

Signal feature of blogging is that as it has morphed from a diary to commentary it has challenged the mainstream media in terms of reporting, analysis and opinion. This has caught many media organisations off guard – one of the best cases in point being Fairfax. While the SMH and The Age have a blogroll, fair to say these haven’t really captured the public imagination. By contrast other newspaper blogs have been more successful – e.g. George Monbiot’s columns in The Guardian which maintains a blogroll. Monbiot’s postings appear also on his own site – www.monbiot.com. And The Guardian has also been posting Monbiot video blogs as he interviews key political and business figures on climate change policy.

Blogs outside news organisations have become remarkably influential, particularly technology, business and politics blogs. Some have been profitable, some not. A form of new media that speaks directly from the author to the audience and has challenged mainstream print and electronic media. Newspapers, magazines have sought to defend their relevance in this context by arguing that they have more authority. Neil Andrew (not to be confused with the Australian Andrew Neil, the liberal speaker of the House of Representatives some years back), publisher of The Spectator magazine, launched in Australia a fortnight ago, argues that while some newspapers and magazines are dying there is a place for the good ones – efficient, and able to work with web based content to reinforce and complement the print versions. According to Neil: ‘the web has made us very content and information rich, but we can still be knowledge poor, we don't know what to trust.’ The Spectator, he says, is champagne for the brain. By this measure academic blawgs would be Grange Hermitage.

Accepting the argument for the moment that blogs are increasingly used but are not taken them too seriously – and that readers prefer the authority of the major mastheads – this leads nicely to a discussion of academic blogs. Academic blogs uniquely equipped to combine immediacy of this media and authority to the extent that academic bloggers draw on their research in their blogging. A great opportunity to disseminate research, both preliminary and more considered, to a wide audience. A number of very popular academic blogs in Australia. One I am familiar with is run by an alumnus of this law school, and now Professor of Economics at ANU, Andrew Leigh. He describes his blog as an account of new ideas on economics, politics and events from an antipodean perspective. He sometimes blogs on law, and has on his blogroll several blawgs. Range of blawgs out there that I use (mainly International Law Reporter which is an example of an information aggregation blog highlighting important recent developments in cases, treaty and the literature). Our former colleague was an early and very prolific blogger (Kim Weatherall’s weatherall’s law: IP in the Land of OZ and More). See also Skepticlawyer (three bloggers here – including Helen Dale who just completed her BCL at Oxford). A blog which combines legal commentary with more general writings is Mirko Bagaric’s Moral Dilemma.

Reasons I blog: (1) To maintain diary of important developments, principally in international environmental law. Blogging can be quite a productive process in so far as it involves a process of analysing and recording recent developments. Sometimes I will include little analysis and will instead simply aggregate freely available material. (2) To broadcast my research a little more broadly – when I publish an article, give a conference paper etc tend to blog on this. Often little additional commentary. Some helpful results – leads to queries from other academics, and also from media.

How do set up blog? Set up my blog through the University in late 2006 (which now hosts 26 blogs). I post from time to time. Blogs dot Usyd is intended for blogs that support University staff research & other projects. The service is for public blogging about academic work, research and for collaboration, not for direct use in teaching (for instance students can access the blogs, but cannot create a post). Blogging for teaching purposes should be done through the eLearning system.

Social and Academic Networking Sites

A puzzling phenomenon to all of us over thirty. We don’t quite get Facebook, Twitter and so on. Jokes that it substitutes an antisocial method of social networking with direct socialising and interaction. Why meet in person when you can meet on line?

Facebook embraced not only by all of our students, President Obama, KevinRudd and Malcolm Turnbull, but also by many academics. I’ve resisted. But the Law School hasn’t – there is a Facebook page. So far the Law School hasn’t taken the next step into cyberspace and built a virtual new law building in Second Life.
Some research to suggest that social networking sites not all bad at all – Kathleen Richardson, an anthropologist at Cambridge, is looking at the way in which social networking technologies help us to keep track of the multitude of people we encounter in our lives. She draws on the work of Alvin Toffler who argued in his famous 1970 book Future Shock that modern humans meet in the course of a week more than someone in a feudal society would meet in a lifetime, and the modern or modular person, Toffler called us, would have many quite shallow relationships with colleagues. Richardson argues that ‘rather than this being the result of social networking technologies, social networking technology allows us to better manage this change by providing a way to keep track of the multitude of people in our lives…Facebook is best understood as a British Library of your personal relationships. Like archives of other kinds, parts are accessed and viewed, while the bulk remains unused. But the potential – to rekindle old relationships or ties – remains.’ (Kathleen Richardson, ‘Over (net)worked’, Cambridge Alumni Magazine, No 56, Lent Term 2009, p 17).

There is now a Facebook for academics – Academia.edu – which provides an excellent interface for highlighting your research program and collaborating with colleagues. An easy process to post work in progress and seek comments. Academia.edu also has a feature which alerts you to searches for you on Google, which besides being interesting sheds some light on the nature of your profile on the internet. Some institutions (such as the University of Cambridge) automatically place all academic staff on Academia.edu, but leave it to staff to add details on their profile and publications. This is a surprisingly easy thing to do.

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