Legal Scholarship & the New Media

Legal scholarship is an important context for legal informatics. Indeed, the legal scholarly communications system is an elaborate and significant legal information system. That system is being changed by the new Internet media, though the nature and extent of that change are the subjects of debate and research.

In response to an interesting discussion on the LIBLICENSE listserv of Prof. Wardrip-Fruin’s Blog-Based Peer Review: Four Surprises and discussion of that article on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog, and particularly the question of whether the new Internet media are having any substantial effect on scholarship, I wrote the following, which may be of interest to legal informaticists:

I think that one significant change in scholarly work flow [as noted by Anthony Watkinson] is the dissemination of scholarly ideas and resources through informal genres such as preprints and preprint services (such as RePEc [& SSRN]), microblogs (like Twitter), blogs, listservs, social network tools like Mendeley, certain datasets, and podcasts, which allow for informal peer review and peer commentary throughout the entire lifecycle of a scholarly project. Often these communications express scholarly ideas at a much earlier stage in the scholarly work process than previously enabled by colloquia and conference papers.

Further, because the audience for these new media is much greater than the audience for traditional media, scholars using the new media can receive much more input much earlier in the scholarly process. The new media thus enable the integration of “crowdsourcing” into the scholarly process in many disciplines.

Relatedly, the new media and communications networks make possible long-distance collaboration as never before, and permit an in-progress scholarly project to incorporate new ideas and new personnel (e.g., to morph from a one-person, two-concept, single-disciplinary project, to a four-person, seven-concept, multi-disciplinary project) in a very short time, again in a manner not possible using traditional media.

Moreover, often the dissemination of ideas in these new media becomes an end in itself: for example, many an influential scholarly blog post never leads to a formally published scholarly work. Finally, in recognition of the scholarly value of these informal new media communications, there are efforts in many disciplines[, including law,] to grant faculty credit towards tenure or post-tenure review for work disseminated via these new media.

For perspectives from the legal community, see, e.g., Stephanie L. Plotin, Legal Scholarship, Electronic Publishing, and Open Access: Transformation or Steadfast Stagnation?, 101 LAW LIBR. J. 31 (2009), also available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1350138; J. Robert Brown, Jr., Of Empires, Independents, and Captives: Law Blogging, Law Scholarship, and Law School Rankings (Univ. of Denver Sturm Coll. of Law Legal Research Paper Series No. 08-04, 2008), text available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1094806, appx. available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1096606; Paul Horwitz, “Evaluate Me!”: Conflicted Thoughts on Gatekeeping in Legal Scholarship’s New Age, CONNtemplations, May 2007, available at http://www.conntemplations.org/index.php?entry=entry070503-120000, preprint available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=982401; Jan Ryan Novak & Leslie A. Pardo, The Evolving Nature of Faculty Publications, 26 LEGAL REFERENCE SERVICES Q. 209 (2007) (Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Research Paper No. 07-134, 2007), available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=961879; J. Robert Brown, Jr., Blogs, Law School Rankings, and “The Race to the Bottom” (Univ. of Denver Sturm Coll. of Law Legal Research Paper Series No. 07-33, 2007), available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1003425; Nancy Levit, Scholarship Advice for New Law Professors in the Electronic Age, 16 WIDENER L.J. 947 (2007), preprint available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=939007; Jack M. Balkin, Online Legal Scholarship: The Medium and the Message, 116 YALE L.J. POCKET PART 20 (2006), available at http://j.mp/b7ySGt; James G. Milles, Redefining Open Access for the Legal Information Market, 98 LAW LIBR. J. 619, 635 (2006), also available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=940789; Lawrence B. Solum, Download It While It’s Hot: Open Access and Legal Scholarship, 10 LEWIS & CLARK L. REV. 841, 860–61 (2006), also available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=957237; Symposium, Bloggership: How Blogs Are Transforming Legal Scholarship, 84 WASH. U.L. REV. No. 2 (2006), also available at http://lawreview.wustl.edu/inprint/84-5/.

[This post was last updated 11 June 2010.]

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