Friday, October 01, 2004

A Plug for the Carnival

Richard of Philosophy, et cetera sent me an email (I think it was a form email, but that's ok) suggesting that I mention the Philosopher's Carnival here. I'm not sure what good it will do, as I don't get many visitors, and those I do get are likely to already know about it, but I'm going to do it anyway. I like Richard's blog, and he's going out of his way to publicize the Carnival. He clearly thinks it's an important project, as this post indicates. Personally, I have a mixed opinion about these compilation blogs. I'm not exactly sure what their purpose is, and therefore how successful they can be. The Tangled Bank, which seems to be getting a lot of attention, is interesting, but so far I haven't been blown away by the posts. PZ Myers of Pharyngula has had some very educational submissions, which is no surprised, but most of the others haven't really floated my boat, if you know what I mean.

The first two Carnivals have been a mixed bag too, in my opinion. I really liked some of the posts (this one and this one in particular), and Siris' presentation of the second Carnival was fun. Still, I'm ambivalent about the role of this sort of project, and blogs in general, in scholarly exchange. It's been my impression, at least from my own field, that people who are working on particular topics know what's going on with others who are working on the same topics, from conferences, emails, the literature (especially through reviewing papers - does anyone read articles in journals anymore?), etc. I'm not sure what blogs can add to that. What they may do is allow people like me, who aren't experts in a field (e.g., analytic philosophy, the primary focus of the Carnival), to be exposed to some summaries of interesting work going on in that field. However, group blogs already serve that purpose fairly well, so the compilations might be superfluous.

Anyway, it's probably too early in the life-cycle of the Carnival to speculate about what it can be. The best way to discover the role of new mediums like this is to participate in them, and then sit back and watch where they go. So, I hope everyone's going to visit the next Carnival, due up on October 4. I know I'll be checking it out, and maybe I'll find something that inspires me.


Brandon said...

"What they may do is allow people like me, who aren't experts in a field (e.g., analytic philosophy, the primary focus of the Carnival), to be exposed to some summaries of interesting work going on in that field. However, group blogs already serve that purpose fairly well, so the compilations might be superfluous."

I tend to agree; my own view is that Carnivals are a somewhat fun part of blogging itself, but not much more. One of the things I was hoping to do when Siris hosted the Carnival was to encourage more non-analytic philosophy blogs to contribute, to stir up a more diverse philosophical presence in the blogosphere. I didn't want to end up being the only history-of-philosophy person ever submitting anything (particularly since the HoP work I post on my blog is all rather minor); and there are several continental philosophy blogs that perhaps deserve more traffic. But it turned out to be rather beyond my powers to find many bloggers of either sort who had posts they were willing to submit to the Carnival - there are hardly any history-of-philosophy blogs, and continental blogs seemed to regard it as largely 'an analytic thing'. The analytic philosophy blogs, for the most part, need it least, because they have all the major philosophy group blogs; but they're the ones who find Carnival-ing (or whatever the word would be) easiest. One of the serious limitations of philosophy in the blogosphere, I suppose.

Richard said...

Thanks for the plug! By the way Chris, I really hope you submit your post on essentialism and intuitions - I found it very interesting, and imagine many others would also. (If you don't already have a large readership, you deserve one!)

"He clearly thinks it's an important project"

Well, part of my enthusiasm is due to it being my own 'pet project', so to speak. But yeah, I do think it could serve an important (or at least useful) role, though perhaps not for quite the reasons you apparently expected.

I think of the carnival's purpose as being almost more social (tea-room philosophy) than scholarly in nature. I'm only a second year undergraduate myself, so I certainly wouldn't presume to be making any significant academic contribution. But I do hope that some of my posts might be of interest to the general (philosophically inclined) reader, or provoke some enjoyable discussions. And it's really people like me that I see the carnival as being all about.

The group blogs are great, of course, and really do provide the expertise among philosophy blogs. But there are plenty of others making interesting (if sub-scholarly) contributions. For those readers with a general interest in philosophy (like me!), it seems convenient to have a wide range of posts all collected together in the one place. One might get to read something enjoyable that one would otherwise have missed. So that's one major purpose of the carnival, as I see it.

That's the reader-focussed reason. The other reason is for the bloggers involved: it gives them a chance to publicize their blogs a bit, and maybe pick up some new readers. Of course, the big blogs don't need this, so their contributions are perhaps more altruistic. But as I said, the carnivals are for the little guys too. I've found a few new philosophy blogs to read already thanks to the carnival; I'm not sure whether I would have come across them otherwise.

But yeah, I basically agree with Brandon's comment that "Carnivals are a somewhat fun part of blogging itself, but not much more". And I think that's plenty good enough. (Though if they did end up serving some further/higher purpose, that would be an added bonus!)

Oh, and I'd like to hear more from continental blogs too (I don't know of (m)any!). I did encourage Clark from Mormon Metaphysics to submit a post this time around, so that's a start...

Chris said...

Richard, great explanation. I only wish it were on a blog that people visited, so that someone might read it. Seeing it the way you do, I'm more convinced that it can be fun and worthwhile. If the people from the group blogs get into it, it still might be a good way to share ideas among professionals, but I like the idea that armchair philosophers can have fun with it too. It might even turn out to be a good educational forum for philosophy undergrads, especially if the group blog professionals read and comment on the posts.

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