Saturday, November 12, 2005

Concurring Opinions: Academic Blogging Scandal

Reported by Daniel J. Solove at Concurring Opinions:

A developing case about academic bloggers contains a chorus of major issues swirling in the blogosphere: the career consequences of blogging, moderating blog debates, hot-button political issues, and defamation.

The case involves Paul Deigan, an engineering PhD candidate who has a blog called Info Theory. Deigan got into a debate with the anonymous blogger Bitch Ph.D. over abortion. Deigan is pro-life; Bitch Ph.D. is pro-choice. They exchanged posts on their mutual blogs, and Deigan also placed a comment on one of Bitch Ph.D.'s posts.

As reported by Inside Higher Ed:

Then he posted a seemingly innocuous entry on the Bitch Ph.D. site: “Your linking talking points w/o analysis. Already I see several points that are exaggerated and misconstrued without even needing research…”

Feeling that this comment and subsequent ones from Deignan did not qualify as “substantive debate,” she soon deleted his comments and banned him from her site. Her policy states, “Comments are great; obnoxious comments get deleted. Deal.”

If this were all, the story would be just a typical tale of the blogosphere. But things got much uglier:

A frequent visitor to the Bitch Ph.D. site, the University of Northern Iowa history professor Wallace Hettle, felt obliged to defend Bitch Ph.D.’s liberal end of the blogosphere. Hettle found Deignan’s curriculum vita at Info Theory, which lists his academic advisers, the Purdue mechanical engineers Galen King and Peter Meckl, who will play a big part in deciding if he will ultimately receive a Ph.D. Hettle e-mailed them, indicating that Deignan’s comments were “unprofessional” and “contrary to the spirit of free enquiry.” Hettle announced his actions within the comment section of Bitch Ph.D.

Go read the posting and the Inside Higher Ed report. The comments to Daniel's posting note that there is nothing about this dispute that is necessarily unique to the Internet or to blogging, but it is clear that blogging is not immune from such disputes either.

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