Sunday, September 14, 2008

The fate of Open University, continued

Jeremy Young offers a diagnosis of what happened.

I think he omits at least three (interrelated) factors:

1) We had nothing in common besides professorial appointments. Volokh Conspiracy: Mainly libertarianism mainly lawprofs. Crooked Timber: Mainly social democratish mainly social scientists and political philosophers. Liberty and Power: Hard-core libertarians, with a healthy dose of history profs. Cliopatra: history profs. Prawfsblog: law profs. Open University: umm... We didn't have anything in common by discipline, by generation, by ideological or methodological outlook, by attitude about public intellectualism or the relationship between public commentary and scholarship, etc., etc. Someone who goes to Marginal Revolution to read Tyler will still likely enjoy reading Alex if Tyler happens to be offline that day. I'm not sure that there were any two regular OU bloggers who served as complements in that way.

2) Moreover, we were stylistically very different; I venture to guess that the readers of Richard Stern's diarist-style entries didn't overlap with, say, the readers of Alan Wolfe's commentaries on contemporary politics. And there wasn't much indication that the practitioners of one style were much enthused by the practitioners of another.

3) There was very close to no conversation among the bloggers, and what there was, was as likely to be contentious as anything else.

And, of course, the obvious:

4) It was someone else's blogspace (TNR's) but the "someone else" wasn't a person who would do a lot of blogging him- or herself to set the tone. Some of us refrained from the blog with our various different kinds of posts, because it seemed rude to monopolize the space-- but then no one ever got into the habit of constantly blogging there.