Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Internet Writing - my comment

Posted by Simon Halliday | Saturday, June 21, 2008 | Category: , , |

I just read the article How is the Internet Changing Literary Style? (hat tip Marginal Revolution) I think that the author has some decent comments, but fails to address the question of the differences in the kind of writing and the incidence of the reading of such writing. For example, I enjoy reading the long magazine articles from the New Yorker magazine (caught out), or from various other decent publications. However, doing this means that I focus my attention on one subject for a fairly long period of time, normally on a subject in which I am quite interested.

Blogging, on the other hand, allows me to dip in and out of subjects along a continuum from very familiar to unfamiliar and just get a taste of what they are about, if I read a long magazine article I don't get a taste, I get a 5 course Italian meal. As I am mainly interest in content and grab-factor when getting these tastes, I am not, personally, as concerned as I customarily am with stylistic indicators. I am, and I think always will be, concerned with basic grammar, I don't mean that I want someone to have grammar that is optimal every time I read their blog, or to have flawless spelling, but if you regularly have poor spelling and poor grammar then I am less likely to read your blog. I don't read blogs that use text-speak. The piece mentions the difference in kind, but without as much strength as I would like.
One of the major difference I have also found with blog reading versus normal magazine reading or article reading is the use of hypertext links. Tyler Cowen (right) and Russ Roberts (left) discuss this phenomenon in one of Roberts's PodCasts at EconTalk, they discussed how links have already begun to affect, and will continue to affect how research is done. They don't officially predict the 'end' of the journal article, but they comment on how a prediction was made (and I have trawled those darn podcasts and can't find it) saying that this was the future of Economics as a discipline, and possible of most sciences. I have begun using links in some of my academic note-writing (which LaTex, which is 'FREE', is good for), but I haven't done it at all with actual academic articles. Personally I think that it is a fantastic idea. Instead of only having the article and what you have written, the electronic (pdf) version of the article should contain links, should allow the reader to be able to see some of the academic and non-academic texts and and other influences that have informed your thinking. For example, though I often disagree philosophically with Russ Roberts's commentary on EconTalk, the ways that he educates and informs people give me a path to understanding how to be a better economist. This is especially the case with being able to hear such a (semi)diverse group of interviewees like those that he interviews and to get their opinions, their methods of arguing and to use them in refining my own. If I could, in an academic paper link somehow, not only to academic research, but to podcasts on topics, wikipedia entries, blog entries and so forth, the really interested reader could map the path to my final conclusions in way that an experiential way and not just an academic way (à la Hayek and experiential learning, maybe? a bit dubious possibly). I think that this would require non-highlighted link entries, but the actual implementation of such a concept is best left for later I think. This could be madness...

Anyway, my main point is that I don't understand why the author (Caleb Cain) of the article, which was actually a transcript of a speech, didn't give much weight to the incredible phenomenon that is hyperlinking. Cain admitted to their utility in his comment on quietness (which he says is required for longer piece and I agree), and asks "Where are the links?" I think that the question warrants deeper assessment.

Hyperlinks are, I believe, one of the major strengths of internet writing and also the mark of a responsible blog. Link to what you've read, try not to be sloppy. I am doing my best to pursue this in the expectation that at some point some interested employer will think to themselves, "What does this candidate do? What does he think? Let me see if he blogs..." and be able to see that I am a coherent individual in situations other than my academic writing. I also like to think that we will end up in a world where data is mostly open source and that we will be able to link to all kinds of data from our blogs and other people will be able to replicate whatever our results are by themselves with ease. Who knows? I also hope that people out there simply enjoy reading blogs and if they happen across mine, might happen to enjoy my
2 cents.

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