I’m a professor of politics at the University of Winnipeg. I’ve spent most of my adult life doing research, writing and teaching, first about African politics and, more recently, city politics. Before becoming a professor, I was a journalist, writing for daily newspapers.
When I was a journalist, racing to meet midnight deadlines, my research was necessarily less thorough than it is now, because I had neither the time nor the resources. As an academic, my research has been more thorough, but my readership smaller. Blogging offers a chance to make excerpts of my work available to readers who might be interested in what I’ve learned, but not have access to the high-priced databases in which many academic articles are enshrined. The purpose of this blog is to thank taxpayers and students for supporting my work by making it more readily available.
The wide availability of this kind of material is more important today than ever. We live in an age of steadily expanding literacy, proliferating communications and growing political cynicism. More people than ever have the capacity and the access necessary to get beyond slogans and headlines to a genuine understanding of the issues that are important to them, but politicians and some of the media talk down to us.
The internet is supposedly acting as a counter to the inadequacies of the establishment media, but much of it is more superficial yet. The governing assumption seems to be that anything more than a 3-second sound bite will exceed the public’s attention span. Possibly that helps to explain the cynicism.
Academics, who are supposed to be good at getting beyond slogans and headlines, need to work harder at making their research findings available to more people in more usable forms. That’s what I’ll be trying to do in this blog.