By Pascal Zamprelli
When one thinks of blogs, the word “academic” rarely comes to mind. Scholarly journals, for their part, don’t exactly scream “widely accessible.” A new variety of online publication, the academic blog, attempts to bridge the gap between the ivory tower and the expanding online community, and is gaining in popularity.
A group of students at McGill’s Faculty of Law have recently launched such an endeavor: Legal Frontiers is a student-driven blog that deals with issues of international law and is aimed at a broad and varied audience.
“We realized that McGill has a large strength in international law, but we don’t have any journals or other avenues where students can contribute to that,” said one of the blog’s founders and contributors, third-year law student Nafay Choudhury. “We’re transitioning that strength in the classroom to actual writings in the real world, for a much wider audience. It combines the fast-paced blogging world with the academic strength that McGill instills in all of its students.”
So far, those writings explore everything from Haitian Refugee Claims to the China/Google standoff, war crimes liability to legal pluralism in Afghanistan, and much more. “You see a good amount of diversity with the tying thread of being connected to international law in its different manifestations,” Choudhury added, noting that a lot of positive feedback from both students and professors has further energized the bloggers.
The blog format allows for more of a focus on current events than would a traditional scholarly paper, and for more engagement compared to working on a journal.
“When we say academic blogging, we’re looking for more of a substantive analysis of current events, and what are the legal implications of those events,” said organizer and contributor Andrew Cleland (Law 3). “The big advantage for us as students is that it actually promotes research and writing, individually, whereas if you work on a journal you’re just reviewing literature. Here, you have to engage with those issues yourself.”
Furthermore, a blog allows for content more accessible to more people, particularly when legal issues explicitly relate to what’s on the news. “We don’t just want to focus on people interested in law, per se, but anyone interested in any world events,” said another organizer, James Nowlan (Law 1). “I think it’s an innovative way to talk about these things, rather than traditional publications. And a diverse base of readers leads to a diverse base of contributors.”
The students’ ultimate goal is to create an active and vibrant community online; a dynamic back-and-forth between the students who are writing and the individuals commenting and bringing new ideas to those students.
Explained Cleland, “It’s a scholarly social network.”
Interested? See it for yourself at www.legalfrontiers.ca – it’s well worth the visit.