My invisible college

Bora asks a bunch of people why they blog. Since various and sundry other people have asked me the same question over the years, I may as well answer and be done with it.

I blog to be part of what Brad Delong calls the Invisible College:

I am greedy. I want more. I would like a larger college, an invisible college, of more people to talk to, pointing me to more interesting things. People whose views and opinions I can react to, and who will react to my reasoned and well-thought-out opinions, and to my unreasoned and off-the-cuff ones as well. It would be really nice to have Paul Krugman three doors down, so I could bump into him occasionally and ask, “Hey, Paul, what do you think of .. .” Aggressive younger people interested in public policy and public finance would be excellent. Berkeley is deficient in not having enough right-wingers; a healthy college has a well-diversified intellectual portfolio. The political scientists are too far away to run into by accident ? somebody like Dan Drezner would be nice to have around (even if he does get incidence wrong sometimes).

Over the past three years, with the arrival of Web logging, I have been able to add such people to those I bump into ? in a virtual sense ? every week. My invisible college is paradise squared, for an academic at least.

While KU is great in many ways, but it is not Berkeley, nor my alma mater, the University of Chicago. All of these universities bring in world-class scientists and thinkers to discuss ideas, to critique, to debate, and by doing so, to improve our state of knowledge and increase its dissemination. Even the best university has limits on what it can offer.

The invisible college brings in people from all over. Just above, I (in Kansas) just helped spread knowledge from Berkeley professor ? and Clinton economic advisor ? Brad Delong?And how Bora Zivkovic, a biologist in North Carolina, is your co-instructor? How you and I just became, briefly, students in a seminar they’re leading? Welcome to the invisible college.

Through the runup to the asinine Iraq war, I read blogs. The Trent Lott/Strom Thurmond debacle showed me the power, and from reading Atrios and Talking Points Memo, I got introduced to the rest of the blogosphere, especially Delong, Cole, PZ Myers, the Crooked Timber gang, Yglesias, the kos crowd. From Dave Neiwert, I learned about the theocratic movement named Christian Reconstructionism. I read Terry Teachout’s coverage of the art scene, music blogs like Said the Gramophone or Alex Ross gave me a taste of the cutting edge. From the middle of Kansas, I was in the midst of thoughtful debates about critical matters of public policy, science, art, culture and policy.

With an infinite number of classrooms available, how could I resist preparing my own lesson plan for the Invisible College.

Of course, it didn’t stop there. Before long, I was exploring Kris Kobach‘s ties to those theocratic forces, and then the same forces showed up behind a creationist Board of Education. There were new subjects to talk about, new discoveries to make, and new lessons to learn and to teach.

That’s why I blog.


  1. #1 Ex-drone
    April 9, 2007

    The great thing about the Invisible College is that you can audit all the great classes without having to write finals.

  2. #2 Paul Decelles
    April 10, 2007

    Great post…linked it into this week’s Kansas Guild of Bloggers at

  3. #3 Larry Ayers
    April 10, 2007

    This post echoed many of my feelings about the value of blogging. My problem is that by the time I process photos and write posts for my own blog I barely have time enough to keep up with the blogs of my commenters.

    I like the term “the Invisible College”. The Scienceblogs community has become one of mny favorite resources lately.