As I think about Keith's reply, I wonder how we bridge the gap between the fluid, largely inconsequential conversational style of interaction on sites like OAC and the discipline and resources required for serious research. How is it possible to replace the apparatus of graded assignments, grants and teaching positions on which academic careers continue to depend?
I should be clear about what I mean by "largely inconsequential." The pattern to which I refer is by no means limited to OAC. It is, as far as I can make out, pervasive on all sorts of email lists, forums and social networking sites:
(1) Someone starts a thread by posting an interesting message. (2) Regulars stake out their positions; hang around for more than a week or two and these become predictable.
(3) Conversation dies.
The work of serious scholarship, advancing conversations beyond preconceptions, rarely occurs.