"We must move forward not backward, upward, not forward, and always, twirling, twirling, twirling toward freedom..."
For starters, I wanted to thank Michael Bratman for donating his time near the holidays to provide us with some post-Thanksgiving food for philosophical thought. It is always nice to see what some of the leading senior figures of the field are working on and this blog provides a forum for that (and other things)--which was one of the key goals when I started Flickers of Freedom.
That said, I feel the blog is at a cross roads. At this point, I have now essentially run an on-going blog conference for the past three years--with 36 Featured Authors in all. Some of these Featured Authors were "old pros," as Al Mele used to say, and some were graduate students and junior philosophers. I have been told by the old pros that they had fun and I have been told by the graduate students and junior philosophers that participating increased the visibility of their work (e.g., increasing downloads of their papers). So, in these respects, the series (and the blog) have been a success.
Yet, participation in comment threads is often embarrassingly low. It's painful for me when I invite people to donate their time and energy only for our community to largely ignore them. So, what to do? The first wave of free will bloggers--who were junior philosophers and graduate students back when Garden of Forking Paths (GFP) was alive and well and even when Flickers filled the void left by the closing of GFP--now have all of the responsibilities of senior philosophers. I appreciate that this crowds out one's time. I, too, am now tenured with all of the associated responsibilities in terms of service, invited chapters to write, etc. But where is the second wave? Where are the next generation of researchers working on free will, responsibility, and agency more generally. I have tried to identity and invite them to be part of the blog, but it doesn't seem to translate into more discussion in the comment threads.
So, how do we move forward as a once thriving online community? I would even settle for upwards! I just don't want to go backwards or else it doesn't make sense for me to take my own time to set this up. Running this Featured Author series takes time and it's only worth it if the community does their part by making our guests feel welcome, etc. For my part, I just opened a FB group page for Flickers (which will allow me to post scientific and philosophical pieces that may not usually merit a post here). It is also a way of growing our community. But that will not be enough.
Perhaps I should stop the Featured Author series once it runs its course (roughly through the end of next summer when I hope to host Paul Russell and Dan Dennett). But I think more drastic measures are actually called for moving forward. It seems to me that the next generation of researchers in our community need to take the baton and fashion this blog in their own image, leaving their own mark on the community. So, I am now formally accepting invitations from people who would like to be Blog Editors (or some such title). Other than the Featured Authors already lined up, the slate is clear beginning next fall. So, the blog can be re-fashioned to better reflect the interests and needs of the next wave of agency researchers.
But I need suggestions or volunteers. Otherwise, I will close the blog at the end of next summer. I feel like I have done my part to make the blog successful. But despite my best efforts, our viewership plateaued long ago at 300 views per day. Given how topical this issue is and given how much interest there is in the public's eye, this blog should garner more attention. So, to prevent this blog from going the way of The Garden of Forking Paths, some graduate students and junior philosophers will need to step up to the plate. I am happy to help, but I am no longer willing and able to do the heavy lifting--especially with such diminishing returns.
That said, if you're interested in helping and you have some ideas for how we could help grow and improve the community--e.g., take PEA Soup and the Minds Blog as models for growth--please let me know. I welcome the assistance and suggestions.
In the meantime, here is the upcoming schedule for 2017 for the Featured Author series:
Jan. Michelle Ciurria (Week TBD)
Feb. Jules Holroyd (Feb. 13th-19th)
March: Matthew Silverstein (Week TBD)