It seems to me that there is potential in the burgeoning blogging networks for academics to reprise their roles as public intellectuals -- actually enaging in commentary and debate around key issues with people from a range of differing positions both inside and outside the academy. Bloggercon has posted an interesting discussion on this topic, led by Jay Rosen from NYU, on the impact of blogging for academic work (http://www.jzip.org/jzip/archives/001003.html). The interactive nature and open access to all-comers impacts on the kinds of discourses produced by blogs, for example: "Question: What changes for academics when they blog? What changes for universities? JR: The audience changes. Instead of student/professor, anybody can walk in".
This points to one of the clear tensions for academics and universities around blogging culture: control of information. As JR notes "Universities have always been about the control of knowledge. Blogging is almost an attack on the DNA of academia. You'll see great resistance to this". The forms this institutional resistance takes will be interesting to note. Already, employees of major corporations are sanctioned for blogging -- BBC News has reported on an airline employee suspended without pay for blogging (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3955913.stm).