Blogging: Challenge to the “Elders”

The readings were divided between abstract material about scholarly benefits for blogging and specific uses of blog by different historians. Ralph Luker, Jonathan Jarrett, and Alex Cummings provide an insight into the world of blogging with the history profession in mind. Luker in particular provided some important point how largely the younger generation of historians embraces the new technology of blogging to reach a wider audience. There was a certain level of strangeness when the author talks about a significantly younger, both academically and personally, person attaining a higher proficiency in web publishing. Obviously, many of the problems that are common remain an issue in the web-based world. Female bloggers, just like their historian counterparts received less respect for their work. Even more, highly qualified individuals are forced out of the profession by the dubiousness of the academic market. There certainly is a serious professional adjustment needed when the graduate student or post doctoral fellow outdoes their professors in web-based publishing. This raises a point made by the other two authors about the uses and possibilities within the often-narrow confines of the academic world.

As Jarrett and Cummings show, there is a constant evolution of the digital world, which means something written a few years ago will no longer be in the same place or look the same or work the same as when first created. What is most important is that the blog is a medium that needs constant attention and allows the historian to engage in a conversation with a wider and broader audience. The blog does not require the same high standards or peer-review that a journal article or book does. The blog can generate a whole set of new readers who would not read an article or book. However, the lack of peer-review makes blogs dubious to tenure committees. The authors make the arguments, that I would have liked more elaboration on, that the internet reviews posted publications instead of pre-publication. Therefore, the blog provides many opportunities that however still need further evaluation and understanding before they will become a daily part of academic life.

Besides these theoretically works, the blogs by Jude Webre and Gillian Frank give a glimpse at the opportunities of blogging. The abortion blog was a wonderful piece of scholarship. The piece would likely not have made a peer review process and the contemporary agenda infused in the piece gives off a political demand rather than the objectiveness of scholarship. Nevertheless, this is where the blog excels as a means to educate the public about how history can inform modern debates. Considering the heated issue that abortions remain, the piece is a good reminder what the lack of access could mean to women’s health and survival. People like to say one has to learn from history to not repeat it, which I find always a problematic concept, because we never seem to learn from history and the blog was a good example.

The other blog on the Age of Fracture was of much more interest to me because I have loved Daniel Rodger’s Atlantic Crossings since I first picked up the book in a graduate school class. Compared with the counterpart books, by James Kloppenberg, Rodger’s is able to provide an easily accessible narrative. I can only image how well done his Age of Fracture must be. This blog is very different from Frank’s work. Where Frank presented a historical episode with a contemporary political agenda in mind, Webre uses the blog as a tool of historic debate and review. Not sure whether this is a review, roundtable, or conference panel report, the material speaks to the debate surrounding Rodger’s newest book and the question the work has raised among intellectual historians. The blog’s statement regarding Rodger’s “ambivalent and indeed rueful reflection” of his place within the narrative is a good summary of the issue with blogs. Historians operate in a world where they are to educate people about the historical context of modern debates but as mediators between past and present, between archive and legislature, historians occupy an unenviable position of being hated and loved by many.

Niels Eichhorn


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