The narrative we construct as we move through historical discourse and find our niches, are an individual truth. These narratives are representative of our personal schools of thought as well as the learning we have subjected and been subjected to throughout our academic career. To make it easier to understand the true power of the narrative is to relate it to the evolution of museums and museum theory. The original museum (i.e. The British Museum) displayed objects “exotic” in nature with a simple system of naming the object and relating its origin. A move to creating a discursive approach to display and arranging items in terms of cultural context. The narrative, I believe, is the impetus for the move we see in internet scholarship.
Creating thought provoking discourse that not only rings true factually but is also easily digestible and accessible is, as I believe, the zenith of academia. The internet has allowed thinkers like Nate Silver and others a platform to speak on issues and ideas close to home or of particular interest without the rigidity of publishing a book. It is hard to think fivethirtyeight.com could reach the same amount of people if it had been bound and shelved in your local bookstore.
This is also creates a conundrum. As discussed in Dan Cohen’s piece, even with the extreme accuracy of Nate Silver’s insights, viewing the website and the author as a true dealer in the political analyst realm was difficult for news outlets. It was an accurate and well thought blog but still just a blog. Latent in the human psyche is a fear of the unfamiliar and a skepticism of things that fall out of the uniform and the traditional. True scholarship in this thought is found in books, in college lecture halls, in the “experts” we refer to on the news. The “quick turnaround” Mary Coussons-Read mentions in Cohen’s post is also what makes for skeptics. How can these facts be right if they have not gone through the age-old vetting and review process?
Cohen notes the “stereotype of blogs as the locus of ‘information’ rather than knowledge, of ‘recreation’ rather than education” is commonplace and unfortunately uninformed. There are however the experimental minds with credentials enough to make official the the unofficial. As in Silver’s case, a chance run in with the editor of the Times magazine led to a licensing arrangement that gave validity to the blog Silver was unable to find on his own. This however does not happen often. Reviews and Journals are creating and commissioning a number of ways to promote digital history and scholarship. This is a chance for other innovative blogs and websites to find cogency.
It is an exciting time for both young up and coming thinkers and their more seasoned counterparts. The internet has created a favorable climate for content to be developed, shared and reviewed by others across the world. There is a transparency inherent in creations like fivethiryeight.com and its counterparts. We see the information being updated and often we see the conversations held in the comments. It’s a nice change to textbooks and quarterly journals and may even inspire the young tech generation to get involved and create new and exciting content.
– Lynn Robinson