Some of this week’s readings on blogs discuss the strengths of the medium and how it can be used to complement more traditional methods of creating and reviewing scholarly or academic content, while the other readings were examples of blog posts that contain scholarly content and analysis and often link back to other scholarly works.

Luker’s “Were There Blog and Enough Time” discusses the rise of blogs and blogging by academic historians in the late 1990s and into the early 2000s. Luker provides an overview of the medium and introduces some prominent early pioneers of blogging in history. Some of the reasons he gives for blogging include the following: allowing for new ideas and influences to permeate a historian’s otherwise overly specific focus or “specialization,” the desire to produce iterations of work that would otherwise have no platform for easily sharing or receiving feedback, a means to find out (through reception and feedback) if scholarly work is transferrable from an academic context to a wider public one, and, lastly, because blogging represents a democratization of scholarly information and blogging is an opportunity to make academic content available to more than just those in higher education. In Cummings and Jarrett’s “Only Typing? Informal Writing, Blogging and the Academy”, some of these ideas about blogging and their strengths are expanded upon. The blog presents an opportunity for wider informal review and commentary, expands upon the traditional small panel of reviewers in peer review, and allows for increased diversity in feedback and in inclusion of perspectives. It is also argues that blogs can be useful as a tool for continual and consistent writing and production of content; the accountability that comes with an online community can be helpful in fighting stagnation.

Neither of these readings argue for the complete abolishment of the traditional peer-review process, though. Peer review is described as a “chain of responsibility” and the blog does not present a substitute for that formal academic system of checks and balances but rather can act as a complementary system. The blog complements peer-review by allowing for authors to receive feedback and participate in discussions throughout the iterative stages of scholarship, rather than just receiving peer feedback after the work has been submitted for review. It allows for the building of academic communities around areas of interest and specializations, which can in turn allow for increased research and collaboration. I especially like the idea presented that academics should be involved in blogging as a means of democratizing information. Luker describes one of his reasons for being involved in blogs as “I want to model for myself and others how we should all behave within an idealized democratic public sphere.” We all know that the Internet has the potential to be a great democratizing force in terms of access to information; there are limited barriers to entry and to consumption of content. But having historians model the behavior of sharing their content freely and openly on blogs could set an example across academic disciplines and lead to more engagement and discourse surrounding content and ideas that have traditionally only been available to those with access to a journal subscription.

-Sarah Kirkley


One thought on “Blogs

  1. Louise Milone says:

    Blogging History:
    If one has to choose between the views of blogging within the bounds of historical scholarship, this author chooses the Alexander Cummings position – blogging will not take the place of peer reviewed scholarship. It will take its place along side the more traditional historical writing. For this author, that does not diminish the importance of its possible contribution to the research, study and analysis of history. Rather it adds new voices that would otherwise be unavailable to historians, as well as those in other fields of study and the general public.

    We reviewed five documents that showcased three types of blogs involving history, two on the place of blogging in the practice of writing history and two on the use of blogs providing historical background on an issue that was and is controversial – abortion and its place in and impact upon gender history. The third type of blog was a book review of The Age of Fracture, which is a type of work that is commonplace on the web.

    The two blogs on the history of abortion were examples of ways in which historical blogs can bring an issue to life that a traditional, peer reviewed article cannot. Both R.E. Fulton and Gillian Frank make a similar point despite starting from very different places in history. They tell us the discourse around abortion has always been about demonizing women. While in the nineteenth century they took aim at the abortionist and in the twentieth century they took aim at the women who had the abortion, it was always about the evil woman, the woman who wasn’t womanly, the woman with loose morals, about woman distorted from what she is supposed to be.

    Using blogging to bring these two stories to us, the authors are able to put an issue into historical perspective that has had a significant impact on American politics for over five decades, placing it where it belongs, squarely in gender politics, not as just a moral, religious issue. They are able to bring their viewpoint forward in clear, concise language, using literary techniques that grab and hold the reader, make the point by painting a sharp picture for the reader.

    There are a plethora of book reviews on websites touching on many subjects including history. These include book reviews in long published and highly prized historical journals, graduate student publications, and websites from popular magazines and newspapers from our local newspapers to the New York Times and Time to The Nation. Book reviews are also part of more specialized publications like The Chronicle of Philanthropy. While traditional historians might look down on book reviews published in Videri rather than The Journal of American History, the opportunity to get your work out into the public domain makes Videri an important outlet for students that will get us noticed.

    In “Only Typing? Informal Writing, Blogs and the Academy,” Alex Cummings and Jonathan Jarrett show us the interactive advantages of writing for the web. The discussion of the place in blogging and other self-published work of various kinds will probably go on for at least another decade. The current group of historians, who came into the field over the last four or five decades will probably have to leave the scene before informal/self-published work is more widely accepted and given a place in the academy. However, the more what is now seen as informal work is out there, the more it becomes commonplace, the greater the possibility of its acceptance as part of a body of work for a historian.


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