Blogs and the Public’s Perception

As Cummings and Jarrett note, blogging and academia still have a rather rocky relationship.  Admitting that you have a blog as a historian could very well help secure a new position or disqualify you all together, a conundrum making finding employment even more daunting than it already is.  The biggest problem that bloggers face is the prevailing public perception of what a blog is.  “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”  A common warning that seems to only become truer by the day with even the current political administration touting things such as “alternative facts.”  Generations are taught from an early age to be skeptical of everything you see on the internet, especially things like blogs.  But one has to wonder why, as they are often written by actual professional historians, historical blogs, or even other professional blogs as well, do not gain confidence boosts from the museum effect.

As many have written about in the museum field, public perception trusts museums and historians above all else for historical narratives.  As soon as a museum places an object under a plexiglass bonnet and shines a light on it, it becomes historically important.  For this point, I often reference the History Center’s newest exhibit Gatheround: Stories of Atlanta.  For that exhibit, many items went “under the bonnet” so to speak, but the most striking was a MARTA token machine from the 1990’s.  A large, black, almost lumbering rectangular cube of metal.  But, as soon as it was in the case with focused gallery and case lighting, it suddenly looked rather dignified.  An important relic of a bygone era, not a frustrating machine that many have kicked in anger throughout its short stint of service.  The public has given museums and historians the power to choose what is important and relevant to the study of history.

So why, then, does all of this change as soon as this choice passes into the digital arena?  Is it the democratizing agency of the internet?  Or, is it the consistently waning trust the public has due to so called “alternative facts” and the rampant spreading of fake news during the most recent election?  Part of the problem, at least, rests with the Universities themselves.  The haphazard acceptance or denial of professional blogging by their current and prospective staff only serves to erode further the state of trust.  Accepting, and even promoting, professional blogging among historians, universities could go a long way in fostering this avenues of scholarly dissemination.  For surely the need for public awareness of history is greater now than any time in recent memory.

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