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Publishing on the Web

Blogging and Digital History

Blogging has become a very popular form of sharing work in the digital world especially in the history field. Historians can now make a blog post and immediately get feedback from fellow historians which in turn can help them with their larger writing projects like books or journal articles. Those blog posts are more of a conversation than a full historical paper which makes it easier for historians to converse about a specific topic without having to be with one another or having to talk through the telephone. Not only do blogs make it easier for historians to connect but they also make it easier for the public to engage with historians. If someone has access to the internet, they can see a blog and comment on it. In the Public History field this is beneficial for historians or museums to connect with those people who may never see the museum in question and will most likely never meet said historian.

There are many ways to make a blog post more accessible for the public and easier to understand. One of the first items to consider is picking a topic that is popular. In the history field this may be a topic that relates to current news or events around the world. Next the blogger needs to create a unique title for the blog post. This will help draw a reader’s attention. The blogger also needs to find ways to hook the reader into reading the entire post instead of just scrolling away after reading a few lines. After this the blogger should allow for anyone to comment and open conversations about the topic that way it helps the reader understand the topic or helps the blogger refine their work.

With bogging comes risks. One major risk is the fact that anyone can see it and comment so the blogger may end up with comments from an audience they did not want to interact with. For example, a topic may draw in comments that are political or comments that are negative toward the topic to which the blogger has not control over. Another risk is depending on the topic one is blogging about it may be controversial which may create negative attention for the blog post and blogger. With blogs in the history field it is not impossible for fellow scholars to find each other. Depending on the context of the blog post or the reactions to it being found may hurt the bloggers chances in the long run of getting their work published or getting a job a certain institution. With the rapid advancements in technology blogging will only become a more popular way to reach a larger audience in the digital history field.

4 replies on “Blogging and Digital History”

I appreciated your insights into what can help improve blogs based on our reading! I agree that there are many potential issues with this medium, but, as you say at the end of your post, it is quickly becoming important as a platform for dispensing information in almost all subjects. Maybe the fact that almost anyone can see it and comment on the content is a good and bad. More people can learn from it, but there will inevitably be trolls waiting to cause trouble for the author. Of course, the same exist in the academic community, since anyone can tear apart someone else’s work in the world of scholarship. Depending on how polite they are about it, they can get away with a lot of negative commentary as well. Online people feel they can be less professional, which does pose an issue. Is it a risk we should be willing to take for the sake of getting content out there for people to learn?

Also, when you mentioned the idea that authors of blogs may end up getting attention from audiences they didn’t want attention from, would you clarify a little more? I think I understand where you’re going with that, but wanted to know more about what that might look like? If I understood it correctly, and you meant people who criticize the content in an unprofessional and unnecessary way, I agree that it is a huge risk that we have to contend with. If you meant more that historians who disagree with the author can review the content and argue back, I think it can be a good thing, because this involves both peer review and scholarly discussion of ideas!

Like Elizabeth, I would like a bit more clarification about the negative attention blogs can receive. I see your point, but I am also thinking about the ways in which blogs could have changed past scholarly works. For example, would Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman thought twice about their conclusions published in their book Time on the Cross if they updated follow historians with their process? The peer-review process can really limit historians to professionals in their field, which can often result in confirmation bias. However, if they published a blog, historians of other fields, like social, gender, and political history, could have constructively critiqued their argument and make beneficial changes to the book before publication.

I agree with your comments on how engaging blogging for such a large variety of audiences with different interests! From my GA research in the Marketing Department, I think it’s important to always clarify that blogging is a form of social media. This is because I believe it should be faced with the same level of scrutiny as other forms of social media. The implications that social media has on our society with both positive and negative connotations is significant. An example of this is the attraction of unwanted audiences in your post above.

However, history-based blogging is no exception to the implications of social media, as we have learned that it has raised amateur historians bloggers to the same field as professional historians- when on the digital platform. And this has led to many opportunities for discussion between differing audiences, like Elizabeth mentioned. I think this is a great thing, as discussion seems to be one of the main premises for revealing history from different perspectives- leading to insights on the human experience!

I agree that Blogging is a good way for museums to reach the public; the blog’s content could persuade the reader to visit the museum in person. However, as you said controversial content can tarnish the reputations of those writing the blog, and could lead to people not coming to the museum because of the content posted on the blog. Is there any way around this? Is there a way to post controversial content that would prevent the audience from reacting negatively? Would warnings of the controversial content be helpful? Would word choice make a difference? Or would it be better to validate the negative feelings the audience could be feeling in the blog post; help them work through the emotions, and unpack what the information means? Validating the readers current position and feelings could allow the blog posts meaning to be understood by more people.

The internet is full of political comments so it will be difficult to avoid those, relatedly there is a movement called Museums are not neutral. It also then follows that history, and historians, are not neutral. So historians blog posts are not going to be neutral, likely sparking political comments. However, the blogger can put down rules for the comment section, such as no insults or direct attacks. Also, as long as the comments are not attacks, are those comments necessarily a bad thing, as those comments mean people are engaging in the content of the blog and referencing current events that relate to the blog post?

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