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Publishing on the Web

Session 3 Wrap Up: Blogging About the Past

— Contributors: Madeline Blythe, Shannon Furr, Jason McDaniel, and Jeanne Hoogbergen

This week, participants in App State’s Digital History course (HIS 5595) discussed online publishing, blogging, and academic writing in general as historians think about the digital possibilities.

Several themes emerged. One centered on the collaborative potential of writing about the past online. Sheila Brennan alludes to this as she acknowledges those whose helped her along the way as she wrote Stamping American History. To see that someone has walked the path before you is an empowering process, one that lets you know it can be done (especially for first-generation college students and academic professionals). Another consideration is that online writing can – depending on the format – allow for immediate feedback through comments. This fact raises many considerations, including: How do you have engaging conversation online? How do you decide on which post to comment? What constitutes an effective blog post? How permanent are your ideas when you write online?

Another theme dealt with the purpose behind writing online (as opposed to more traditional publishing). As Brennan and others suggest, one should consider various questions, such as: What has been your journey to (this current point)? What inspired you to write at this particular moment when your journey changes as interests and passions change? An interesting example centered on historian Kevin Kruse, who has earned notoriety on Twitter for responding to “flame throwers” that cherry pick, ignore, or misconstrue the past in order to score political points. When asked about why he engages with these “trolls,” Kruse argues that historians should lend their voices and help audiences see through the machinations of Twitter users who want to mislead the public by citing selective or false history narratives.