As Harry pointed out a few days ago, this blog was reviewed by Kelvin Holland in the July issue of America’s Civil War (see page 66). It’s a flattering review and I thank Kelvin for taking the time to write it for ACW. I think he does a fine job hitting on my objectives. Thanks again Kelvin!
The review also mentions my thesis, which ended up with a different title and took a slightly different direction than I had anticipated. As the review points out, my original title was “Blogging as Historians: Using New Practices on the Web to Sustain Authority and Counter the Distortion and Dilution of Historical Knowledge.” The new title is “Blogging as Historians: Considering Interaction, Authority, and New Practices for the Web.”
The change reflects a shift in my understanding of the traditional position of the historian and the role of the historian within the new space that is the Web. Granted, there is “mis-history” on the Web, and as people continue to turn to the Web as the source of information, this is a problem for historians who seek to expand and advance our understanding of history. The countering of that “mis-history,” however, is not a matter of “virtually combating” those who are placing mis-history on the Web. Instead, the objective (in my opinion) of historians on the Web (at least those who want to balance the history that resides in that space) should be to counter the mis-history by placing solid historical information (that has undergone the rigors of historical analysis) on the Web. More importantly, historians need to take advantage of the affordances offered by the Web, from non-social interfaces (Tier 1 interaction) to social interfaces (Tier 2 interaction). In both cases, the objective is to take advantage of the interaction to more effectively (as opposed to print media) convey information, knowledge, and concepts. As I’ve mentioned before, the intergration of these features into the practice of delivering historical material is enough to justify a science cognate within degree programs (thus, breaking from the traditional idea of being tied to the arts and humanities and leading to the thought of a Master of Science in History).
Additionally, the thought of “sustaining traditional authority” really doesn’t work in the new space that is the Web. The idea of traditional authority is largely compromised by the read-write environment of blogs. Authority takes on an entirely different meaning in the environment of the Web (and most especially Web 2.0). To get a taste of what I mean, read Roland Barthes’ ideas on the meaning of authorship. In many ways, I feel that Barthes’ ideas on authorship and authority are realized in blogs.
All-in-all, after just under a year and a half of blogging, and as I have mentioned before, this experience of blogging has been more than just a soapbox for posting my ideas on the Civil War and digital history on the Web. It has also been a tremendous learning experience when it comes to me grasping an understanding of the future of the Web as part of historical practice. I think the potential is much greater than we realize, and that’s incredibly exciting.