Writing history for the Web… back to some theory

Posted on October 22, 2015 by


So, this college course I decided to take… I’m mid-way through the semester now, still trying to adjust to the addition of another element to my real life “portfolio” (husband, father/soccer dad, dad to several furry family members, full time worker, and part-time student). Somewhere in that mix, a bathroom renovation (the shower tiling is all that remains) has come to a halt, the lawn is only half-mowed (the back… I still need to do the front), and, well, you get the picture. Despite it all, I think I am slowly easing into a way of working things out. Granted, I’m still trying to figure out a better system of time management, but… I’m getting there. Again, the reason I decided to take this course was the “toe in the pool”… to figure out whether or not I should jump in and move ahead with plans for a PhD.

Anyway… this class is a grad level course focused on teaching composition. I know that might seem a little odd to some readers, considering I’m so focused on history, but… I decided, about seven years ago, that if I did pursue a PhD, it wouldn’t be in history. No. During my time at JMU, I found another passion that was on par with my love of history. In truth, however, it (hypertext theory) actually serves as a delivery vessel for history. As Forrest Gump might say, the two (to me) were like “peas and carrots”.. .though, I have to say, tastier (and one electrifies the other).

Over the course of years since wrapping up that degree, my writings drifted away from that study. Even in this blog, I found that, despite my argument (and I don’t claim to be the originator… just chiming in with a lot of other folks on that matter) that writing history for the Web was not like writing history for print, I sank right back into the old niche of writing for the Web as if I was writing for print. < enter a deep yawn, here >

As dreadful as that might seem to the Web-minded writers, I didn’t float through unaware of some finer points of writing. While writing whenever I found gaps in time, I began asking myself (more) questions about the basic elements of writing itself… not to mention rhetorical practices and Web engagement. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, but when I began this course and my probe into further thoughts of a PhD, I began looking back to some of my earlier posts (in 2008 and 2009), involving writing for the Web. Good stuff… and work I feel I’ve left unfinished.

Don’t get me wrong, the content I’ve engaged in is still of interest to me (Southern Unionism, tackling the concept of memory and history, contemporary events and how they connect with history, etc.). Not only that, but I think 1) there’s plenty of room on the Web for more (especially accurate) historical content, and 2) I think there needs to be a better balance of objective voices (yes, I said “objective”… at least displaying a clear effort in trying to reach objectivity) in certain areas of history-related subject matter. For that matter, I’ve also found myself wondering about ethics and Web-practicing historians.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at as of now. I haven’t really discussed much about theories in a long time, and, just as when I was at James Madison Univ., I don’t want to scare away the folks who read this blog in search of history. In fact, this even raises another point… Why, for example, should folks (academics and non-academics) care about Web theory, social engagement on the Web, and what is actually going on underneath it all? What good does it do to dissect a social exchange on the Web; what does it tell us; why should we care? If we know, does/would it make a difference in how we’d engage in the future? Yes, stuff like that…

Though I’m only taking the one course for now (and it remains to be seen if I’ll continue down that path in the spring), that one course has pumped life back into some old thoughts, and generated new thoughts.

Not to fear, however… historical content will still be flowing… err… it might be a trickle from time to time, when… I can find time. 🙂

Thanks for following because/in spite of.