January 20, 2015 by nbrown24
While doing the readings for this week, one of the intriguing topics that stood out to me was the amount of apprehension that academic historians have towards open-source history and blogging. While I agree that there are pitfalls to these types of history, most of which have been outlined in the various readings, I also agree with Rosenzweig that instead of looking at open-source history negatively, why not look at the positive aspects of Wikipedia and other similar forums and try to learn from them?
One of the concerns brought up by Rosenzweig in Clio Wired is the notion that “communal sharing is an ideal that some historians hold and that many of our practices reflect, even while alternative, more individualistic and competitive, modes also thrive.” (p. 78) This sentiment is echoed by Cummings and Jarrett in their essay “Only Typing? Informal Writing, Blogging and the Academy”, in which the authors state that blogging is generally not seen as having scholarly authority largely because it escapes the the traditional form of editing and evaluation given to most professional history publications, academic peer review. In this viewpoint blogging and open-source history sites are inferior because they are more concerned with facts and anecdotes, with less emphasis placed on forming an argument or clearly defined stance, a template that most academic writing follows. Yet Rosenzweig, Cummings and Jarrett all believe that being a part of this type of writing can be beneficial to the academic community. Cummings and Jarrett site several advantages that blogging can have for academics, including the opportunity to practice varying types of scholarly and informal writing, being able to engage with a larger community, and providing transparency in one’s work (which, by default, leaves a person open to critique). Rosenzweig likewise envisions a future where historical knowledge is gathered in a collaborative process, involving the work of amateurs, volunteers and professionals – a history community, if you will.
This really gets at the heart of what these two writings are about. The current academic environment, in which the research and writing is painstakingly done by individuals with little or no collaboration. Could a different approach, one that values the participation of scholars in a more community, open-sourced environment, be beneficial to the professional culture that currently exist?