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Week 2 Readings


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?



  1. nsakas1 says:

    I think that “good history” could certainly be created through collaborative processes that the digital world provides. However, I also think that most scholars would be unwilling to participate in this form of producing history for two reasons. One is that most historical scholars would be unwilling to share their research in a community environment due to the risk of others taking and using it for their own gains. Also, because formats like blogs and open-source history due not merit what currently constitutes as credible scholarly work. most scholars are unwilling to pursue engaging in these types of practices

  2. Alexandra Troxell says:

    To answer your final question, I believe that a more participatory community among scholars would be in highly beneficial toward the creation of future works and the current professional culture. When people stop working for their own ego and start creating for the good of the community, it tends to be beneficial for all involved. Many see the shift as a loss of accountability, as neither scholarly or credible, as Nicholas pointed out in his comment above. However, as we discussed in class, the example of Wikipedia proves mostly to the contrary- when everyone was allowed to contribute (within certain guidelines), the standards of the community kept the information and presentation sound. I hear often that historians and other academics do their work not for the money, but for the prestige. But I think it may be time to set even the prestige aside for the good of profession and the audience as a whole.

  3. Adina Langer says:

    Nathan, I appreciate your analysis of the relationship between Rosenzweig’s discussion of Wikipedia and Cummings and Jarret’s discussion of blogging. You are correct that both forms of history-writing tend to be disregarded or devalued by academic historians, but are they “brushed off” for the same reasons? In what ways are Wikipedia and blogs collaborative? Are they collaborative in the same ways? Can you envision collaborative forms of history production that would be more palatable to academic historians? Are there reasons to value Wikipedia and blogging that go beyond their collaborative processes?

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