Logan Lounge

A Collective Blog for Current and Former Members (and Friends!) of the History and Sociology of Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania

Saturday, January 21, 2006

There's no escaping STS

Seen at the California Academy of Sciences:

Thursday, January 12, 2006

An experiment on the end of cyberspace

For a long time, I've been working on an article on the end of cyberspace-- the demise of the concept of "cyberspace" as a separate dimension in which information resides-- and its implications for the future of technology. (Though I've been talking publicly about it for over a year, thinking about this issue for a lot longer, it seems.)

A friend of mine and I have an article coming out in a popular magazine builds on this work: we asked a bunch of people what term they would use to describe the coming world of always-on, pervasive, interactive, mobile devices. We got some terrific responses, but because of space constraints, couldn't use them all.

I didn't want them to all go to waste, and feel like this project is taking on a bit of a life of it's own-- it's at least several articles, and maybe a short book. So I grabbed the domain name www.endofcyberspace.com, and started a blog with the same name. It's going to be part research notebook-- perfectly sensible, given how much of the primary material actually IS online-- and part sensor, picking up quivers on the subject elsewhere in the blogosphere.

Two interesting things to report on the experiment.

First of all, it's attracted a lot of attention: I've got a couple hundred visitors a day, after only a few days, and the site's been tagged by a number of del.icio.us and Technorati users. I'm actually not talking about anything that I haven't discussed at length in my personal blog; but having the domain name and greater focus on this specific subject has concentrated attention, and draw attention, in a way that surprises me.

Second, I started out by having a lot of myself on the blog-- copying things that are on my personal blog, having feed from my other blogs show up pretty prominently-- but over the last few days I've been stripping that stuff down. I've still got my name on the posts, and a link at the bottom of the blog to other places I blog (including here), but I've quickly come to feel that 1) the blog ought to be about the subject, not about me; and 2) there are a lot of other people who are interested in and writing something about this subject, and it would be more interesting to create a space that tracks and synthesizes-- and perhaps advances-- that conversation than to try to claim it for myself.

There are some interesting questions about the relationship between research, self-fashioning and collective work here, but I've got to go to a meeting. More anon.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

History Bloggers at AHA

The recent meeting of the American Historical Association in Philadelphia featured a Saturday morning session on History Blogging. At least one panelist represented the Cliopatria blog at the History News Network, which also includes links to hundreds of other history blogs. It became clear during the panel discussion that history blogging ranges widely, from specialized blogs devoted to posting source materials and research inquiries on particular subjects, to more politically opinionated blogs linking history to current issues, to more personal blogs detailing the life experiences of academics across the land.

Juan Cole, the historian of the modern Middle East at U. Michigan who is apparently the most popular history blogger in the world (as measured by page views for his blog on current issues in the region, Informed Comment), was one of the panelists, and it was interesting to see him in person. In light of Alex Pang's earlier postings regarding the possible irrationality of untenured academics spending time blogging, and my own curiosity, I asked the panel what they thought about such concerns. Most of the responses focused on the matter of blogging about controversial political issues, rather than the problem of time diversion. My sense was that some forms of blogging might be rewarded, but that many panelists had strong misgivings about jobless academics blogging under their real names about controversial issues. Cole, for example, pointed out that search committees often receive so many applications that they have to find ways to eliminate most of them from consideration--and worries about controversial blogging might antagonize one or more members of the committee. That said, he also pointed out that sticking your neck out in public is always a risk, no matter where you are in your career, so you just have to decide if you believe in public debate of important issues enough to jump in the fray. All the panelists were excited about the prospect of history blogs reaching a much wider audience than conventional academic publishing.