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

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.


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