Yesterday I spent some time browsing through my local bookstore as I still have a substantial amount of money left over from student Christmas gifts in the form of B&N gift cards. I spent a few minutes reading Harry Smeltzer’s short article on Civil War blogs in America’s Civil War. Harry did a super job introducing readers to the pros and cons of blogging and a few of the better blogs currently in operation.
What I found interesting was the reaction of the few historians who were asked their opinions about blogs. Both were direct in their overall concerns that since practically anyone can blog the field as a whole lacks credibility or they simply can’t bother sifting through the morass. That may be too harsh an assessment, but it’s at least on target. [Note: See Smeltzer's comment to this post below.]While I agree that there is a lot of nonsense out there I don’t buy this reaction. Can’t you ask the same question and substitute Civil War histories for Civil War blogs? Most of the former is crap written by people who have not business writing history at all. However, we don’t throw our hands up in the air in frustration we sift through the literature and look for signs of legitimacy.
The bigger problem is that blogging is still relatively new and its place within academia is still questionable. Many academics blog anonymously rather than risk being shunned by their peers or in the worst case being denied tenure. Whatever the reaction on the surface I’ve found that roughly half of my readers are from the academic world. I can’t be sure that they are historians (professors or students), but they are logging on from their school’s servers. Like any new technology change takes time. Perhaps the pace is just right as it lends itself to being able to think through some of the tougher questions surrounding methodology/pedagogy. Whatever the case it seems to me that we are beyond the questions of to blog or not to blog or what do you think about blogs. The question now is what can we accomplish through blogging.
If anyone has any doubts about the possibilities that blogging offers to academics just check out Mark Grimsley’s Blog Them Out Of The Stone Age.