In response to my last post a reader inquired into a point I made in passing:
Also, can you clarify what you mean by your statement that “we need to think about the ways in which social media is shaping the organization of relatively small conferences like the SCWH”?
Let me respond by taking a step back.
A few weeks ago an academic journal asked me to review a new book about Civil War veterans. I don’t get many requests to review for journals so I usually jump at the opportunity, but in this case I declined. I am “friends” with the author on Facebook and while we do not have a particularly close relationship offline we have interacted enough online that I didn’t feel as if I could give the book an objective review. On the other hand, I am currently writing a book review for an online magazine whose author is also a Facebook friend. Our paths cross occasionally at conferences and we chat directly online only rarely. I also considered whether it was appropriate for me to review this book, but decided that perhaps I didn’t need to worry as much given where the review is to be published. Even in this case I am not entirely comfortable.
Again, I do not have a particularly close relationship with the either of the authors apart from social media, but I see their personal status updates, photographs of their families, and their interactions with other members of my online community of Civil War historians. In the last few years I’ve noticed more and more academic journal reviews, where the reviewers and the authors are connected via Facebook, Twitter, etc. In some cases these social media connections are strong. Does this impact the review? I can’t know for sure, but I also can’t help but think that it does.
Is it a problem? I will leave that for you to discuss in the comments section, but it does seem to me to be one place where social media has shaped how the relatively small community of Civil War historians interacts with .
The passing comment above ought to be read as an extension of this musing. I meant it more as a question for consideration. How has social media impacted the way in which small conferences like the SCWH are organized? Do historians who are connected (and active) via social media to the larger community of Civil War historians enjoy any advantages? I ask this as someone who has benefited immensely by maintaining an active online presence through blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, so I don’t mean to cast a dark shadow on it.
I am simply wondering about how social media has shaped the boundary between the professional and personal relationships of members of this small community and the field.