Last Friday (the November 12th), the Geschichtswissenschaften en Web 2.0 (historical sciences and web 2.0) workshop took place in the beautiful Wildt’ischenhaus in Basel. The day was divided into two parts. After an introduction, followed a theoretical paper by M. Thaller. S. Zala then presented his work for dodis.ch. Both talks centred around the theme of publishing primary historical sources and subsequently working with these on the web. Although this appears to be commonplace, the historians present in Basel still see it as a sensitive issue. As an archaeologist, I do not really see the problem: as long as it is clear that the sources are or are not edited, and whether there is any kind of bias, it should only be an advantage to researchers. For archaeology it is still rather uncommon to instantly publish our equivalent of historical sources – our raw excavation data – online (databases, recordings sheets, photos, day reports etc.). I can only think of very few examples (Silchester, UK & Çatalhöyük, Turkey).
The introduction by Peter Haber and the afternoon dealt mainly with blogging and – to a lesser extend – to other web 2.0 application, which was in my eyes rather disappointing. M. Kelly (edwired), C. Sarti (zwergenblick), M. Brendel (geschichtskombinat) and A. Tantner (addresscomptoir) all gave a more or less brief peek into their blogging life, followed by an interesting but slightly tame discussion which did not really looked beyond the garden fence.
There appeared to be four main reasons for blogging: (self-) reflection, networking, marketing and blogging used as a thinking-/writing-aid. Surprisingly, except for M. Kelly, none of these bloggers see blogging as a way to profile themselves academically. In the archaeological/anthropological blogosphere, I get the impression, that this is definitely different. The – mainly Anglo-American – archy & anthro bloggers (I sadly know very few blogging archaeologists in the German speaking world) seem to use blogging at least partly as a way to profile themselves, while the supervisors of the PhD-candidate bloggers at the workshop do not even know of their student’s blogging activities…
The question was raised whether blogging should be considered scholarly or scholarship. M. Kelly describes Scholarship as work that is:
- the result of one or more persons research activities
- this research is situated in a larger “research” context
- is peer-reviewed
- gets published
Most bloggers at the workshop see their blogging as mostly scholarly, if at all. It touches on their academic work. However, it is not always completely referenced and often not fully developed work. Also, their audience (the one they reach or aim to reach) is not a scientific audience per sé.
I guess, this is all roughly how I see my blogging. It serves a small collection of purposes: The main aim of this blog was to be a showcase for my PhD (I guess that fits under networking), only afterwards it really turned into a blog, at least in my mind. It allows me to show what I am working on, not unlike e.g. a conference poster. The blog gives me a place to write about what interests me, but does not always fit exactly in my research. I also hope it helps me practice my writing skills and aids me in my thinking. The blog may also help record the research-process behind my phd-work. Even though, I try to post informative pieces, I aim to be scholarly, not necessarily to post scholarship-work.
All agreed, though, that we love our subject and love talking about it. Doing it on our blogs might save our nearest some tedious hours. At least sometimes! It was an interesting, if tame day and I thank hist.net and infoclio.ch for organising the day! Not a bad start. I’m curious what comes next.
Infoclio.ch has an extensive piece on the workshop with links, streamings of most of the talks and the accompanying slides. So go and have a look!
Update 22.110.2010: on hist.net J. Hodel does a bit more soul searching.