Blog #3: Social Tagging and Shared Authority

As I sit here, snowed in, in New England, I began to explore the citizen archive project on the National Archives website. The project can be greatly justified in its purpose and be extremely helpful to the public. I took part in a few of the tagging tasks dealing with World War Two posters. At first I had been unsure of the task set forth in front of me. I had some apprehension of participating in the project. My mind kept thinking, “What if I don’t know what to tag?,””What if I over tag?”.

Instead of starting of tagging I decided to see what had been done. I looked at the posters and noticed that the tags already added were vague and direct, which was good for simplicity but not for someone who is participates in specified researching. Historians rely on the web for a lot of their research and a database like the World War Two posters is an extremely important resource, the tags would be more helpful if they were more specific. Most of the tags that had already been placed on the posters had been simple like: Solider, World War II, propaganda, etc.

Yet, these tasks put forth by the National Archives are a great way to bring in the public. The different tasks of tagging and transcribing documents allows for public involvement that would not be possible without the internet. The missions that the Citizen Archive asks the site visitor to participate in are simple in practice and in thought. Anyone can participate in the Citizen Archive as long as they have a simple understanding of how to work the program and have some historical context to place on the analyzed texts.

The archive experiment offers an amazing spotlight into the question of shared authority. The indirect conversation that is established through the act of tagging and correcting transcriptions allows for an interaction between the historian and the public, but it is a limited conversation. The fact that the conversation is there and the interaction between the historian and the public dealing in a digital and archive fashion is an excellent occurrence. Many people do not have the opportunity to visit or access an archive but a site like the Citizen Archive Project allows for that chance.

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Entry #2: The Evolution of History in the Digital Age

The digital world has brought about a lot of change in the field of History. History has always been seen as an academic field holding no real worth to the working class, but with the help of the advancements in technology interest has grown.

History is no longer being portrayed as just memorized dates and events. People are looking into the past through different avenues and technological advancement allows for that. Open source and open access sites are great for the field because they allow for mass consumption of information from all audiences and not just those that own a subscription to Jstor.

The digital age allows for easier research to be completed; with the creation of the simple google search researchers are able to look and find necessary information or searches in a matter of moments. Prior to the technology upgrade, hours would be spent in front of a book rereading text trying to find the evidence to support the research.

Researchers are not the only ones who benefit from digital history movement, Museums do too. When we think of museums almost instantly people get an overwhelming sense of boredom. The stigma that a static museum exhibit is the only form of exhibit is disappearing. Museums are creating interactive exhibits, some that even have online companions, helping to feed the desire for entertainment in many individuals, while also educating them in the process. (x)

So when we talk about these changes to the field of historical research it is important to talk about the quality of work. There have been arguments made that history published on the web holds less value than published in a book or journal. I see the argument to be incorrect. Just because something was published online does not downgrade the quality of work completed by an individual.

Yes there is an increase in the quantity of research online but there is no evidence to claim that the quality of work is worse than an article published in a journal. It is simple to come across false historical data on the internet. Yet, we are trained to weed out the bad and find the good. There is an abundance of good history online and it is available to almost every history buff in the world.

Entry #1: Blogging and the Historian.

Blogging has been a part of the internet craze from the beginning, or so it seems. With the coming of the Web 2.0 in the early 2000s blogging has begun to be prominent in daily life. Yet, just because blogs are a part of an active life on the web, does that mean that the Historian should use that tool?

Yes. It is my genuine belief that the Historian should use a blog to release their research to the public. By posting to a site like WordPress there is a better chance for a Historians research to be seen. Dan Cohen wrote an entry titled, Professors, Start Your Blogs, and in that entry he advocates for the blogging Historian.

Cohen made a list stating the benefits of blogging in the historical field. For one, posting to a site similar to WordPress, or something similar, allows for a graduate student to expose their research to the public. This can be beneficial when it comes to searching for a job or for feedback on completed research. I had attended the American Historical Associations Annual (AHA) Meeting in January of 2015, one session focused on Blogging and the Future of Scholarship. During that session, the speakers made sure to note that blogging can turn historians from beginners into scholars.

Having explained why blogging is beneficial to the grad student, it is important to know that others in the field can see the benefits of posting updates to a site. By posting to a blog, the scribe decides the topic and how to write about that topic. He does not have the strict rules of writing like an academic journal or book. The writer chooses the language. This does not mean that posting from blogs is better than being formally published in an academic journal or a book, but rather that a blog allows for exposure.

The Language choice is not the only choice that the writer makes. He also chooses his audience. He does not make an outright choice in who will be reading the article, but by choosing the topic addressed in his or her blog he is addressing a certain group of people. If I were to post a blog about anti-Semitism in Germany during the 1860s and how nationalism attributed to the increase in anti-semetic attitudes in the country, that blog would be geared to a specific person, someone who lives history, namely an academic. Yet, if I were to post to a blog about the home front during the Second World War, and keep the posts in a  simplistic attitude, the blog would have a wider audience because of the topics popularity in the public sphere.

Posting about any topic in the blog-o-sphere leads to an open dialogue among historians and the public. The commenting feature of a blog allows for the ability for individuals to talk about topics and argue for or against the findings in a post. The more academic posts can be eye opening to the amateur historian. This new form of shared authority allows for an open discussion on topics of interest to peoples.

Updating to a blog seems like a big commitment, which it can be, but as long as it is well planned out the commitment is not difficult. Posts are easy to write and they take very little time to complete. The creator of the blog manages the commitment. The frequency of posts depends on the person creating the posts. The blogger can choose to post once a week or once a month, but it is important to keep up to date with the blog in order to maintain its validity.

Overall, the benefits of blogging outweigh many of the downfalls. For one there is chance for an individual to jumpstart their career. There is the chance to create a dialogue between historians and the public, and there are personal benefits of not having the stress of publishing in a journal or writing a book.