Perspectives Online Reactions

So, in keeping with the assignment for this Tuesday, I visited the Perspectives Online page for May 2007 at the American Historical Association and prepared to react to two or three articles.

I first want to talk about David Voelker’s article called “Blogging for Your Students” because of how imminently important it is in the context of this class. Voelker gives some great reasons why professors should begin to consider starting their own blogs for their students. As Voelker argues, blogs are a powerful way for students and professors to interact in a public setting that forces both parties to offer more intelligent discussion than in the classroom alone precisely because it is public.

This reflects strongly on this class. At times, it seems like different groups have been reminded exactly how public some of this is. Therefore, I think that the most important thing to take away from the idea of blogs is simply how blogs make your work accessible to other people (students/peers/colleagues/whomever). Accessibility is something that Voelker discusses, but in a different way because his motive is to persuade other professors to blog in their classes. That means sometimes people will react harshly to what you say, but if it is worth saying, then other people will benefit from it. Our projects in this class directly benefit Fredericksburg, because it makes Fredericksburg’s history available to a wider audience. We are at least an audience for each other’s projects, which still helps us to refine our thoughts and research which we post publicly.

Elizabeth Fairhead’s article, “Talking Shop with the ‘Gutenberg-es,'” also points to how digital history improves the accessibility of history. It stays with the overall theme of Voelker’s article: digital history is public. The Gutenberg-e Prize allows many (sometimes struggling) researchers the opportunity to publish a monograph on the web. As interviews with former recipients reveal, the Gutenberg-e Prize directly benefits historians looking for stable, tenure-track positions. I think that Daniella Kostroun’s comment about the prize provides a powerful endorsement:

I landed my first job at a small New England four-year college, but I was living hundreds of miles away from my husband, a political scientist, who got a job offer the same year I did at a big urban public university in the Midwest. I was not thrilled about being in a commuter marriage, and I felt that my future book was my only good leverage for getting us a situation together. In other words, I was not just interested on how the e-book would stand for tenure, but also how it would look on the market. Thanks to my e-book, my husband and I were faced with a dilemma that we never could have imagined. We had to make a choice between two joint positions! In the end, we decided to stay in the Midwest, mostly because of family considerations. These days, I still pinch myself in disbelief. After living in a commuter relationship for more than five years, my husband and I now work at the same school. In fact, we are not just teaching at the same school, but on the same hallway! We get to pass a quick word to each other at work or over the occasional lunch, which is a good thing, because with tenure looming for each of us we are both quite busy.

The Gutenberg-e Prize has something to do with our class because we can justifiably look at our own work that we have created as published exhibits that do not require a museum to house them, just like Gutenberg-ees don’t need publishers to publish their books.

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