by Jeremy Young | 4/16/2008 07:37:00 PM
The Working Group on the AHA and its chairman, William H. Chafe, have issued their Final Report and Recommendations. It contains a section on the AHA's interaction with the internet that should be deeply troubling to all history bloggers. Here's an extract:

The AHA needs to use the internet not only for more effective communication, but also for creating effective professional standards for using the internet in areas such as scholarly publishing and social networking.

There are numerous opportunities for making the AHA relevant to members who are in the forefront of the IT revolution. One is to sponsor a series of blogs that focus on specific issues, e.g. the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. The possibilities of hosting blogs are endless and were the AHA to become known for facilitating such activities, it would increase substantially its utility to members (and non-members) with particular interests. ... Once the AHA becomes known as the home for a number of history blogs, and provides gated discussion forums for members on specialized subjects, it will help expand substantially our ability to be a magnet for members of diverse backgrounds.

In sum, we need to seize the opportunities made available by the new technologies, simultaneously reaching out to a broad, cross-generational audience that now uses these technologies as a matter of course, and also targeting more segmented audiences of people with specific aptitudes and specializations. One of the vital challenges we face is to transpose the traditional gatekeeper functions of a broad disciplinary society onto a very different information landscape. As the Web flattens out qualitative distinctions and opens the information arena to many other competing voices, the amount of intellectual "noise" out there vastly increases. Our task is to take this as an opportunity to provide an authoritative voice that can help historians sort through the "noise," consistent with our basic mission to define best practices for members of the profession.


Mills Kelly has an important response to this which I wholeheartedly endorse, and our own PhDinHistory has a post with which I disagree. But I don't think Mills' piece goes far enough in explaining exactly why the Working Group's proposed involvement in the blogosphere is a terrible idea, or what the AHA could do instead to aid the history blogosphere. Over the flip, I'll address these issues at length.



First of all, here's why the AHA's proposed role as "gatekeeper" of the history blogosphere is a bad idea:

1) No one goes looking for history blogs expecting to see the wheat pre-separated from the chaff. The primary consumers of history blogs fall into two categories: 1) other historians and 2) the general public. Blogging historians, by and large, know what's scholarly and what's not. The general public likely isn't concerned with the distinction -- and if they are, they're not going to learn to recognize an AHA "seal of approval" the way grocery shoppers look for the "dolphin safe" marking on cans of tuna fish. In the Information Age, the simple fact is that consumers of knowledge are much more aware than ever before of the need to check and double-check anything they read online, even from "reputable" sources; they've learned this skill out of necessity. While there's no denying that there's plenty of historical disinformation on the Web, there's no realistic way for the AHA to control or influence its propagation.

2) The AHA cannot reliably pre-sanction content on a fast-moving blog. Let's say I'm writing an AHA-sponsored history blog, one to which the AHA has given its seal of approval. Most of the time what I write is good history, but one day I decide to completely fabricate a blog post, or publish one advocating terroristic aims. If I did this in a history journal or a scholarly book, the editor or publisher would be able to pre-screen my content and jettison it before it ever reached public consumption. Unfortunately for the AHA, any bloggers it sanctions will be able to say anything they want on their AHA-sponsored blogs, with the AHA being able to pull the content only after it's appeared in public. The problem here is that the AHA would be forced into a position of sanctioning the blogger, not the post -- something that's not done in any other field of academic endeavor. Such a procedure would leave the AHA open to scandal if a pre-sanctioned blogger then posted something objectionable.

3) The history blogosphere already has a centralizing authority that publishes op-eds and hosts blogs by important scholars. This is a point that Mills made, but I want to make it again. History News Network has been performing this function for the past eight years, and by all accounts has been doing an excellent job of it. In fact, the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, which hosts and oversees HNN, is in general doing such a fantastic job of promoting all things electronic within the history world that it's doubtful that the AHA needs to do anything to augment it. Now, if the AHA is interested in partnering with George Mason in endorsing HNN or helping to pay hosting fees, they can talk to Dan Cohen of CHNM and I'm sure he'd be interested to speak with them. But there's no reason for them to reinvent the wheel.

4) The success of the history blogosphere depends on a free and unregulated exchange of ideas. One of the most important facets of this is the presence of history bloggers who would never be sanctioned by the AHA. Some of the very best history bloggers are amateurs -- bus drivers, IT administrators, music teachers, or even academics in fields other than history. Many are also pseudonymous, for reasons that range from professional to personal. The dynamic interplay between amateurs and professionals is something that exists in no medium other than the Internet -- witness the divide between "scholarly history" and "popular history" in the publishing field. These blogosphere connections are very precious for a historical profession that increasingly finds itself marginalized in the public mind while volumes by amateur historians fill bookstore shelves. But they are also very fragile: they depend on the egalitarian model of the history blogosphere, on its continuing to be rated on the quality of its content rather than by the academic pedigree of its bloggers or by some "sanctioning board" like the AHA. If the AHA steps in here, amateur historical bloggers will simply take their content elsewhere, leading to a permanent divide between "scholarly" and "popular" blogging. This is another instance where I believe the AHA's wading into the history blogosphere would do more harm than good.

4) The blogosphere has different goals than do more "scholarly" endeavors. The main point underlying all of the above criticisms is that the blogosphere has a very different purpose from other types of historical output. I've said before that if I write something that's detailed enough to be published in a journal, I'll publish it in a journal, never on a blog. Blogs are for a different kind of communication altogether: one that takes brief thoughts or arguments about history and relates them either to current events or in a form that is very readable and often entertaining to the general public. They are not a venue for advancing major historical arguments, though they can be used to discuss those arguments; instead, they are meant both for popularizing history and for prompting discussions about particular avenues of research that travel beyond the usual suspects at a conference panel. This process is necessarily freeform and largely stream-of-consciousness. Any attempt to regulate or control it by the AHA or any other organization would stifle the very creativity that makes blogging so unique and so useful.

I've demonstrated, I hope, that the AHA would be better off not getting involved at all in the history blogosphere than doing so in the way the Working Group has outlined. However, I do think the AHA can be of immense help in nurturing and growing the history blogosphere in general. Here are a few ways in which I believe the AHA's influence could be an enormous plus:

1) Encourage tenure and hiring committees to consider blogging as a net positive. No one's suggesting that blogging be considered scholarship (in fact, I've just argued the opposite above), or that someone whose scholarship is lacking should be hired or retained at a university. At the same time, however, there's no denying that having blogging historians on staff is advantageous for a college or university. The average historical monograph probably sells 400-600 copies after sales to libraries are factored out; many of the more widely-read blogs average half that number of unique hits every single day. If a historian is well-known in another medium, say, as a talking head on the History Channel or a columnist for the New York Times, that exposure is generally counted as a net positive so long as scholarly and teaching requirements are also met. Blogging of a certain type could also be considered as teaching outside the university setting, as the dissemination of knowledge to casual readers furthers the goals of the historical profession. Yet blogging historians are routinely dismissed by hiring and tenure committees as dabblers who lack commitment to their scholarly endeavors. That blogging historians are not only not favored, but are actively discriminated against in job searches is a serious problem for anyone who wants to see the history blogosphere grow and thrive. If the AHA were to publish an opinion encouraging job and tenure committees to consider blogging activity favorably in the search and tenure processes, it might make an important difference in how these processes operate.

2) Offer rewards for excellent blogging. Rather than trying to regulate the blogosphere, the AHA should provide incentives for bloggers to produce valuable work. History bloggers are generally not paid for their writings, and unless their blogs attain an extraordnarily high level of readership, they cannot rely on advertising revenue either. What's more, there is currently only one forum for recognizing achievements in historical blogging: the Cliopatria Awards, which provide limited exposure and no monetary prizes. The AHA could improve this situation in a number of ways, at limited expense to itself. It could partner with Cliopatria to publish links to the winning blog posts in the AHR and Perspectives, and to provide small financial subsidies to the winners. It could also offer its own set of awards, judged either by a vote of AHA members or by a more limited pool of judges, that would recognize several individuals in each category. This would enable the AHA to pitch these individuals to hiring and tenure committes as up-and-comers in the blogosphere who deserve special consideration.

3) Provide resources and encouragement for prospective and new bloggers. Many senior history faculty don't blog not because they don't want to, but because the technical hurdles are too high for them to surmount. Many younger historians don't blog because they simply haven't thought of it. The AHA could help in a variety of ways to encourage these groups to become more active in blogging. It could solicit volunteers among experienced bloggers who would help senior academics set up blogs, handling the technical and coding aspects of blogging so that faculty could simply write blog posts and hand off the rest of the work to someone else (either for free or for a nominal fee arranged between the two parties). It could also sponsor regular blogging workshops at AHA conferences, in which bloggers explain what they're doing and why others might want to do it too.

4) Help bring the history blogosphere together. The AHA should offer technical and financial support to projects like History Nexus, which seek to build infrastructure that increases both the interconnectedness and the total number of hits in the history blogosphere. As Mills mentioned in his post, the AHA could also invest in developing more of these Web 2.0 tools. [Update] The various monthly History Carnivals are another example of the sort of Web 2.0 products the AHA could co-sponsor and help expand and publicize.

In closing, I want to state clearly that I bear no ill will to the AHA; on the contrary, I consider it to be a very valuable and well-run organization of which I am honored to be a member. I hope it will take these suggestions under consideration, and reconsider some of the Working Group's suggestions regarding the AHA's role in the blogosphere.

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19 Comments:


Blogger Mentarch on 4/16/2008 9:48 PM:

Hear, hear! 'Nuff said ;-)

 

Anonymous Ralph Luker on 4/17/2008 3:29 AM:

Essentially, I think you are correct. Whoever wrote up the report doesn't seem to know much about blogging or history blogging. One note about your comments: the various history carnivals are more regular opportunities to feature excellence in history blogging than are the Cliopatria Awards. Too often, I'm afraid, nominations for the carnivals are exercises in self-promotion. The idea, really, is for bloggers to nominate posts that they've read in the interval that they think are particularly noteworthy -- wherever they found them. The Cliopatria Awards occur much less frequently, of course, and because of our informal, but commonly understood, rules about conflict of interest, they force the recognition of excellence that isn't just self-promotion.

 

Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/17/2008 3:42 AM:

Ralph, thanks for your comment. You're absolutely right about the History Carnivals, and I should have mentioned that in the initial post. The thing about the self-promotion in carnivals is that if the blogosphere as a whole were more engaged in them, they would automatically become more "vetted" than they are now. Most carnival hosts (myself included) link to everything that's sent there way because they simply don't get enough links to be discriminating. If the number of links sent to carnival hosts were to triple, the hosts would become discriminating out of necessity.

This also means that, in my view, the problem lies not in self-promotion, but in the fact that there isn't more self-promotion. For instance, I always nominate a PH post (though never one of my own), and the host has dutifully linked to it in all but one instance. If the carnivals got more links, the hosts would be much less likely to link to one of mine every time I sent it in; they would read or skim the links and jettison those that they didn't consider truly among the best for that month.

 

Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/17/2008 3:47 AM:

That's "sent their way," of course -- my spell-o-meter seems to have gone on the fritz. Perhaps it's something to do with the fact that it's 5 AM at the moment...

 

Anonymous Ralph Luker on 4/17/2008 5:57 AM:

Sure there ought to be more links sent their way, but I still see little purpose served by *only* sending them from a *particular* blog. You've read great posts elsewhere. Nominate those. Really, it isn't about increasing traffic to a particular blog. That's an abuse of the carnivals.

 

Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/17/2008 9:23 AM:

Well, I don't ONLY send them from PH. I generally try to send in at least one link from other blogs as well for each month. But I'll also say that as the editor of a multi-author blog, I do think it behooves me to make sure my authors get recognized in the history blogosphere. Given how many posts are published at PH in a given month, it's rare that I don't read at least one that I consider deserving of wider readership; indeed, I often read more than one that is, but I limit myself to one per month out of propriety's sake. In over a year of contributing to carnivals, I've never seen a post from this blog nominated by anyone else, so I think it's my duty to make sure those words get out there. And again, I've never nominated anything I've written (which is why nothing I've written has ever been featured in a History Carnival).

 

Blogger PhDinHistory on 4/17/2008 11:00 AM:

Jeremy: You raise some points that definitely need to be considered. And I definitely like your suggestions for how the AHA can promote blogging. But I am confused by some of your assertions. Why is the AHA not worthy of our trust? Why do the contributors to PH allow you to serve as editor? Why would bloggers at historians.org not be willing to let the AHA serve as editor? Why would the AHA not be able to moderate comments and content, if you--a lone individual--have been able to do this for PH? Why can't blogs be about scholarship? I have tried to present original research in almost all of my blog posts. Does that mean I am not really a blogger? Does that mean my stuff doesn't really belong here at PH? Why do you think the goals of scholarship and the blogosphere have to be fundamentally incompatible? Have you seen the blogs that some people are currently using to write their dissertations? Are these online dissertation writers committing career suicide? Why are you trying to reinforce the distinction between academic history and public history? Why can't blogs break down the barriers between history written for the public and history written for other historians?

 

Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/17/2008 1:59 PM:

Sterling, all good questions. I'll answer them one by one.

Why is the AHA not worthy of our trust? Why do the contributors to PH allow you to serve as editor? Why would bloggers at historians.org not be willing to let the AHA serve as editor? Why would the AHA not be able to moderate comments and content, if you--a lone individual--have been able to do this for PH?

Because PH is just one of many group blogs out there. If you don't like my style of editorship, you can leave and post somewhere without any consequences in terms of academic credit or readership. This would not be true with the AHA, which would exercise a hegemonic influence over the blogosphere simply by virtue of its role as an institution-wide governing body. It's not a matter of not trusting them -- in fact, I do trust them; it's a function of their size and stature alone. Imagine telling your colleagues "I got booted from the AHA blog because they didn't like my style of blogging." Wouldn't that have some serious consequences for your career, particularly if the AHA follows my recommendations and encourages hiring and tenure committees to consider blogging in their evaluations? Finally, I don't see my goal as editor as being to separate out the "noise" or to create a "gated" community the way the AHA does. My goal is to generally keep a light touch as editor, and I generally have only stepped in when something was clearly libelous or harrassing in some fashion. I doubt we could rely on the AHA to exercise the same restraint, given their stated goals.

I have tried to present original research in almost all of my blog posts. Does that mean I am not really a blogger? Does that mean my stuff doesn't really belong here at PH?

Of course it doesn't mean that -- we're honored to have you posting here. There are bloggers who present original research, but the blog posts are not presented in the kind of detail that would be needed to publish an article in a scholarly journal. As such, no gatekeeper function is needed.

Why do you think the goals of scholarship and the blogosphere have to be fundamentally incompatible? Have you seen the blogs that some people are currently using to write their dissertations? Are these online dissertation writers committing career suicide?

I have not seen any such online dissertations in the field of history, and given the state of the field right now I would have to say that if there are any, they are certainly putting their careers at grave risk. There's a reason I don't talk about my dissertation work online -- it's too vulnerable to theft and to misinterpretation by senior faculty who don't respect the online process. As for scholarship, there's no reason it can't be presented in part on blogs and discussed through them, but I'd like to contain the peer review process to scholarly journals. The costs of instituting peer review on blogs far outweigh the benefits of making them "scholarly."

Why are you trying to reinforce the distinction between academic history and public history? Why can't blogs break down the barriers between history written for the public and history written for other historians?

I'm actually doing the opposite. That distinction arises when "amateur" historians -- i.e., those not possessing PhDs from accredited institutions -- are systematically cut out of the historical conversation. You can see the fruits of this travesty at your local Barnes & Noble -- shelves of history books written by amateurs and a few scholars who are generally shunned by their colleagues, all of whom are producing the only history the general public reads. This disconnect between what scholars write and what reaches the public is the result of decades of "professionalization" by the historical academy. Now we have been blessed with another chance via the Internet, where amateur and professional historians compete and cooperate on an equal footing in the marketplace of ideas. If the AHA steps in and tries to regulate it, or to perform any sort of "gatekeeper" function, it will stop this process in its tracks.

 

Blogger mark on 4/18/2008 1:18 PM:

Superb post Jeremy.

"Why is the AHA not worthy of our trust?"

Because the only need for gatekeeping online is protection of rentier interests.

In this instance, the guild-like career concerns of academic historians and a desire to have more influence and control over public debate than the intrinsic merit of their arguments warrant.

A sorry collection of dinosaurs determined to keep marching for the tar pits of irrelevance.

 

Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/18/2008 5:42 PM:

Mark, I'm glad you liked it. I will defend Sterling here, though -- I think he has a point that the "guild-like concerns" are important. Historians who trash the AHA need to understand that no matter how much one dislikes the organization, it is truly our only hope if we want to get things like better salaries and fairer hiring practices. The only option available is to change the AHA, because opposing it or setting up a conflicting organization would only fragment the already miniscule power of academic historians to accomplish these goals within an increasingly unfriendly university system. As it happens, there are actually many good things about the AHA. For instance, their vice president of research, Robert Townsend, is a real friend and ally of bloggers. He's promised to pass this post on to the implementation committee, and we can only hope that it will heed some of the recommendations contained herein.

 

Blogger PhDinHistory on 4/19/2008 9:39 AM:

Jeremy: Thanks for the defense. I thought you had some good answers to my questions. But I was left with some nagging questions. Did you see the article by Dan Cohen that I cited in my blog post? Do you think "social and semantic computing" is a naive movement? Do you think the vultures of our profession will start stealing research ideas once history doctoral students begin uploading their dissertation notes to the Zotero servers this fall and making their collections available to the world? If you are sympathetic to the open source movement, why do you want historians to keep their scholarship gated until it appears in published form? Wouldn't a dissertation written on a blog, where the author received and incorporated feedback from all kinds of people, have a better chance of becoming the kind of publication that the public wants to read? If we keep shielding our scholarship from the public, how are we going to produce books that they will buy? Please don't get me wrong. I think the rapproachment between academic historians and lay historians in the blogosphere is great. But how much progress can academic historians make in winning over the public if they continue to practice their scholarly craft behind closed doors? Hasn't it become cliche for the public to dismiss "revisionist history" for its bias and agenda, when in fact they fail to understand the process by which new questions, theories, and evidence lead to new conclusions? Maybe this comes from my convictions that we need to do a better job of helping the public to think historically before we can expect them to embrace our scholarship. I guess I thought blogs that advanced scholarship could serve as these kinds of tutorials for the public and provide correctives for historians who have lost touch with the needs and wants of the public.

 

Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/19/2008 4:24 PM:

Sterling, I think our visions of the history blogosphere can coexist. I'm not against blogs that include scholarship or that reveal the inner workings of scholarly practice, as Dan Cohen suggests. I don't think it would help matters any to have those blogs sponsored or regulated by the AHA -- the free marketplace of ideas should be quite enough to keep them honest. But while I'm not in any way opposed to what you and Dan are working on, it doesn't satisfy my somewhat more radical critique of the academy. I'm not convinced that the general public has any interest in learning about our scholarship, or that they would consume such knowledge if it was provided.

Instead, I start from the premise that if the public is buying books that are different from what we in the academy are writing, then maybe the public is right. If the public wants to read a bunch of books about the Founding Fathers, then maybe we in the academy should write books about the Founding Fathers, albeit ones more accurately sourced and more insightfully argued than the ones currently found on bookstore shelves. In fact, we could use books about the Founding Fathers to argue just about any point we wanted, while still paying attention to what ordinary folks actually want to read.

But we don't do that. Instead, we write books on subjects nobody has any interest in, using language that bores ordinary readers. This is the fruit of the social and cultural history revolutions, which introduced both subjects and methodology that are absolutely uninteresting to the vast majority of Americans -- and of the rigid peer review system, which dutifully eliminated those subjects that the public does have an interest in.

Our profession lost its way when it started talking to itself instead of to the book-reading public. The only thing that's going to change that is a complete revolution in the historical profession. I don't anticipate that any time soon, so I think the next best thing we can do is to preserve the autonomy of those blogs that are reaching the general public.

 

Blogger mark on 4/19/2008 10:31 PM:

Hi Jeremy,

I understand what you are arguing:

"Historians who trash the AHA need to understand that no matter how much one dislikes the organization, it is truly our only hope if we want to get things like better salaries and fairer hiring practices"

Is the AHA making any progress toward these goals ? Sincere question as I ceased to pay them or OAH any mind ten years ago. Maybe your answer will pleasantly surprise me.

It's ironic, given our respective political positons, that I'm saying this but what you really need then is a union.

 

Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/19/2008 10:44 PM:

Mark, not that I can see -- but I'd argue that the AHA IS a sort of union, and that in a field where the workers have a very small union with very little power, creating a second union will only dilute their power further. Folks who want to see the AHA move on these issues immediately should work to take control over the organization at the next business meeting, not set up an alternative.

 

Blogger Ahistoricality on 4/20/2008 4:02 AM:

Is the AHA making any progress toward these goals ?

I've been a member for about as long as mark's been ignoring it. I think the last three years or so have been extraordinary: after near-stasis throughout the 90s and into this decade, the attention being paid to new kinds of historians (not new, really, but never taken seriously at the AHA level before) and new technologies (not just as communications media, but as praxis tools) is quite striking.

They haven't resolved what to do with it yet -- none of us have, really -- and they're playing catch-up. But large institutions often shift slowly. They are, though, shifting; more importantly, they are doing it by listening and by engaging with new tools and new groups.

Lest you think that I've gone off on a tangent, I haven't. Salary comes with respect, it comes with a public perception of relevance and progress being made, and it comes when there is a perceived need for the tools and materials produced by the discipline. I don't think of the AHA as a union -- probably because it doesn't act like one in any useful fashion -- but it is a rallying point and resource, and an increasingly useful one.

 

Blogger Lexington on 4/20/2008 8:37 AM:

To the extent the AHA is talking about reaching a mass audience through the blogsphere their approach is completely misguided -and unfortunately indicative of the problems the historical profession has had in coming to terms with its credibility gap with a wider public.

Although dispatch riders may not yet have arrived at the AHA's ivory tower with the news the fact is that the study of history in 2008 commands just slightly less respect than that of home economics. For that I mainly blame academic historians themselves, who have been conspicuously AWOL in defending the integrity and relevance of their chosen field as it has come under sustained assault from the hard sciences and business and professional schools. To add insult to injury it isn't always apparent that they hold their own undergraduates in much higher regard than the norm (except as profit centers, of course). This represents an enormous wasted opportunity for the profession, since undergraduates are the connective tissue between academia and society at large and could play a vital role in bridging the gap between the two.

If the AHA's Internet strategy is predicated on the belief that there are teeming masses of laypeople eagerly waiting to receive The Word from card-carrying members through the medium of the blogsphere they are just indulging in more self delusion. First, a surprising number of people who don't happen to hold a doctorate in history feel perfectly capable of -indeed not only capable of, but entitled to- form an opinion. I don't think they really care whether or not that opinion comes with the AHA's Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval (actually I can tell you most assuredly they don't). More to the point however what differentiates the blogsphere from other forms of communication (it's particular genius, if you will) is its inherently participatory nature. It sounds as if the AHA is so wed to an insular, defensive culture that it is unwilling to leverage this potentially huge asset to its advantage.

If the AHA was more forward looking it would see the blogsphere as the great outreach opportunity that it is - a chance to put before a wide public historical theory, method and scholarship and demonstrate their application (and hence salience) to current issues and problems of public policy. For this to work however the AHA has to accept that a wide public will not condescend to be talked down to, it must occur within a framework that promotes dialog and the free exchange of ideas. I personally don't see why that should even be an issue. I find it bitterly ironic for example that one of the most commonplace defenses of a liberal education is that it is supposed to "teach people to think" -and yet the very purveyors of this education are often among the first to rule an argument inadmissible on the grounds that its proponent has an insufficiency of academic credentials! These are the depths of scholastic obscurism and logical absurdity in which the liberal arts now languish.

And things are probably only going to get worse unless organizations like the AHA are willing to move out of their comfort zone and take responsibility for making their case to wider public. After all no one has ever won a debate by allowing themselves to be defined by their opponents.

 

Blogger PhDinHistory on 4/20/2008 1:01 PM:

I wish we knew more about the members of the public that is reading history blogs. I think we need to give them more credit than we usually do. After all, there are over a million people in this country who have a bachelors in history and another 150,000 who have a masters degree in history. What proportion of these individuals with history degrees are members of the public who read history blogs and buy history books? Maybe a quarter million of these individuals have sufficient training in the methods of history to be able to understand our historical scholarship. Has anybody surveyed these people to find out what kinds of history books they want to read? Have we seriously asked them what kinds of history blogs or projects they want to participate in?

 

Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/20/2008 2:13 PM:

Sterling, with all due respect, why should we care? A quarter of a million people is hardly enough to sustain a discipline over the long haul. There are tens of millions who buy works of popular history every single year. They are the market we should be targeting, not the comparatively few who are "educated" enough to be interested in the "methods of history."

Lexington, right on.

 

Blogger Larry Cebula on 4/27/2008 1:23 PM:

A fine post Jeremy. And I liked Ralph's point: "Whoever wrote up the report doesn't seem to know much about blogging or history blogging."

Whether or not the AHA's ideas are good (they aren't) is almost irrelevant because the ideas are so impractical. As Mills Kelly points out in the post that you linked, there is no way that the AHA possibly could have any impact on history blogging or email discussion groups. Those ships have long since sailed.

I also liked Jeremy's four suggestions as to what the AHA might do instead--though I suspect that these items are underway and will occur with or without the AHA.