Howdy, friends–today’s post is an invitation for you to click on over to the American Historical Association’s Roundtable, “Historians’ Perspectives on Web Ethics,” a free-range discussion of the ethical and moral responsibilities historians have with respect to our online presence, either as web page hosts, bloggers, commenters, Tweeters, etc. Many thanks to Vanessa Varin, an Assistant Editor of Web and Social Media for Perspectives, the newsmagazine of the AHA. I made a contribution to the discussion, as did Benjamin Alpers of Oklahoma University and the U.S. Intellectual History blog, John Fea of Messiah College and the blog The Way of Improvement Leads Home, and Claire Potter of the New School for Public Engagement, a.k.a. our old pal, Tenured Radical.
I was interested to see that three of us wrote about the necessity of developing online professional standards and aggressively curating online discussions, whereas Alpers was the only one of us who wrote about a vision of the web as an “open, public scholarly space.” (This may have something to do with the fact that he has an intellectual history blog, which probably attracts fewer than its share of trolls compared to queer-radfem-political-cowgirl-religion bloggers like Fea, TR, and myself.) Alpers continues:
Historians will need to engage in more explicit discussions of online behavioral norms than we are accustomed to. And these discussions ought to be in the context of a larger consideration of how online activities can enhance the production and dissemination of historical knowledge. New digital technologies can be enhanced by old, scholarly technologies like peer review. Online genres, such as the blog, are loose and capacious. Rather than merely considering how to defend ourselves from their potential abuses, we should actively adapt them to our own purposes.
One major drawback of the AHA format is that only AHA members are permitted to comment–which, as you can see, has pretty much inhibited any comments! (Not all historians are AHA members, and of course, very few people online, even among academic bloggers, are historians, and thank Dog for that, right?) In any case, I think the AHA should open up its comments section so that it models the kind of “open, public scholarly space” Alpers calls for. Dig? Now, I’m off to read what one of Ben’s colleagues, Andrew Hartman, has to say about Camille Paglia. . .