In an increasingly open sourced world where libraries and archives are accessible from everywhere and in which working and writing in a cloud has become state of the art, where do we place history and historians? This is an attempt to describe the work as an aspiring historian of sport and as a blogger and how to combine these two.
Still in the Ivory Tower?
The development of new technologies like email, Skype, twitter and blogging platforms such as WordPress, blogger, tumbler etc. have opened up entirely new perspectives and possibilities for historians. Yet how to use those for their own benefit, i.e. earning some money is not yet clear. Of course, classical methods of teaching in the classroom still provide the major source of income for many historians now and in the future. However, there is still a lingering sense that science is happy to remain resident in its ivory tower and not interfere with the public. This certainly would mean the end for universities and research as none of these can survive without an intercourse with the public. Science and research need to be public, yet if it should be for free, remains the hot topic in this debate.
Why do historians blog? They won’t earn money with regular posts. They won’t create large audiences that follow their writings, there are simply too much blogs and bloggers for the audience to find and read. They might get followers through regular blogging and interaction with the readers. But it won’t pay their bills.
According to Jonathan Wilson, it has never been easier to get published today, which is true. Wilson further spoke of a ‘democratisation of journalism’ and thus he finished, we will see another ‘golden age of football-writing’ as the big papers simply hunt the big stories of the big clubs and the big competitions. This creates space at the fringe of football writing and this is where in his opinion football blogs are taking over. Also true. Yet, he also concedes that it is not easy to make money from being a football journalist.
The answer to the question is not easy but for football writers it can be assumed that a love of the game is the main engine for their drive to maintain a blog. Websites such as In Bed With Maradona are witness to that. More than 300 writers have so far contributed to their success in just over 2 years since their launch. Another, Grumpy Old Fan, writes as an ‘ex-season ticket holder at Man United with a love of football.’ This could be extended but it becomes clear: There are many talented writers to write about football and publish their opinions on the ‘beautiful game.’ Personally, as a non-English speaker, writing in English is a tool to keep the language fluid and up to date which contributes to my ultimate goal in the next 2 years: finishing my PhD-thesis.
It is also a way of building a network. Through publishing guest posts and word of mouth propaganda this network could be extended; with the help of social media such as Facebook, google+ and twitter more people could be reached, thus creating a valuable readership which is the currency in which writers are being ‘paid.’
Blogging and Networking
However, writing itself does not create networks; this requires hard work and, of course, some talent. It is nonetheless important to attend ‘professional’ gatherings, i.e. annual conferences. On top of that, presenting material at those occasions, opens up possibilities for further projects. It is therefore important as an historian not to retreat into the archives and behind computer screens (the new ivory tower?) but to be present at various events as well as online.
The historical blogosphere is only just at the beginning just as blogging has become widely popular in the last 6 years. Therefore there is much more to come not just from individuals but also from institutions as these have to stay connected with the interested and reading public. What would be ideal is to create a blog directory, just like its equivalent in football.
How to conclude? The need to get published is immense for a historian. Of course journal articles are a currency much more valued by the scientific community. However, maintaining a blog as well as publishing interesting material through regular posts adds another dimension to the scientist: that of a journalist who knows how to edit pieces and where to insert pictures and other materials. In short, it gives a technical edge to the writing process which does not deform the content, but rather shapes it to make it readable for an increasingly digital readership.
- Creating the Blogging for Historians blog (bloggingforhistorians.wordpress.com)
- Digital History: A Two-Part Series (hastac.org)
- Historian Eric Hobsbawm dies aged 95 (thetimes.co.uk)
- Connecting Blogging for Historians to my Twitter account (bloggingforhistorians.wordpress.com)
- Is Wikipedia ‘done’? It’s close, says historian (nbcnews.com)