Monthly Archives: September 2007

The future of H-Net… LiveJournal?

Mills Kelly has started a real debate in the last few couple weeks about the future of H-Net.

(Follow-ups can be found here, here, here, and here… And to see some of the response this engendered, check here, here, here, and here. Also, check out the discussion on the Digital History podcast.)

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to say that, despite the advice of many professors and colleagues, I am not and never have been a member of an H-Net community. I have my reasons, though. And they have everything to do with why I’m writing this.

Mills’s article brings up the notion of email bankruptcy. People have begun declaring bankruptcy on Social Networking Sites. for that matter, too. Now, when I first heard about this phenomenon, it seemed a bit silly. But then I realized that this was exactly the same thing that had happened to me years ago.

You see, around 1998 or 1999, I declared (without using the term) listserv bankruptcy. After three or four years of being very active on several listservs, I realized that deleting messages from my lists was taking so much time I was neglecting to reply to emails from friends and family. I quit them all, and though I’ve joined one or two briefly since then, I’ve been listserv free for most of the last eight years.

So I guess I have a vested interest in coming up with a new, viable direction that H-Net could go in– it’s for the sake of my own professional development that I’m thinking about this, because I really don’t think I could face the possibility of joining one of those things again.

But it hit me the other day: there’s already an existing piece of open-source software that could do everything H-Net does now and more, that can play to its existing strengths and help improve aspects that are less than ideal.

The answer is LiveJournal.

Those of you rolling your eyes, please hear me out. […]

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The future of H-Net… LiveJournal?

Mills Kelly has started a real debate in the last few couple weeks about the future of H-Net.

(Follow-ups can be found here, here, here, and here… And to see some of the response this engendered, check here, here, here, and here. Also, check out the discussion on the Digital History podcast.)

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to say that, despite the advice of many professors and colleagues, I am not and never have been a member of an H-Net community. I have my reasons, though. And they have everything to do with why I’m writing this.

Mills’s article brings up the notion of email bankruptcy. People have begun declaring bankruptcy on Social Networking Sites. for that matter, too. Now, when I first heard about this phenomenon, it seemed a bit silly. But then I realized that this was exactly the same thing that had happened to me years ago.

You see, around 1998 or 1999, I declared (without using the term) listserv bankruptcy. After three or four years of being very active on several listservs, I realized that deleting messages from my lists was taking so much time I was neglecting to reply to emails from friends and family. I quit them all, and though I’ve joined one or two briefly since then, I’ve been listserv free for most of the last eight years.

So I guess I have a vested interest in coming up with a new, viable direction that H-Net could go in– it’s for the sake of my own professional development that I’m thinking about this, because I really don’t think I could face the possibility of joining one of those things again.

But it hit me the other day: there’s already an existing piece of open-source software that could do everything H-Net does now and more, that can play to its existing strengths and help improve aspects that are less than ideal.

The answer is LiveJournal.

Those of you rolling your eyes, please hear me out. […]

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The (Il)legibility of Smoke

(Some more thoughts on two books I talked about in this post.)

James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State and David Stradling’s Smokestacks and Progressives, while tackling related topics, could not be more dissimilar in approach. Scott’s book is a sprawling history of a type of phenomenon—an account of different iterations of a problem that covers multiple continents and the entire modern era, using a strong theoretical base to tie seemingly unrelated events. Stradling, on the other hand, limits his scope, limiting his book to popular smoke abatement movements in the US between the 1890s and 1940s. Stradling’s book is virtually absent of any underlying theoretical base—his book is primarily a chronicle of the periodic and seemingly unrelated interruptions, upsets, and setbacks that the movement suffered over that time. Despite their widely divergent approaches and subject matter, the two books can be seen as working quite well in dialogue, each book shedding light on what may be perceived as deficiencies of the other. […]

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The (Il)legibility of Smoke

(Some more thoughts on two books I talked about in this post.)

James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State and David Stradling’s Smokestacks and Progressives, while tackling related topics, could not be more dissimilar in approach. Scott’s book is a sprawling history of a type of phenomenon—an account of different iterations of a problem that covers multiple continents and the entire modern era, using a strong theoretical base to tie seemingly unrelated events. Stradling, on the other hand, limits his scope, limiting his book to popular smoke abatement movements in the US between the 1890s and 1940s. Stradling’s book is virtually absent of any underlying theoretical base—his book is primarily a chronicle of the periodic and seemingly unrelated interruptions, upsets, and setbacks that the movement suffered over that time. Despite their widely divergent approaches and subject matter, the two books can be seen as working quite well in dialogue, each book shedding light on what may be perceived as deficiencies of the other. […]

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Digital Pedagogy Done Right!(tm)

If anyone hadn’t gathered from my multiple cartographically-themed posts in the last couple weeks, I’m taking a course on History and Cartography this semester.

I want to take this opportunity to praise two of the websites we visited this week– TypeBrewer and ColorBrewer. Both of these projects quite successfully combine several elements that seem to be essential to good use of new media for pedagogical ends. […]

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What We Talk About When We Talk About History, Part II: Atheoretical History?

I know that the mere mention of the word "theory" makes some people’s eyes roll and their ears flap shut, but history needs theory.

I read Black’s Maps and History last year, and I have to say I rather liked it. But reading it again after reading The Landscape of History and James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State in the last few weeks, the lack of any underlying theoretical structure in Black’s book really stuck out like a sore thumb.

It’s probably not helping that last week I was required to read another book, David Stradling’s Smokestacks and Progressives, that had essentially the same problem. That book sensitized me to how annoyed I can get when there’s a lack of theoretical underpinning to a work of history, even one on an interesting topic.

So yeah, Stradling and Black fall into the same trap– they give very authoritative and in-depth accounts of activity over time, without any theory unifying their books. In one case, it’s the history of smoke abatement movements in the Progressive Era and into the Depression, and in the other, it’s the evolution of historical atlases. Both are fascinating topics. Both books seem quite well-researched. But neither author really puts much effort into demonstrating commonalities over time– whether they be commonalities in causes of change, effects, methods, forces that repeatedly influence the historical narrative, commonalities over time…

And that’s what I’m talking about when I say theory. […]

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Cartography can be fun…

It CAN! Read more… Continue reading

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Cartography can be fun…

It CAN! Read more… Continue reading

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Sharing a comment…

I actually wrote this as a comment in Ken’s blog, but knowing that there’s a better chance of getting more replies if I post it as a blog entry than there is if I post it as a comment, I’ll repeat myself here […]

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Historical Atlases a Go-Go

I’ve looked at a bunch of Historical Atlases over the last couple weeks. I’m just going to comment on four that seemed especially worthy of comment, for good or ill. […]

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