Blogging the Humanities: brief recap

By Juliana Adelman

Who says cyberspace is lonely?  On behalf of Pue’s I want to thank all the bloggers and would-be bloggers who joined us for a day of discussion on the present and future of blogging in the humanities.  It was great to put faces to blogs, to meet new people and generally talk about something a bit different than the usual history conference.  I was amazed at just how much discussion was possible.  We took a bit of a risk by leaving so much ’empty’ space in the programme, but it really paid off.  I think I can speak for all of us at Pue’s in saying we learned a tremendous amount and we haven’t exhausted the possibilties yet.  I supppose it’s very academic to think that blogs need a theoretical framework and a critical discourse, but even those outside academia had plenty to contribute to these topics.  The blogs represented not just history, but art, literature and geography as well.  Nevertheless we all face remarkably similar challenges and conversation never flagged.  For an excellent summary of the issues we discussed, please see Rob Kitchin’s post on Ireland After Nama.  Below I’ve listed a few points raised by each of the speakers and provided a link to their blogs.  The main outcome was an agreement to hold another symposium in six months time, so check back for more information on that.  Very soon we’ll be putting up a page of links generated from all the participants including favourite blogs, advice on blogging and other creative uses of technology.

The speakers, in alphabetical order, were:

Greg Baxter, Some Blind Alleys

  • Greg originally ran Some Blind Alleys as an online literary journal (the pieces can now be found in the ‘Archives’ section of the blog).  Among the problems Greg highlighted was the reluctance of some writers to publish online, wanting to save their work for printed journals despite their smaller audiences.

John Cunningham, History Compass Exchanges

  • John’s talk highlighted some similar difficulties to Greg: would historians really put original research on the web for free?  If they did would it be too esoteric for a wider audience?  See John’s posts on history and blogging here for some further thoughts.

Aoife Flynn, Sligo Model Weblog

  • Aoife pointed to the potential tensions between the ‘curatorial’ voice used in most museum publications and the informal style needed for the blog.  However, the immediacy of the blog has allowed the museum to provide material that would never have made it to the gallery, for example the reactions and photographs of one of their exhibiting artists while in Iran.

Donal Ó Fallúin, Come Here to Me!

  • Donal, like Ciarán Swan below, uses the blog to provide access to historical material that he comes across ranging from photographs and newspaper clippings to mp3s created from forgotten vinyl.  He raised the importance of using traditional media (even plain old paper) to generate new audiences for blogs.

Rob Kitchin, Ireland After NAMA

  • Rob’s group blog is a success story for using new media to generate a voice for academics in current affairs.  However, the blog has been trial-by-fire for research geographers in dealing with journalists and the public on controversial topics.  Nevertheless, Ireland After NAMA shows how a blog can really be integrated with academic work.

Ciarán Swan, Irish Left Archive

  • Ciarán’s talk showed both the possibilties of freely available archives generated by this type of project and also the fragility of these projects (and blogs in general).  The ILA’s distance from an official academic environment has encouraged people to send in material, but it also puts the material at some risk of disappearing.

Karl Whitney, UCD Academic Blogging

  • Karl has been bravely trying to convince academics in UCD that blogging is a good idea.  He pointed to the range of possible uses for a blog within academia and the flexibility of the format to accommodate a range of goals.

Although they didn’t present at this event, I also want to highlight the fact that the National Gallery of Ireland and the National Library of Ireland (represented on Thursday by Helen Monaghan and Sarah Sheil respectively) are very in tune with new technologies.  The NLI is on Twitter and Facebook, the National Gallery is on Twitter and so is the Irish Museums Association.  As I mentioned above, we’ll be compiling a page to highlight as many of these types of resources as possible in the near future.

Thanks again to all who came and we look forward to seeing you again soon!

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7 Responses to “Blogging the Humanities: brief recap”

  1. Póló Says:

    Unfortunately, due to family illness, I didn’t make the seminar which I was very much looking forward to. Sounds like it was a great success. Congratulations.

    I don’t know if the question of Google maps came up but I notice that they are being used now in the presentation of all sorts of data. I came across them initially when doing my family history. I wanted to illustrate where various people had lived (in Dublin for starters) but I found I had to keep restarting the hardcopy map from scratchto accommodate new findings. Google maps came to the rescue. You can edit them and the viewer can scale them. You can direct the viewer to other online sources, pictures etc. in a very controlled way.

    The maps really came into their own for me when I was updating some earlier hardcopy material for a talk on Ballybrack/Killiney a while ago. They allowed me to illustrate various aspects of the defence of Killiney Bay between 1793 and 1815, and a “live” version of the song, The Kilruddery Hunt, from the mid 18th century. There is no end to the ingenious uses to which they can be put in the presentation of historical material.

    Anyone who is interested can check out the two maps mentioned and get some instructions for composing maps at http://www.photopol.com/dca/index.html

    I appreciate that these are on a website rather than in a blog, but another interesting development in the presentation of material is the integration of websites, blogs and eg Twitter, which allows presentation in varying degrees of compression to various audiences.

    Rath ar an obair, go maire sí.

  2. Cathy Fitzgerald Says:

    Hi Juliana

    Thanks to you all for such a well organised and stimulating day. It was great to get such an overview of how academia is adopting and using blogging.

    Cathy

  3. puesoccurrences Says:

    @Pol: thanks for the link, we’ll add it to the page we are developing

    @Cathy: great to meet you and look forward to seeing you again. Keep us updated if wordpress does any more rounds of training days!

    Juliana

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