That’s So Twentieth Century: Women’s History and Web 2.0
In my last post, I reproduced an announcement from the women’s studies journal Frontiers about a new “interactive” column by Eileen Boris, in which she will cook up a “gumbo” of emailed responses, “mixing, seasoning, and throwing in her own ingredients, as she enables us to engage in feminist dialectic.”
As Pennamite observed in the comments section, “Isn’t that gumbo going to be a bit old, if the deadline for submissions is over a year away…? Seems like an awkward way to shoehorn social media into a paper journal format.”
Right on, Pennamite! So this post is a response to Penny’s observation and a contribution to a new venture that Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt started cooking up at ThatCamp this past weekend. They propose writing an edited book entitled Hacking the Academy:
“Let’s write it together, starting at THATCamp this weekend. And let’s do it in one week.
Here’s my question — can we do better than use a twentieth-century technology (email) to create an interactive feminist discussion? To steal Pennamite’s motto — you betcha!
In fact, I would argue that the call from Frontiers is barely twentieth century (even if the announcement was posted on Facebook)– one could easily imagine this being done with old fashioned snail mail. It’s not even as technologically sophisticated as H-Women, which, while moderated, at least allows for give and take between subscribers.
Speaking of which, I have a great fondness for the good old days of H-Women, i.e. the 1990s, when I served as an editor. Some of the original H-Net folks and I discussed how to make H-Net Web 2.0 at an H-Net reception at the AHA a few years ago — how to bring H-Net into the Web 2.0 era. One can now “subscribe” to the discussion lists through RSS feeds instead of by email. However, there’s not a lot of activity in terms of scholarly exchange — most of the content consists of CFP, queries, and announcements of various kinds.
Other experiments –organizers of the last Berkshire Conference of Women’s Historians, more specifically Historiann, put together a blog right before the most recent Big Berks meeting (this was So, you can find a number of women’s historians who blog. In October 2008, I was on a panel for the little Berks meeting with Tenured Radical and Clio Bluestocking. The Journal of Women’s History commissioned TR to coordinate a roundtable on the relationship between feminist history blogging and the professional world of feminist history. However, this roundtable will appear in a subscription-only traditional publication (although available electronically as well as in print). Where’s the 2.0? Will there be opportunities for readers to respond in an online forum?
Maybe I shouldn’t be such a smart-ass — after all, I’m a relative newcomer to digital history, and was lucky enough to get money from my university to build up my skills in this area. Many people aren’t so fortunate. How do we get more women’s historians and feminist scholars on the Web 2.0 bandwagon? Is this a worthwhile endeavor? I await your answers.