Virtual Reenactments: Chatting About the Civil War

One of the consequences of the invention of the internet, the WWW, and so on is the creation of “virtual communities” where people chat/argue/flame about things.  At times I’ve participated in these groups, although I’m not inclined to do much of that now outside of one Yahoo discussion group, known as StudyoftheCivilWar.  I have found most of these groups to be curious mixtures of folks who want to learn things and folks who want to express their views.  Join any of these groups, and you’ll learn that many participants are refighting the Civil War or participating out of deeply personal reasons that have little to do with learning or sharing information.  That’s not true of all of the participants, and it’s far less true of groups such as Study: moreover, when it comes to groups dominated by professional historians, such as H-Net’s H-CivWar, there is usually very little discussion, period, although things can get heated once in a while.  At times I’ve had my undergraduates in my historical methods course at ASU join these groups so that they can get a taste of how people interested in history understand that history.  They come away with several impressions, including a sense of what draws people to learn about history and chat about it, as well as a sense that many time people are just repeating the same themes and offering the same opinions. Continue reading