Over at Kevin Levin’s Civil War Memory a conversation has continued about blogging, with Matt Gallman weighing in again. Here’s what Matt now says are his three main points:
(1) Are readers of CW blogs a good approximation of “the public” when it comes to public opinion? I posited that perhaps CW blogs attract people who are particularly interested in the CW, and perhaps in particular topics. That is, there is an awful lot of “public” out there who I don’t imagine are reading blogs.
(2) Are professional historians really missing out if they don’t spend much time reading CW blogs? Here my point was that there is an unending material out there that we can read. We don’t read it all, We make choices among worthy things.
(3) Is the failure to blog or to read blogs really evidence of a lack of “digital literacy”? My argument is that there are an awful lot of ways that one might engage with electronic resources and/or the internet, both in their research or their pedagogy or just for edification. Blogging (or reading blogs) is not the measure of digital literacy.
Now, I’ll argue that Matt had other things to say in his previous comments, and he said them in a certain way that some people evidently found to be offensive. Indeed, I’m reluctant to offer these three points (taken verbatim from Matt’s comment) lest I be accused by Matt of badly distorting them.
Here are my answers:
1. I don’t know of anyone who has made the claim that the readers of Civil War blogs are an approximation of “the public” when it comes to public opinion. Maybe someone should point that out to me. Certainly I don’t share that opinion. There are various overlapping audiences for various ways in which history is communicated to a public at large (note I did not say “the public”). Some people get their history here, some there. Increasingly a lot of people get their history from the internet, and I don’t mean simply primary sources.
2. I don’t know that anyone has argued that professional Civil War historians are missing out if they don’t read blogs. My understanding, in fact, is that the argument is that blogs are one more way for professional historians to reach out to more readers and to build bridges with other historians, who may or may not fit someone’s definition of “professional historian.” I say that because people have offered different definitions and understandings of the term “professional historian.”
3. I don’t know of anyone who has said that a failure to read blogs demonstrates a lack of digital literacy. Indeed, I found Kevin Levin to be making a different point about digital literacy and the need for professional historians to get involved in other ways, in part because an increasing number of people are getting an increasing amount of their historical understanding through online sources, including blogs.
In short, if these are the three points Matt Gallman wanted to make, then I don’t know why he made them or who is his audience or his target. Other people can read what Matt’s said (about comments on this blog as well as on Kevin’s blog) back at Kevin’s blog, and make their own determination. All I did was to link to Kevin’s blog as a point of departure for a broader conversation, and I made it clear, I thought, that the broader conversation I wanted to have would have to wait.
A word of warning … Matt Gallman offers the following observation:
I’d welcome any thoughts that anybody on either blog wants to say about those three questions. But if you folks persist in taking shots at me persoally (especially the ones based on things didn’t say) rather than talking about serious issues you are really making my point for me.