The Scholarly Value of Social Media: An Example

This morning I witnessed (and was a part of) something that reminds me of the usefulness of social media in advancing historical discussion.  On Facebook Kevin Levin raised a question spurred by a recent news event concerning our understanding of the Civil War.  His post called forth several responses, and in turn those responses sparked even more discussion.

I’ll leave it to Kevin to discuss the content of the exchange in more detail … but what was worth noting is how quickly he got feedback, how diverse it was, how thoughtful it was, and how well it stayed on point.  Once upon a time it would have taken a lot more time and effort to obtain feedback and to respond to it … often after one had already advanced through the scholarly process toward presentation or publication.  I suspect Kevin’s already had reason to ask new questions and to think about his initial inquiry in different ways.

Finally, what forged the cybercommunity for this particular scholarly discourse was the fact that several of the participants are known as active bloggers.  That is something one might keep in mind when one inquires about why academic historians might find blogging and reading blogs useful (I note that other professional historians, including NPS personnel, who understand the importance of communicating with a broader public, don’t share some of the reservations expressed by certain academic historians about cyberdiscussion and blogging).

Food for thought … and for blogging.

8 thoughts on “The Scholarly Value of Social Media: An Example

  1. Donald R. Shaffer August 1, 2012 / 11:46 am

    I agree entirely Brooks about the value of social media for scholarly interchange. Not too long ago I posted on my blog a critique of Allen Guelzo’s recent piece in the National Review Online bemoaning the lack of a holiday commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation. Being friends on Facebook, Allen quickly caught wind of it and responded, and we and two other scholars had a nice discussion on Facebook and over at my blog. Indeed, for someone like me that teaches online and doesn’t get funding to attend conferences social media is critical to staying connected with scholars in my field and the profession in general.

  2. Brad August 1, 2012 / 12:17 pm

    Do you have a link to the discussion.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2012 / 1:36 pm

      In this case, the conversation took place between people connected to each other via their personal Facebook pages, so I would not feel comfortable linking to it without prior consent from all involved.

      • Brad August 1, 2012 / 6:07 pm

        Perfectly understand. No problem.

  3. Mark August 1, 2012 / 1:29 pm

    >> I posted on my blog a critique of Allen Guelzo’s recent piece in the National Review Online . . .

    And now I just read your response to Guelzo, a perspective I might never have heard about if not for your above comment (I had already seen Guelzo’s piece). Wonderful!

  4. tonygunter August 1, 2012 / 6:19 pm

    Unfortunately, some have not quite given in to the discourse of social media. In the Friends of Raymond Facebook page, someone stated that the re-enactment this year will be held on the hill not far from the spot where James McPherson watched the battle unfold. I responded with primary source evidence (link to rough draft sketch of the battle by Theodore Davis) showing McPherson in the field behind the 20th Illinois. I was basically told to sit down and shut up or i would be removed from the group. When I apologized (though I don’t feel I had any obligation to do so) I was removed from the group. Yeah, I know your response … get off my ass and publish something or shut up 🙂

  5. Kevin Levin (@KevinLevin) August 1, 2012 / 6:34 pm

    I thought it was an incredibly helpful discussion. It gave me a great deal to think about and allowed me to write a little something up for the Atlantic, which will appear tomorrow. Just goes to show you that the value of social media is determined by the attitude you go into it with. Thanks, Brooks.

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