Robbie Gross, “Notes from conference panel breakout session on ‘Writing History’ at the History of Education Society Annual Meeting, November 5, 2010”

Writing in the New Media

  • That Twitter and blogs change the pacing of writing, encouraging brevity—which might not be a bad thing.
  • That the internet, on the one hand, encourages the democratization of knowledge.  On the other hand, however, this democratization must occur outside of the context of a continued corporatization of knowledge.  Writing must be descriptive but also prescriptive.

Researching and Publishing in the New Media

  • Continued concern about tenure—that in an academic context, standards for advancement must change or there will be no incentives to produce work in different kinds of forums for young scholars.
  • Also concerns over problems of copyright violations in an increasingly loose and accessible digital world.
  • Discussion of the benefits of doing research in a digital age (e.g. Google Books)
  • One important benefit of publishing in a digital world is that it speeds the process of consumption.  Readers can respond far more quickly than in the old publishing paradigm, where the peer review process takes too long.
  • Fears expressed that this emphasis on “speed” might create a lack of careful peer review, and lead to lesser quality thoughts being published.
  • The problem here is one of filtering, of finding ways to sift through lots of published material to find the stuff we want to read.  The current model is to filter then publish, but there are some recent examples (e.g. Shakespeare Quarterly)  who attempted a model of publish then filter through the response of the general readership.

Writing and Readership

  • There is a large market out there for long-form nonfiction, as evidenced by how various journals of opinion (The AtlanticThe New Yorker) are increasing their non-fiction writing at the expense of fiction.
  • How can authors resolve the problem of how to communicate with their intended readership?  If the goal is to have the communities you are writing about read your work, then does that change your writing style?  Does it entail writing in less sophisticated prose?  There’s a fear that you will be writing “above” your audience.
  • There are lots of different ways to communicate your work to different communities.  It might be that your prose style is too complex for a particular group of readers, but that the images, maps, tables, etc. that you include in your work are accessible.