Does the public care about how scholarship is produced in your discipline and should they? In my own field, for example, the public has a voracious appetite for history but very rarely does this public pick up a history journal or academic monograph rather than military history or a presidential biography. This session would cover the forms available for scholars to present their ongoing research online and the stakes in doing so. My own feeling is that the UP monograph will remain key to promotion in research institutions, so perhaps developing engaging and scholarly forms to present ‘how the sausage is made’ can present another route to better engage with the public or our students.
One obvious form is the scholarly blog. Dan Cohen has come up with The Blessay: “a manifestation of the convergence of journalism and scholarship in mid-length forms online.” Tim Carmody has pointed to an audience: para-academic, post-collegiate white-collar workers and artists, with occasional breakthroughs either all the way to a ‘high academic’ or to a ‘mass culture’ audience.” I like best Chad Black’s post, “Eighty Square Blocks of Data”. I think this example blends scholarly musings and presentation of material in a way that could draw in a diverse audience.
Are there other forms? Are we limited to the text and uploaded media that we can put on a blog or are there ways of plugging in our audiences to databases or digital repositories such as slavebiographies.org or slavevoyages.org ? How does one cultivate an audience? How do we think strategically about putting our thoughts and materials out there in a way that won’t haunt us when we shop a manuscript and the publisher realizes much of the content is already online and freely available? How do we start to make the sausage publicly and in a way that engages new audiences? Should we be trying to get people to watch us make sausuage, or is the process inherently undesirable to be viewed? Finally, I think this session could build on last year’s “What can we learn from journalism” session where we discussed producing short-form arguments with new media.