I’m writing a piece for the History of Science Society fall newsletter about history of science/medicine blogs and blogging on the blogosphere. It seems lately this has been a hot topic for discussion on the ‘net, especially after the New York Times Article which outlines possible web-alternatives to peer-review. Last year, our favourite history of science blogger, Michael D. Barton, gave a talk at the annual HSS meeting in Phoenix as part of the Committee on Education session, Teaching the History of Science Using the Web. Recently, fellow IHPST students Aaron S. Wright and Jonathan Turner continued the dialogue on posting academic content online. Also, recall Sage Ross and Michael Robinson‘s comments on my post about the internet protecting (as opposed to exposing) original academic records.
There’s something to be said here. A lot of academic bloggers I know blog about their academic lives, research ideas, provide advice, or just provide links to interesting articles around the web to read. In his talk, Michael also showed the results of his informal online survey to popular histofsci bloggers, and one of the question dealt with the content posted:
3. Is your blog specifically a history of science blog, or another blog which has history of science content?
Hos specifically: 8; HoS content: 12
4. Initally, why did you start your blog?
Sharing content (8), research (7), science communication (2), political commentary (2), networking (1), online reference (1), “It just happened!” (1)
For me, sharing content and research are only one of my main reasons for blogging; establishing my place in social media networks is another (especially for future job prospects and technology).
I do wonder: is there a history of science community on the blogosphere? There’s one on Twitter, with folks that advocate and support each other ideas as well as their own (#histsci), but they are all bloggers, or at the very least, individuals interested in the history of science. Is being a blogger a necessary requirement for participating in this community?
I started off my interest in the role of blogging back when I was frustrated about not being able to quickly or properly find great history of medicine blogs. I ended up spending hours and hours and hours…and hours surfing through the internet, and eventually managed to get a decent list of history of medicine and history of science blogs (which you can see on the links section on the right-hand part of the website). Michael also compiled a list of updated history of science blogs and twitter accounts.
I want to go back to the question I asked in my original post on history of science blogs: is there a strong readership for histofsci blogs? Who reads these types of blogs? Particularly, how often do historians make use of blogging sites?
I want to direct you, Dear Reader, to take five minutes out of your busy day and complete this very informal survey. Your assistance is greatly appreciated and I will post results after September 20.
Michael Robinson says:
HoS is slowly becoming a community that exists outside of HSS conferences, journals, and traditional media. I think that we initially lagged behind other fields, especially the sciences, which embraced new social media formats (blogs, online journals, new ways of doing peer review) before us. But we’re catching up. I still don’t know what kind of cache blogs has within the HoS community – my hunch is that it depends from institution to institution. At this point, I see it as a part of who I am as a scholar and what I’m trying to do. So I put it out there on my CV, grant proposals, email signature etc. Perhaps everyone has different experiences of the urge to blog – I’ve posted mine here:
Michael – Do people still look at you as if you are a cross-dresser? 😉
We actually had a panel on this at a Science Online conference two years ago, and it seems that interest is still growing (I hope). I think that many of the people who read these kind of posts are scientists themselves or lay people interested in science, but I hope that we can start to reach a wider audience eventually.
Michael Robinson says:
@darwinsbulldog: LOL. I think they’re coming around. But everyone at HSS now associates me with this image thanks to your talk! I’m plotting my revenge ;-).
As a PhD student I don’t blog myself, but I’ve often wondered if more people are blogging HoS than reading blogs on HoS. I do read them, but sporadically and sort of by accident as and when they catch my attention. I think that’s where Twitter, facebook etc come in – they remind me that a blog exists and get my attention with some intriguing post or picture.
That’s exactly the whole point of my survey–I wanted to find out whether interest in HoS was coming more from bloggers, or whether there was also a body of readers who have a profound interest in HoS blogs and consider themselves as part of the community. I think a continuing dialogue is the key to fostering a HoS blogging community–creating discourse, commenting, and effectively engaging in online participation.
Michael Robinson says:
@Rebecca: I read blogs pretty sporadically. So I use twitter and email subscriptions to alert me to new material. I started up an RSS feed page but I never check it. Some readers are very diligent about checking in with my blog, but I kind of assume that most people are like me – busy and rather erratic. Yet even this, I think, helps build community. Hey, its faster than waiting for Isis to publish its letters to the Editor. : D
@Jaipreet: other bloggers are often my most consistent readers. But interestingly, many of them come from other associated disciplines: oceanography, archeology, space rather than just HoS. This was one of the happy surprises about writing my blog.