[On August 6, 1991, World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee publicly announced his WWW software for the first time. So for the 30th anniversary of the occasion that brought us all here, this week I’ll highlight just a handful of the many wonderful AmericanStudies websites. Share your favs for a crowd-sourced post, please!]
On the vital role of community and solidarity in navigating the scholarly web.
I’ve written many times in this space about the public scholarly bloggers who served as both models and encouragement for me as I began my own daily blogging, nearly 11 years ago now (well, 10 2/3rds years, anyway). The three who most come to mind (in descending order of how much I’ve had the chance to meet and get to know them) are: Rob Velella and his American Literary Blog; Kevin Levin and his Civil War Memory blog and website; and Ta-Nehisi Coates and his blog for The Atlantic. What I’ve gradually come to realize that I learned from these folks, both directly through connections and indirectly through their work, is much more than just what or how they wrote on and used their sites—it was how they highlighted and shared the work of others, through hyperlinks, through quotations, through guest posts (including, in Rob’s case, ones by me), and in other ways too. Finding scholarly voices has always been something of a crapshoot, but at least in a library you could go to a certain call number and see (for example) all the books they have on that similar subject; online scholarship has no such natural locations, and so if we’re going to find authors and works we need some help, some guidance, some collection and curation.
Individuals’ sites like those I listed above (and this one of course) can do that to a degree, but there’s a vital need for complementary, more collective sites, spaces that exist mostly to provide such community and solidarity for individual online scholars. In our current moment, my favorite such collective site is The Octo. Hosted by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture (out of William & Mary University), the Octo features a rotating collection of eight (duh) American Studies blogs, selected by Katy Telling and Joe Adelman. Obviously that’s only a tiny fraction of all the blogs and sites out there, but through its rotation style, the Octo certainly has eventually highlighted many of them (including, at some point, this one, for which I will be eternally grateful) and will keep getting to more still. And in any case, at any given moment I know I can navigate over there and find eight public scholarly blogs and sites, eight (or more if they’re multi-authored blogs) voices with whom I’m in solidarity in this amorphous and awesome community. Not sure there’s a better note to end this series on—and ask once more for your input for tomorrow’s crowd-sourced post—than that.
Crowd-sourced post tomorrow,
PS. So one more time: What do you think? Favorite websites, past or present, you’d share for the crowd-sourced post?