first reflection on Twitter as a tool for historians

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First reflection on Twitter as a tool for historians

In the world of Digital History Twitter has been   seen by some academics as an essential tool for historians, it is a way to not only stay connected but furthermore an ideal way to make new connections. Moreover it can also be an ideal tool for networking and for searching out job opportunities. In addition to this by using a social networking site such as Twitter, allows new ideas and theories to be shared amongst historians and this then encourages scholarly debates. Whilst some blog authors are disinclined to lend their names to blogs, many academics now freely contribute to blogs under their own names. Subsequently this helps lend authority and gravitas to the whole concept of blogging and may encourage other academics to set up their own blogs. In addition to this many people not involved in academia are interested in history and so blogging   also encourages non academics the chance to be involved in history and enables them an opportunity to read academic work.  Some non academics can find the world of academia difficult to navigate and even unapproachable, therefore by using blogs as a tool historians are now able to reach out to a far wider audience than before.  Subsequently this opens up their work to a whole new group of people.  Another way that Twitter is useful to historians is as a method of gaining feedback on newly published work.  Peer review is an essential part of scholarly work, however it can sometimes be a long process from publication to actual published reviews.  The use of blogs can offer the blogger the opportunity to receive feedback from their peers on recently published work and is a much speedier process than the more traditional method.

Leading on from this In 2006 Dan Cohen wrote in his article ‘Professors, Start Your Blogs”, [1] that there are now a wide range of blogs available online and many of these are written by academics. This article illustrates how popular academic blogs have become. However there are also disadvantages with social networking sites and Twitter is no exception. Once something is posted on the internet it is very difficult to remove it, even if a blog is deleted there will always be a record of it somewhere the website https://archive.org/web/[2] is an example of this. Miriam Posner[3]  states in her article that it is reasonable to assume that potential employers may search for information about prospective employees on social networking sites, so it would be beneficial that you don’t publish anything on these sites that you don’t wish employers to view. Furthermore caution should be used by Historians when using blogging sites, for every good blogging site there will always be one that is not well researched and not factually correct. Whilst some of these blogs are fine for a cursory glance, a bit like how you might look up something on wikepida to get a general idea, they should be used with caution and treated the same way as any other source.  Therefore it is essential that readers always make sure they research the bloggers academic qualifications to ensure the information they publish is sound.  In addition to this researching other work they have published and reading peer reviews is a good way to gain an understanding of an author’s authority on a subject.  So on the whole whilst Twitter appears to be another valuable tool for the historian to use, it should be used responsibly and with a degree of caution.  

[1] ‘Professors, Start Your Blogs | Dan Cohen’, Dancohen.Org. http://www.dancohen.org/2006/08/21/professors-start-your-blogs/; consulted 20 April 2015.

[2] ‘Internet Archive: Wayback Machine’, https://archive.org/web/; consulted 18 April 2015

[3] Miriam Posner, ‘Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer For Academics – Profhacker – Blogs – The Chronicle Of Higher Education’. Chronicle.Com. http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/creating-your-web-presence-a-primer/; consulted 15 April 2015.

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