Discussion "The Internet and Civil War Studies"

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Joshism

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The September 2019 issue (V65 N3) of Civil War History magazine features an article by Earl Hess which has already sparked some controversy (see Kevin Levin's blog).

Per the magazine's website, the article reaches six conclusions:
  1. the internet has made an enormous amount of published primary material available to historians.
  2. staff members of archival institutions have encountered many limitations in their efforts to scan and place large amounts of unpublished primary material on the internet.
  3. there is no evidence that the internet has enhanced the ability of scholars to market and sell their books.
  4. the internet apparently has not fostered increased collaboration among Civil War historians.
  5. most Civil War historians do not trust, like, or participate in social media.
  6. the multitude of informational websites concerning Civil War topics on the internet pose a daunting task for any scholar who wishes to assess, use, or criticize them.
Seems like a ripe subject for discussion. Hopefully a few people around here have a subscription to the magazine and thus can comment in more detail from the full article.

A perhaps related thread from 2014.
 
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Joshism

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Interesting that the abstract refers to the ability of scholars to market and sell. Is it just varying the language, or is it specifically referring to academic historians? Are historians not publishing with university presses seeing success?

It seems like the internet has fostered increased collaboration among amateur historians. I'm not sure what potential collaboration between historians (Civil War or otherwise) could and should be happening through the internet but isn't.

The article seems critical of self-promotion through social media. I would argue this self-promotion is critical to raise awareness of a historian's work, especially when the publish or have speaking engagements. It's not the only role of social media nor the only way to "spread the word" but it's a very important one, especially if you're a professional where having a following and a fanbase is important for sales and attendance.

Brooks Simpson is trying to get #HessMess trending on Twitter.

Discussed earlier here
Doh! My search-fu failed me as the first I'd heard of it was through Levin's blog so I included him in my search parameters, not realizing the story had already "broke" here mid-week.
 
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SWMODave

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Yeah it broke pretty hard over multiple CW blogs. Quite a few feathers got ruffled over this one. I still do not have access to the article, but reading about it around the web, it's apparent the little blurb I posted was not taken out of context.

Oh well, what's a war theme without a bushwhack now and again :D
 

Lubliner

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I found this thread today, and yesterday the 'pernicious' thread, reading them both. And yet also today I see the thread @Pat Young began in 2014 and totals 19 pages at the moment. I have not had the time to review the latter thread, but hope to; and yet due to rules of presumption I feel I must allude to explanations for the supposed 'insults' these noted sources refer to.
The whole internet type thing began with professorial scientists at MIT and Southern Cal, and NASA and Military Base activity. The amount of computer generated advancements were exponential in growth, allowing quicker transactions, secure settings for trade secrets, scientific research, etc. (surely remembered by most but easily forgotten).
When the system was offered to the public as a new and complex idea for adventurous undertakings, we all came along through major breakthroughs and breakdowns, viruses, glitches, and a steep learning curve. But there were masters already in the 'science' of this technology, and a multitude of disciples willing to learn. It revolutionized ideas and principle foundations for renewed efforts in all departments, both classified and unclassified.
Sales techniques changed; hence the comment on marketplace publishing and promotions.
Able now for two and more professors at high-level Universities to collaborate with one another; opportunities reflecting back to the MIT-SO. Cal.- NASA collaborations and space research.
Just these two explanations alone open the door of how to understand cursory remarks made, and how they may be viewed for interpretation. The reality of professors tweeting and commenting on social media among their own 'ilk and kine' must be taken as an opportunity for the student to see private moments of inspiration shared with another of higher learning. He should not tread upon the sanctity of more masterful minds unless invited.
The public is an obtuse conception of the private citizen; and the two constantly clash with each other. Where to draw the line, how to measure the line, who to allow to come forth and make another line; etc.
Time is all we have now left to us privately. This may be the crux for statements made concerning what some see as a hurdle race and a steeplechase when all they desire is a stroll through the park, or a secure setting with restricted access.
I was never the perfect student and far from the model citizen, and blunders have come and I have learned. Those who remain reap the reward. Thanks for the attendance. Anything innocuous shall be instantly presumed as nothing more than a blunder.
Lubliner.
 
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In my humble opinion, the Internet is a "tool" with which to conduct some of your research. It is not a substitute for the Official Record. Anything that I find online I vet, validate and verify with the "OR" and other first hand accounts, such as letters, daily journals, period newspaper articles, and memoirs regarding a specific event. My belief is that the closer to a first hand account that you can get the more accurate, or at least informative, the account will be. In the absence of thorough vetting, validation and verification speculation abounds. History needs to be substantiated by reliable and factual sources that can be referenced to, mere speculation alone is never enough to come to a clear and concise conclusion.

Having stated this, I have found and continue to find things online which have been of great value to me in my personal research. And once confirmed and verified I add the information to my files, sourced by actual records. If that information can not be verified then I do not add the new information, or I will allow it to remain in my files with an asterisk beside it which is indicative of it not being sourced and proven yet, but still in the process of being proven and verified. When I read a book I always look at the footnotes regarding information which may capture my interest, and I go to the source material made reference to in the footnote to get a better understanding and clearer context of what is written. I have come across numerous old books online which have been digitized and made available to the general public for free by doing this.

Regarding forums, Civil War talk has been a huge help with a lot of things of which I was not previously made aware of or was not well enough informed of to have clarity. Because of my contact with numerous members here I have become aware of certain things that I would most likely never have been made aware of otherwise if left to my own devices. There are a lot of very informed people here who are always willing and able to help when requested to do so, this with proper vetting has proven to be a reliable source for me, so in that regard the Internet is absolutely helpful.
 
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E_just_E

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I think that Hess maybe does not understand that "the internet" is just a medium, as is the radio, the television, the newspapers, libraries etc. and "it" is not responsible for anything. Its purpose is to enable individuals and/or teams of individuals for their purposes. If the "Civil War Historians" have not used the internet to their advantage, the blame is on them and not on "it."

one thing:

there is no evidence that the internet has enhanced the ability of scholars to market and sell their books.
The above is plain wrong and sad to come from a scholar who apparently did zero research on the subject before he uttered his opinion. I guess that he prefers to use a typewrite, printers, the post office, and retyping his editor's redlines when publishing, for starters... If the internet has not helped him, it does not mean it has not helped others...
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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the internet has made an enormous amount of published primary material available to historians.
This one jumped out at me, because I think there is absolutely no question that primary material is much more readily available now than it was twenty-five years ago. Just off the top of my head, and and from my personal experience only--
  • The Library of Congress online image collection (Brady photographs and others) is a major treasure trove. I don't think I'd even be aware of the collection if not for it being online, let alone having the ability to search and browse at leisure from home.
  • Likewise the Inland Rivers Collection at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
  • I might still have been looking for a copy of Henry Walke's Naval Scenes and Reminiscences in every doggone bookstore I could locate, rather than being able to order both original editions and "reading copy" reprints on the Web.
  • I never would have been able to even find out Walke had any living descendants, let alone find them, contact them, and meet with them.
  • Even when the material itself is not online, even having it cataloged online has been incredibly helpful. It means I can better organize my research ahead of time when going to visit this or that location-- to have my game plan to maximize my research time-- and also can order facsimiles or microfilm if it's a place I simply can't get to.
Not to mention, I'd actually never met a fellow Civil War Navy enthusiast before finding some online. We are few, and scattered hither and yon! So, no people with relevant information or alternate views on things to bounce ideas off of...
 

CivilWarTalk

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If you ask me, this is a lot of fuss about nothing.

It almost sounds like somebody is trying to push an agenda of these stuffy old white guys aren't hip enough to use the internet, and so that automatically makes their work racist and invalidates their opinions about history.

I don't know, am I the only one picking up that vibe from this story?
 
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Joshism

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This one jumped out at me, because I think there is absolutely no question that primary material is much more readily available now than it was twenty-five years ago.
Having local newspapers digitized has allowed me to significantly revise and expand many details about local history where I work.

I also can't imagine doing genealogy before Ancestry.com

It almost sounds like somebody is trying to push an agenda of these stuffy old white guys aren't hip enough to use the internet
The article was written by Earl Hess, who is one of the "stuffy old white guys." If he's making himself look bad I assume it's not deliberate.
 
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speedylee

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The September 2019 issue (V65 N3) of Civil War History magazine features an article by Earl Hess which has already sparked some controversy (see Kevin Levin's blog).

Per the magazine's website, the article reaches six conclusions:
  1. the internet has made an enormous amount of published primary material available to historians.
  2. staff members of archival institutions have encountered many limitations in their efforts to scan and place large amounts of unpublished primary material on the internet.
  3. there is no evidence that the internet has enhanced the ability of scholars to market and sell their books.
  4. the internet apparently has not fostered increased collaboration among Civil War historians.
  5. most Civil War historians do not trust, like, or participate in social media.
  6. the multitude of informational websites concerning Civil War topics on the internet pose a daunting task for any scholar who wishes to assess, use, or criticize them.
Seems like a ripe subject for discussion. Hopefully a few people around here have a subscription to the magazine and thus can comment in more detail from the full article.

A perhaps related thread from 2014.
I suggest we withhold comment until Hess's full article can be read more easily. He is a very respected historian and I would like to read the full piece before reaching a conclusion about what he had to say. Any other reaction seems to me to be uninformed.
 
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