Webcams, Ithaka, and Facebook

First, an encouraging article from the Chronicle discussing the decision by some professors to experiment with the form and length of their lectures. Dalton A. Kehoe, of York University, decided to post his lectures online. After receiving negative feedback from his student, he realized he needed to shorten the online lectures and break them down into 20-minute sections. I love this idea. The willingness to experiment and alter what you’re used to as a professor is a truly admirable trait. And I also think that broadcasting your lectures would allow for a critical element of self-evaluation that too often gets lost as educators settle into their individual comfort zones.

Next up is a post at the AHA titled “Links, Spaces, and Changing Habits of Historical Research.” It highlights two reports from Ithaka, one discussing how different disciplines approach research, while the second study analyzes the changing place of online sources in journal citations. The first one was a little discouraging. According to their report, history ranks near the bottom of a variety of categories in using digital resources in pursuing research, including a resistance to relying on online tools such as e-only journals and Google Scholar. Meanwhile, the second set of articles finds that history articles published online do not have any greater chance of being cited by other scholarly articles. While Robert Townsend attributes this to the fact that an alarmingly high percentage (18%) of links to online sources no longer function, I would also hypothesize that there is an unwillingness to even cite E-journals and other digital sources, as these are still seen as sometimes illegitimate sources of true “scholarship.” I have had several professors that would have criticized a bibliography for having a purely online source. In this vein, I look forward to the remainder of Mills Kelly’s postings on “Making Digital Scholarship Count” (Part 1, Part 2) as a way to combat this perception.

Finally, hat-tip to Jesse Lemisch for his posting on HNN, Historians and Facebook: In the Halls of an Electronic AHA. It’s encouraging to see a 71 year-old dive into something like Facebook and recognize some of its potential for academics, especially for historians. I also think Mr. Lemisch represents a the trend towards “aging” Facebook, as more and more older people start to use it, in place of the original demographic of college-aged students. It will be interesting to see if Facebook emerges as a widespread resource for scholarly collaboration and connection, or if it remains largely within the social sphere.