Organiz­ing and Commu­ni­cat­ing Historical Knowledge: Some Personal Observations

In light of the recent Learning by the Book conference, it makes sense to reblog this piece, which I first posted on History of Knowledge on February 3, 2017, when we were just getting started with that blog and were working out what we thought the thing was. The question was not as self-evident as regular bloggers might think, certainly not at a research institution rooted in Germany’s powerful academic traditions.

In my initial academic encounters with Germany in the late 1980s and early 1990s, one of the things that impressed me was the availability of handbooks as well as specialized encyclopedias such as Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe. The textbook series Oldenbourg Grundriss der Geschichte was a new experience for me.1 Each volume offered a concise, chronologically organized survey (with key terms in the margins for rapid orientation), followed by a substantial historiographical discussion and bibliography. At the time, I did not appreciate the massive effort behind such compilation and systematization efforts. I just found these tools were quite practical for orienting myself in a given historical subject. Why didn’t we have such useful tools in the United States? Continue reading “Organiz­ing and Commu­ni­cat­ing Historical Knowledge: Some Personal Observations”

Lost in Translation: The Stanford Prison Experiment

Sometimes disseminating the results of experiments, demonstrations, or other research can yield widely accepted knowledge built on questionable foundations through a kind of distorted translation. This seems to have happened with the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. Two people who heard a recent talk by Alexander Haslam tweeted about Haslam’s key findings. Read the thread by Jay Van Bavel and then the one he links to by David Amodio. They talk through the lens of their field, and they help break old stereotypes about human nature. I can’t help but think, however, that there is a broader story about knowledge production and circulation here.

Photo by Eric E. Castro, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ecastro/14629567894/

Blogging before Conferencing

We tried something new in connection with a conference called Learning by the Book. The conveners asked participants to submit a blog post to History of Knowledge in lieu of precirculated papers. One of the conveners, my colleague Kerstin von der Krone, did most of the coordinating work, prescreening posts for length, permissions issues, and content. Then I edited them, trying to ensure they spoke to a multidisciplinary audience, not just specialists in their authors’ respective fields. Continue reading “Blogging before Conferencing”

DC Metro

All DC area residents have complaints and even horror stories to tell about the Metro. Since introducing it to children in the family from out of town, I’ve started looking at it with fresh eyes.

Photographs by author

Monsters in the News

If you have the stomach for more on relating to a filmmaker’s work who you now know (but perhaps tried to forget) is a child molester, this piece from May 2016 by Matt Zoller Seitz is worth considering: “I Believe Dylan Farrow.”

Such is the kind of reading I sometimes find myself doing these days when I least expect it. I’ll try to escape the everyday with a comedy, but then I’ll dig around the web to learn more about its makers or players. If this effort lands me back in the ugly everyday, pieces like this one help me see how other people deal with such contradictions, which are about much more than art.

Aaargh!

I have had health insurance through my employer these past seven years, but I still depend on the Affordable Care Act. It has made the scope of coverage meaningful, especially by including so-called preexisting conditions. It has also relieved me of anxiety caused by not knowing if I would have health insurance from one year to the next. Yes, coverage has been growing more expensive, but at least there have been those statewide exchanges and—if need be—subsidies, which, I thought, would still make insurance possible.

Enter bomb-throwing DJT.


Header image: Angela De Rosette, SP.M.0911, 2001, via LoC PPOC

How Open is Open Access?

The following quote from an article about art education seems to have broader implications:

Early excitement for the Internet’s democratic potential has been replaced by a complicated marketplace of competing agendas of consumption, entertainment, social networking, and political action that continues to offer both opportunity and exclusion. Increased participation is coupled with a persistent digital divide, a gap in who has access to digital technologies and who does not, illustrating that “disparities in technology access and use are related to socioeconomic status, with income, educational level and race among the factors associated with technological attainment” (Mehra, Merkel, & Bishop, 2004, p. 782). Opportunities for participation have evolved through the advent of social media, mobile computing, and increased access to computing networks. These opportunities continue to be shrouded in inequitable distributions of access and expertise, functioning as a “new form of the hidden curriculum, shaping which youth will succeed and which will be left behind” (Jenkins, Purushotma, Clinton, Weigel, & Robison, 2006, p. 3).[1]

For me, such concerns about access to and literacy in visual culture raise a question in a different debate: open access. How open are so-called open-access publications? Besides the question of digital access, who possesses the requisite know-how to locate such academic works, not to mention read, understand, and critically engage with them? Open access might be desirable, but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that academically sound, openly available scholarship will automatically be freely accessible to nonacademic readers.


  1. Aaron D. Knochel, “Assembling Visuality: Social Media, Everyday Imaging, and Critical Thinking in Digital Visual Culture,” Visual Arts Research 39, no. 2 (2013): 13–27, here 15.  ↩