I’ve been off RSS readers for a while, in part because of Google’s exit from the game, but also because of information overload. Thinking about using it again and revisiting some old stomping grounds in the blogosphere, I found Dan Cohen’s relevant comments on Ann Blair’s Too Much to Know. Seems I am in good company with my occasional ignoring of information—ignoring that I prefer to think won’t lead to, might even prevent, ignorance.
I treat Twitter rather cavalierly too, as if it were a place to hang out, learn stuff, share things, and then leave—sometimes for longer spells. If I view all these information inputs in social terms, this is a perfectly rational way to engage with the Twittersphere. If I worried about missing some bit of news, some fascinating article or weird event, I would never get anything done and my mind would become a still murkier mess. Besides, meaningful ideas and conversations tend to have longer lifespans, and they make themselves felt in other contexts.
Dan’s piece, indeed his whole blog, reminds me of another thing. Much ostensibly older writing on the web has value, and sometimes we should take a moment to read bits of it instead of gulping down and spewing forth a remixed version of the latest clever insight or rant. (I’m talking about myself here, bigly, uh, big league.)
If we pass around quotes on images without even a hint of the quotes’ origins, aren’t we part of the problem?
Uploading one’s dissertation to the Internet Archive is certainly not for everybody, because publishers will not want to publish something that one can get elsewhere for free. Nonetheless, I took this big step after initially just making it available on GoogleDocs and Dropbox, where I had the freedom to delete the file. After careful consideration, I have concluded that any articles or book I write will be substantially new pieces of scholarship, not just recycled, even when I draw heavily on my empirical findings and analysis.
(I have also uploaded my MA thesis. Two articles I wrote lean heavily on it, but they also integrate a substantial body of new scholarship and reach deeper conclusions, as they should have after the passing of so much time.)
So why not make my research available to the public? I have some unusual freedom in this regard, because I am not looking for a tenure-track teaching job, which means I do not have to fulfill those kinds of requirements. Instead I can continue to engage in scholarship next to my editing and part-time teaching. And I can submit that scholarship to the scrutiny of peer review, which I intend to do, but without worrying about finding time and resources to research and write a monograph.
Want to see my theses? Visit my Writings page, which will get you there. But keep in mind that there is a difference between a thesis and a book. A thesis is written for one’s professors, and a book for a broader audience.
Here’s a satirical video about Wikipedia by CollegeHumor. Enjoy.
[This post originally appeared on Clio and Me (now closed) on this date.]