The Toronto Blog Collective September 9, 2010Posted by Will Thomas in Uncategorized.
History of Science departments have a record of abject failure when it comes to maintaining a thriving presence in online discussion. University of Pennsylvania’s Logan Lounge was a pioneering departmental effort, but soon sank into posting semesterly updates of upcoming colloquia, and, after 2008, stopped doing even that. The University of Minnesota program has also given it a go, but never got things going very well (I expect more from my hometown Golden Gophers!). University College London apparently could not secure state funding and the support of local workers for the construction and maintenance of its STS Observatory. The University of Oklahoma’s Hydra journal died quietly soon after creating a site with professional-looking graphics. Ostensibly having an entire department dedicated to the task of maintaining a blog should make it easier for everyone — I know I wish I had more backup! — but this is apparently not so. Tragedy of the commons, or something, I guess.
Libraries, archives, and museums have a much more impressive record. Oregon State’s Pauling Blog continues to amaze me in its ability to churn out quality material on a single person week after week. The Copenhagen Medical Museion keeps a steady hand on the wheel of its discussions of material culture and public presentation in the biomedical domain. The Wellcome Library blog is excellent, and the Royal Society is off to a good start as well. My employers, for lack of planning, did not fare so well.
Now there is blogging fever at the University of Toronto. Three students have started blogs: Jai Virdi, Aaron Sidney Wright, and Jonathan Turner. In addition, there is a new group blog, The Bubble Chamber, which aims to address a broader audience about matters of public interest. EWP wishes this new cauldron of effort well, but will observe that keeping a consistent blog requires either a deep well of subject matter to make public, or a willingness to grow in one’s ideas with time. History of Science scholarship encourages us to think that, by our capacity as people dedicated to the study of science and technology, we have the additional capacity to see-and-commentate at will, and that this ensures both good historiography and our value to the public sphere. A line of dead blogs (and declining blogs that will remain nameless) suggests we think we have more ideas than we really have. (Also: no whining about work loads — blogging should always augment your work, not distract you from it. Blogs should maintain an individualized pace and format appropriate to that task.) Toronto: the spotlight is on you.