This January (2017) will mark four full years of writing on this research blog. When I started the blog, I wasn’t really sure what it was for. Was it for ‘public’ dissemination of results? Scholarly discussion? Visibility for my work? I’m not sure that I can answer those questions even now four years later. But what I do know is that writing on this blog has changed the way I do research.
I have now published an article about the transformations in my research process spurred on by the digital medium you are reading. My article “A new place for stories: Blogging as an environmental history research tool” appears in the book Methodological Challenges in Nature-Culture and Environmental History Research, edited by Jocelyn Thorpe, Stephanie Rutherford, and L. Anders Sandberg, which is now available. This is an awesome collection of environmental history methods articles, which is a welcome scholarly contribution since historians tend to not publish specifically about their research methods.
In my chapter I present an experiment: five pseudo-posts about blogging. I call them pseudo-posts because unlike the true online format of a blog, clickable links and embedded visuals are not possible. Yet I’ve tried to simulate the reading of a blog through indicated links (they are underlined and I give the web addresses in the footnotes) and writing style. Each pseudo-post uses the title of one of my 2013 posts as a launching point and explores how blogging changed the process of my environmental history research.
The five posts I chose were:
- Post #1, 1 January 2013: Launch of research blog — How can you not start at the beginning?
- Post #30, 4 April 2013: The hidden reintroduction — The most unexpected story of my entire research project since it has to do with a little parasitic beaver louse!
- Post #64, 31 July 2013: On the time I drank castoreum — My most read post (thanks to an NPR article that linked to it) and a great story about stinking like beaver.
- Post #80, 7 October 2013: Museum menageries — I’ve always loved visiting museums, but this project has helped me to see them in whole new ways.
- Post #88, 13 December 2013: Migrant muskox — Different scholarly media interact (talks, videos, articles, and blog posts) so we have to embrace them all!
In each ‘post’ section, I talk about the larger issues of how I’ve done my historical research for this project and the effect of blogging on that process. Although blogs may provide space for research dissemination, discussion, or community building, I have found that the greatest effect of my blogging has been a shift in my scholarly practice by embracing two central aspects of research blogging: writing often and sharing stories. That’s what doing history is all about.
If you’d like to read the stories I shared in the article in full, you can read a text-only version here. I’d definitely also recommend that you (or your local library) buy the book so you can read all the contributions.