What’s the Point of Blogging? Why Now?

Ryan Gosling Hey GirlI find the idea of maintaining my own blog exciting and terrifying at the same time. Anyone who utilizes blogs does so for their own personal reasons. For me, I am particularly excited about the idea of blogging as a means of communication with a wider audience about my experiences in the field of history, creating a dialogue that spans beyond my fellow classmates and professors. Throughout my graduate studies thus far I have learned about Michael Frisch’s concept of “shared authority” in history, by which he meant the idea of professional historians and institutions such as museums, historical societies, and universities collaborating with non-professionals in creating public history programs that incorporate a wide range of perspectives and experiences. Through this blog I envision myself alternating between the “authority” and the “student” with my posts. At times I will reflect on my past experiences in the field of history and offer opinions, ideas, and solutions for enhancing history education. At other times I envision myself doing something similar to what Ta-Nehisi Coates does with his “Talk to Me Like I Am Stupid” posts. Simply explained, a blog author offers his/her audience a complex problem and asks their audience to provide their knowledge and viewpoints in order to help start a discussion and give the blog author a better understanding of said problem. Through this model, the blog author utilizes his/her audience as a potential “authority” in helping to solve the blog author’s dilemma.

I have toyed with the idea of starting a blog for a few years. I began to understand blogs as potentially effective communication tools after my friend Bob Pollock at Yesterday… and Today encouraged me to check out Kevin Levin’s Civil War Memory blog, which I readily concede as a  major influence in the creation of this blog. Brooks Simpson at Crossroads and Keith Harris at Cosmic America also run fine blogs that have taught me much about the Civil War and the methods historians use to analyze the past. Although I will refrain from political discussion most of the time at Exploring the Past, my friend Josh Hedlund at PostLibertarian and the aforementioned blog from Coates have also provided inspiration for creating my own blog and adding my voice to the discussion.

I believe that now is the best time for me to start blogging. Since I am still in school, I have been concerned that I will have insufficient time or knowledge to craft the sort of blog I’d like to maintain. Furthermore, I have been weary of sharing my perspective with the broader public because it means that I could face criticisms that challenge my preconceived notions about the past and the world I live in today. However, as a student of history who hopes to make a living as a professional historian in an economy that doesn’t make room for many people of my type, I realize that I must always work to improve my writing and communication skills so that I can not only make history important, but make my audience feel important. This blog provides me another tool in my arsenal to achieve these goals.