Must It Be an Either/Or?

Posted in opinion pages by Editor on July 1, 2009

Editorial Opinion

As Jeffrey Young writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education (29 June 2009), academic blogs (and other, newer digital outlets) appear to be gaining ground on email lists. T. Mills Kelly, an associate professor of history and associate director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, suggests that the days of the listserv are numbered (one version of his argument goes back at least to 2007) . Young notes that these digital networks themselves seemed to promise the future back in the 1990s; indeed, a 1994 article from the Chronicle celebrated the academic email list as “the first truly worldwide seminar room.”

Young’s story generated a number of responses on C18-L from subscribers expressing enthusiastic support for the traditional email-list format (if anything can count as ‘traditional’ after just 15 years). My hunch, however, is that those who tend to be more sympathetic to Kelly’s argument probably wouldn’t consider posting to the list to say as much (they were already off to check their favorite sites elsewhere).

Speaking personally, I have learned a lot from C18-L, and I’m glad HECAA has its own 18-AAS Listserve. That listserv numbers on the whole are declining perhaps is an indicator of what the future holds; yet, I see no reason why one need pit the email list against the blog.

I suspect that experiences of ineffective and annoying blogs have tainted the blog format for some users. Nonetheless, I remain optimistic that Enfilade can avoid many of those problems and chart new possibilities for sharing information and facilitating modes of academic engagement that don’t occur otherwise. By all means, chime in with suggestions of how we can make it what you would like it to be.