Sunday, August 06, 2006

Blogs and history

“…blogs as artifacts and documents of history….”

What the heck does that mean? A lot of things, only one of which I’ll explore now. Historians and paleontologists having something in common, and it’s not just that we study the past. Both professions seek to reconstruct entire worlds with only fragmentary evidence. I’ll concede that the paleontologists have it worse, but we historians face a dilemma, in that most people’s voices are lost to history. Overwhelmingly, the voices we hear are those of the elites, and even then, only a fraction of the elites. Nearer to the present, particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we have more sources from non-elite authors, diaries, letters, and the like, but even there, only a fraction of a few. Say you’re old enough to remember the Eighties – how much of the details of your own life do you remember? How many of them can you document? You think any historian will be able to document what you can’t? Maybe, but don’t count on it. But then there were blogs….

Do you remember what you had for lunch yesterday? How ‘bout last Thursday? Jane Espenson knows. Well, she knows what she had, not you. And so do I (about her, not myself). In fact, I know a whole lot about Jane, most notably, her lunch habits and, oh yeah, her take on the scriptwriting business. If her blog archives somehow make it to 2106, I guarantee some grad student will be doing their dissertation on Jane’s lunches, and whoever else out there is posting their daily lunch habits. (It’s a big if, I’d point out.)

And that’s the kind of thing I want to talk about. Next up – beginning a discussion on blogs as sources for studying popular history.

Today: Smoked chicken enchiladas. Yesterday - no clue.

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