16 September 2006


I have to say that I really enjoy computer programming. I have a little bit of HTML experience from my college years, so this is fun being able to revisit all the skills I learned years ago, and use them in new and different ways. That is not to say I am particularly adept at programming, but I enjoy trying to figure out how to do this or that. Anyone who had previously viewed my blog will (hopefully) have noticed some recent changes. In the interest of helping those around me, and fostering a sense of community, I made what, for all intents and purposes, looks like a “blogroll.” It consists of my professors and fellow students in the University of Western Ontario's Public History Program's "Public History" and "Digital History" classes. I am not sure if it works like a blogroll (i.e. changing order all the time, as do the blogrolls on Bill Turkel's and Alan MacEachern's blogs), but at least it looks the same. I plan to investigate whether a blogroll is something entirely different from a links list or not. I also did a number of other changes, including switching the sidebar from the right side of the page to the left, making the name of this blog all lowercase letters, and other parts not all capitals.

On a separate note, ever since I found out that, as part of a course in digital history, I am required to write a blog, I have been wondering what I am supposed to be doing with it. I even asked my professor, Bill Turkel, what to do. Still, I am a little befuddled; in a previous blog I stated that I do not like talking about myself, as, at the time of writing, I thought that that was what blogging was all about. I have since read a few blogs, and noticed that, at least in those that I read, blogging is more of an intellectual exercise than a spewing of random thoughts. From what I understand, in the case of the afore-noted course, the purpose of blogging is to think about the processes and ideas that we are learning. That is, of course, not the only purpose behind blogging for this course, but I hope that, eventually, it will be the focus of mine.

This leads me to wonder why blogs, in other places and for other people, exist in the first place. There is no doubt that for some people, blogging is an effort to have one's fifteen minutes of fame. It is also a way of involving oneself in a community of like-minded people. I am forced to wonder, though, whether my thoughts are really so important and relevant as to be available to millions of people. To whom am I writing? Who, or what, is my assumed audience? It is certainly not my family or friends (though it may help clarify to some of them what, exactly, this whole “public history” thing is. For those interested in that question, see the Public History Resource Center’s “working definition of public history”). I hope to answer these questions throughout the course of my academic year.

1 comment:

Molly MacDonald said...

Bryan- some thoughts on your post:

I'm interested in your ideas about audience. Audience is such an important factor in public history, or so it would seem, but what if you don't know who you're writing for? The audience is essentially passive in the case of a blog, unless they send you comments. So the usual "give and take" between artist and audience is missing.

I guess it's useful to keep in mind that anyone could stumble upon your blog, but that content will also play an active role in determining who finds the site at all, and who will revisit.

So should we be writing for a general audience or for our peers, or for both at once, if that's even possible? I did send my blogspot address (with some embarrasment) to select friends and family inside and outside the history/academia realm, just to keep me on my public history toes. Most of them don't keep blogs though, so I don't think they can give feedback on site.