Will Thomas writes about the “deleterious side-effects to blogging activity”, triggered in part because it seems to be the case that “you can just put up a reasonably well-informed post about something, and suddenly you become an authority”. His case in point is his long-running and very inspiring series of posts on Simon Schaffer’s work. He wants the discipline to start thinking about how blogs can be used to talk about scholarship in a responsible manner.
There might be deleterious side effects of HoS blogging, but I think an even biggger problem than the relative ease in which it is to appear as an expert is that – at least here in the Scandinavian countries – so few scholars in our field blog at all. (Of course, these are related effects.)
Also, only blogging about your area of expertise, narrowly defined, would be boring – it would limit my own writing to Swedish astronomy 1860-1970 and Swedish food technologies 1940-1960. Also, it would be a rather restricted view of what constitutes expertise in a public intellectual kind of way. Sure, Will Thomas’ series of posts on Schaffer might be about chronological eras in which he has not done much original research (he calls for the real experts to step up: “I do wish people who are actually well-versed in 18th and 19th-century studies would displace by some means my hobby-like interest in the subject”), but the toolbox of the historian of science and technology also contains generalist tools suitable for publicly working through the problems raised by fellow historians.
At the Swedish national conference on HoS&T in November, Thomas Söderqvist, Nina Wormbs and I ran a panel on blogging and the discussions there kind of made me hopeful: more scholars will start blogging, but it will take time. At least, since then, one colleague, Gustav Sjöblom, has taken up blogging …