Shana Worthen did an excellent job of moderating the roundtable discussion, with fellow bloggers Elisabeth Carnell, Michael Drout, Richard Nokes, Michael Tinkler, Alison Tara Walker, (the moderator of the Medieval Studies Community), and me, as participants in a discussion that ranged over why we started blogging, why we blog now, what blogging offers that other forms of online interaction don’t, why we think blogging is important to medievalists, the value of anonymous blogging, and the uses of blogging in terms of scholarship and pedagogy.
The observations made included the following, in no particular order, and without attribution:
- We all appear to find value in the existence of, and contributions, of, anonymous bloggers.
- Several panelists suggested that often the anonymous bloggers were able to say things that they would say if they felt they could, but that for professional or personal reasons they could not.
- All of the panelists spoke about the community aspects of blogging. The Medieval Studies Community is a conscious effort to create a community of medievalists to share information, ranging from calls for papers, to questions from students contemplating a medieval studies program or graduate school, to requests for resource suggestions or research help.
- Several panelists mentioned advantages of a Web log over other digital forms of communication, like email, listserves or static Web pages.
- Entries are published and archived and may be read when the user finds it convenient.
- The use of categories or tags to describe individual posts in the archives makes it easy to search for a particular post, or all posts on a specific topic.
- At least one panelist mentioned using a Web log as a way to store and annotate links, making it easy to share them and use them from any computer.
- Several participants spoke about using Web logs as teaching tools.
- The use of Comments on Posts/Entries allows students to communicate with each other, as well as with the instructor (the resulting conversation is often easier to follow than it would be on a discussion board, says this poster).
- When it’s possible to make the Web log (or Wiki) public, students become engaged with their writing and take it more seriously than they might if it were merely written to satisfy a requirement.
- Several people spoke about the value of Web logs in making scholarly contacts, sometimes leading to collaboration or, quite frequently, resource sharing.
- The use of blogging systems (Blogger, MovableType, TypePad, Live Journal or any number of others) makes it easy to mix text and images on a page, an excellent way to teach art history or other image-reach subjects.
One of the things I found most interesting about the roundtable was that, although I had linked to, and read, and sometimes even commented on, the blogs of all the participants, I’d never actually met most of them before Kalamazoo. Meeting people I read with my coffee every day was one of the highlights of the conference, even though I missed Really Good Coffee.
I’m still very very tired, so I’m hoping that others will comment to fill in the enormous gaps I’ve left in my much truncated summary. And I’ll likely be adding links later.
Update:You can read Michael Drout on the roundtable here. Shana Worthen posted here, Cranky Professor here, and Richard Nokes of Unlocked Wordhoard here. Another Damned Medievalist also comments on the panel.
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