Michael D. Hattem: Academic Networking 2.0: Historians and Social Media

Roundup: Talking About History

Michael D. Hattem is a doctoral student in the Department of History at Yale University. He received his Bachelor’s degree in History from the City College of New York. His work largely focuses on the political culture, intellectual history, and print culture of colonial New York City and the rest of the middle colonies.

As the academic job market in history continues to shrink, networking has become something no tenure-track hopeful can afford to ignore. At the same time, the rise of social media has afforded historians with new and inventive ways to network with colleagues from around the world. Whether posting from conferences in real-time on Twitter, connecting with fellow historians on Facebook, or playing active roles in the blogosphere, younger historians are utilizing social media for both professional networking and scholarly development.

Social media is well on its way to fundamentally changing the dynamics of academic networking. Before the internet age, historians generally developed connections either through their mentors’ participation in a kind of academic “old-boy” network or their own efforts a few times a year at large conferences. In the internet’s early days, historians connected with each other on Usenet groups or listservs such as H-Net, an antecedent of today’s academic online networking tools.

But social media has gone further; it has significantly widened the scope and increased the possibilities of academic networking. For example, young historians can now develop connections with senior scholars in their field by “friending” them on Facebook or “following” them on Twitter and interacting with them in ways never before possible. There is also less pressure on younger scholars due to the informality of the act of replying to a “tweet” or commenting on a Facebook post. An informal familiarity develops that simply was not possible among colleagues of previous generations who only met once or twice a year. The same is true for young historians’ interactions with their own peers....

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