Today for the first time I came across a short lived and unfortunately defunct blog called Giluy Milta B’alma. The idea was that it would be a forum to publish and discuss new and interesting findings in Hebrew manuscripts. The five posts that exist are somewhat uneven, but valuable for all that. It is a shame that the project did not work out, and here, presented in a roundabout, but hopefully useful way, is why.
There has been a great deal of discussion over the last few years about what academic blogging is, can be, should be, will be, etc…, from the UC Davis panel on “Historical Blogging and the New Media,” to the various ruminations at The Valve. (The link is to John Holbo’s, who has thought about these ideas as much, if not more, than anybody, long post introducing The Valve, what it is and what he wants it to be. It is pretty close to a programmatic statement on his vision of what academic blogging should be. Not all of his co-bloggers agree, and it’s worthwhile to poke around the place, read the comment threads and trackbacks and piece together some of the debates that surround Holbo’s vision of the future of blogging in academia. These issues are also addressed by a number of the bloggers on my blogroll.) I don’t want to rehash all of that, others have said it better than I could. The two links I posted above barely scratch the surface of what is a very interesting and productive conversation which has been going on for several years. But in all the time I’ve been following that debate, I never saw anybody suggest something quite like Giluy Milta.
The idea is to present either preliminary findings that are not yet ready for publication, or that are too short to merit a full length article. The blog format perfectly fits this project for two reasons. First of all, it is suited for shorter length pieces, such as “I was poking around in the archives today, this is what I found…:” The sort of things that you always want to put in papers, but don’t really belong there. The second reason is that blogs have built in space for discussion. “That fragment that you found? I think it might actually be…” A blog like Giluy Milta is, or would be, a fantastic forum for just those sorts of discussions.
In a certain sense this sort of project is a mirror image of John Holbo’s book events at The Valve, Crooked Timber and other sites. He and his colleagues bring their expertise to bear on scholarship which has already been produced. Book events stimulate discussion of what’s going on in a field, and contribute to the next phase of scholarship to an extent, but at the end of the day they are not actually part of the process of producing original scholarship. I think Giluy Milta points to a way that blogging can contribute to that production.
Unfortunately, right now two crucial components are missing. There is no audience, and consequently no group of contributors. To be successful, this sort of project needs a large number of contributors who are willing to take the time to post their archival findings online. It also requires people to read their contributions and comment on them, to create the lively sort of forum we see at the Valve. Without contributors, there will never be an audience. Somebody with some clout and some connections needs to get behind a project like this, and get others excited. If that were to happen, I think that it would open up a new opportunity for online scholarship.