Harry Watson’s presidential address was held at the Racquet Club. Originally, Watson was supposed to talk about Andrew Jackson, but after a ghostly visitation from Old Hickory, he decided to discuss race and southern antebellum education reform. (Jackson was likely scary enough in person; can you imagine him as an apparition?)
The banquet afterwards was very good. In addition to hobnobbing with the usual suspects, I spent time talking to Herb Ershkowitz and met Eva Shepphard Wolf, someone I knew from serving together on the AHA’s Jameson Prize Committee but had never met in person.
This conference was the third at which I tried blogging during the conference. In the future, I’m not sure if I’ll continue writing detailed summaries of panels that I attend or if live-tweeting is the way to go. I enjoyed meeting SHEAR members with whom I had interacted via the blog or Twitter–the technology added a component of camaraderie to the conference for me.
Along those line, Caleb McDaniel wrote an important and thoughtful post on 21st-century technology and H-SHEAR. It’s worth quoting in part:
I do think that H-Net can do things to help facilitate exchanges among these varied communities, like making easier permalinks for posts or incorporating “share” buttons within the archived discussion log pages online. Even better would be the incorporation of a DISQUS-style trackback system into the logs, so that viewers could see when a post or book review has been tweeted or mentioned on a blog. All of these changes could be made without diehard email subscribers even noticing them, while they would significantly aid those who wish to link to and continue list discussions elsewhere. At the same time, however, I think it’s important to note that the two episodes I’ve mentioned here occurred even without such features, which aren’t strictly necessary in order for H-Net to be plugged into the evolving online ecosystems like Twitter.
I would like to add to Caleb’s analysis by calling on Drew Cayton, this year’s president, and the other members of the SHEAR executive and advisory boards to undertake a technology initiative, including the creation of an official Facebook page, Twitter account, and blog. (Michael D. Hattem suggested on Twitter that SHEAR should also record and post certain panels on the organization’s website.) The time and money needed to create and maintain these sources of information and communication would be minimal, but they would help give those SHEAR members (and others outside of the organization) interested in the newer technology a way to network and disseminate their scholarship.
I agree with Caleb that H-SHEAR has its place and is still important, but I also think that it is incumbent on the organization to embrace and encourage newer modes of communication among its members. It wasn’t that long ago that SHEAR experienced a financial crunch; one way to hedge against poor finances is to attract new members, especially younger scholars who will become members in graduate school and stay loyal throughout their careers. I imagine that the demand for the use of new technology will only increase in the coming years, and SHEAR would be wise to stay with the times, as the AHA and other scholarly organizations have done.