Welcome to Web 2.0

The idea of Web 2.0 has been around for a dozen years, but until recently, I’ve been firmly stuck in Web 1.5. A decade ago, I hoped to created an online space for EMEMHians to share resources: my website lives on, a historical relic of sorts, but the ‘EMWWeb‘ portion was stillborn. Even less successful was my foray into computerized social networking. Years ago I signed up for a Facebook account, mostly because I heard you could easily download student pictures there. I take a digital photo of each class to match names with faces, but I didn’t give much thought to the types of student photos one might find on Facebook. I don’t think I ever got beyond filling out some basic personal info, and haven’t looked at my account for years.

More recently I was forced to be more social with my online media. Due to the SHAT Archives de Guerre outage, I signed up for its Twitter feed, but am still regretting my experience in the Twitterverse: I continue to get more than one hundred tweets every freakin’ day, from only ten or so institutions that I chose follow. Sorry, but I’ve got better thing to do with my time than learn that somebody really liked the British Library’s Mughal exhibit. Signal-to-noise ratio, people.

But maybe social media isn’t all bad for us anti-social types. I finally bit the bullet and joined Academia.edu last week, primarily because (spoiler alert) I wanted to download a Scrivener template someone had posted. Turns out the site is a nice receptacle to advertise your work and follow other individuals and interest groups. It automatically finds works you (may) have written and asks you to verify your authorship. It also allows you to upload your works for open access, and allows you to download others’. For example, I just found notice of this work:

Campillo, Xavier Rubio, et al. “The development of new infantry tactics during the early eighteenth century: a computer simulation approach to modern military history.” Journal of Simulation advanced online publication, 18 January 2013. [I have no idea how to cite these kinds of online publications].
Computational models have been extensively used in military operations research, but they are rarely seen in military history studies. The introduction of this technique has potential benefits for the study of past conflicts. This paper presents an agent-based model (ABM) designed to help understand European military tactics during the eighteenth century, in particular during the War of the Spanish Succession. We use a computer simulation to evaluate the main variables that affect infantry performance in the battlefield, according to primary sources. The results show that the choice of a particular firing system was not as important as most historians state. In particular, it cannot be the only explanation for the superiority of Allied armies. The final discussion shows how ABM can be used to interpret historical data, and explores under which conditions the hypotheses generated from the study of primary accounts could be valid.

The site seems to be more popular among European (and global) scholars than American, but that’s fine by me.

Academia.edu is, however, a bit scattered, and lacks any sense of controlled vocabulary. I’m not really sure how useful it will be to follow an interest group being followed by 2,000 others (or half a dozen groups each with 1,000+ followers), particularly as you receive updates on all their activities. Can’t we label our interests more precisely than “Military History” or “War Studies” or “European History” or “Early Modern History”?

But if you are feeling young and hip, check it out.



2 responses to “Welcome to Web 2.0”

  1. Andy Tumath says :

    Academia.edu is cool, but what’s the general opinion on the quality of work on there? Wiki continues to get a bad rap due to what is seen as the absence of any sort of valid peer review – is Academia.edu going to suffer the same kind of criticism?
    There could end up being a split in the manner of publication of articles – those published in peer-reviewed journals that require assignation of copyright, and thus not free-access; those not proposed or not accepted for peer-reviewed publication – free-access only; and a (perhaps unlikely) third type, where authors are given permission to publish on Academia.edu at some stage after release in a journal.

    • jostwald says :

      I admit to not reading through Academia.edu carefully, but I didn’t think that posting a paper up there necessarily equaled “publication.” I assumed the works available for download were conference papers, theses, and the like. To be honest, I tend to use such info to keep a look out for when somebody’s interesting research does get published. But so much never does.
      You’re right though, the discipline definitely needs to figure out what to do about the many shades of historical argument. Let’s say you do find what you consider a scholarly argument there (or on a blog for that matter) – how do you cite it? Do you dare? Do academic publishers even allow hyperlinks (say, for example, to historical datasets ) in their footnotes?
      For that matter, what happens with conference presentations that you find useful? I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than a handful of conference papers cited in notes. Not even very many Ph.D. dissertations either. To repeat my refrain: no wonder we keep seeing the same works being cited over and over again.

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