Archives for February 2013

Hey, look over there

I have a piece up at The Blue Review on Wikipedia,, and the gendering of digital public history.  Here’s an excerpt:

Engendering Online History

Wikipedia vs. Historianship at a crossroads

Businessweek reports that “genealogy ranks second only to porn as the most searched topic online.” It’s no wonder, then, that, which for a monthly fee lets anyone search and browse its more than 10 million digitized records of births, marriages, censuses, ships’ passenger lists and more has become a destination for anyone interested in trying her hand at historical research.  I say “her” intentionally, as the majority of users—typically around 65 percent—of genealogical sites are women. is the world’s most-trafficked genealogical site.

Wikipedia, the highly popular online encyclopedia, on the other hand, has a paltry percentage of women actively editing articles—just 8.5 percent by one measure. The sites allow for two different, and sometimes competing, versions of historical practice to emerge. In particular, Wikipedia’s community ethos, although it embraces collaboration and consensus, may actually discourage participation, especially by women—reflecting a problem that also exists in the historical profession.

Read more at The Blue Review.

The dark heart

I promised a series of posts on gun violence, and so far I’ve only written two: one on the intersection of guns and whiteness and another on Christian responses to the Sandy Hook massacre.  There will likely be more posts coming, as I’m still reading pretty extensively on gun ownership and gun violence in the U.S.  A big part of why I haven’t written more, however, is that I find myself continuously circling back to what I see as the dark heart of gun ownership in the U.S.:

When people say they own a gun for “self-defense,” they are saying they are willing to kill another human being.

I honestly can’t imagine taking a human life.  Fighting tooth and nail to protect myself or my family, and temporarily disabling an attacker?  Sure.  But taking another human life to preserve my own?  Even if I or others might see that life as belonging to an “evil” or ill-willed person?  That I cannot imagine.

It’s profoundly disturbing to me that others can imagine killing another human–so much so that they arm themselves and train to be ready for that moment.

And even if a gun owner claims she’s only going to “maim” an attacker. . .  I suggest you look at Google images for “gunshot wound” and scroll past the Halloween make-up.  How could anyone imagine inflicting that kind of pain on another human?

In the end, it’s this dark heart that makes it so difficult for me to write about this subject.  Any data I might present, any cultural biases or logical inconsistencies I might try to highlight can’t pierce a darkness that dense.

Busy busy

Intellectual and vocational theme of the semester: Charismatic megafauna, literal and metaphorical 

I haven’t been writing much here, but I’ve been writing elsewhere, and I hope to soon have a few links to share to pieces in a couple of bloggish venues, as well as to a journal article.

So. . . how about an update on my work life instead? Despite my light teaching load this semester, I’m keeping occupied

  • resubmitting a large grant;
  • revising a traditional journal article on the woman who ran the San Diego Zoo for the second quarter of the twentieth century;
  • writing another journal article that’s in danger of becoming a manifesto on human rights museology;
  • thinking about maybe prepping for a local talk I’m giving next month on the Boise Wiki, a project built largely by students in a couple of my classes, but which I’ll launch into the public wilds soon;
  • overseeing a graduate student pulling together sources for Stories of Idaho, a new digital project that I’m supposed to launch in beta by June 1;
  • trying to make sense of those sources and create coherent content for the first Stories of Idaho module, about the history of wolf management in Idaho;
  • working with a WordPress developer on a plugin that lends a new(ish) kind of interactivity to Stories of Idaho;
  • collaborating with other faculty on a new digital humanities initiative;
  • trying to shepherd grad students through their first year, or through their Master’s projects;
  • reviewing applications from prospective grad students;
  • spending (yet also accruing, I think) some political capital on a university-wide issue of importance to me (compensating grad students);
  • and a bunch of other stuff–these bullets are just what’s keeping me active right now.

Burying the lede

There is a bit of good news, however—I’ve been granted a spring 2014 semester free of teaching and service responsibilities; I’ll be Boise State’s inaugural Digital Arts and Humanities Fellow.  I’ll be trying to make sense of the extensive but understudied medical/healthcare collections and share my findings in part through a section of Stories of Idaho.