Roundtable Publishing History Digitally: New Formats, New Audiences, and New Challenges

AHA Session 67
Friday, January 3, 2014: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Thurgood Marshall Ballroom North (Marriott Wardman Park)
Chair:
Daniel J. Cohen, Digital Public Library of America
Topics:
The Appendix: Digital Publishing and the New "New Narrative History"
Christopher H. Heaney, University of Texas at Austin
Publishing Scholarly Work in Popular Media
Yoni Appelbaum, Brandeis University
Comment:
Daniel J. Cohen, Digital Public Library of America

Session Abstract

Digital publishing, long touted as the future of historical scholarship, has arrived abruptly at its present. As audiences migrate online, historians are discovering unprecedented opportunities to engage their various publics, even as they confront new challenges in presenting their work. This session brings together five pioneers from the frontlines of digital publishing, drawing on their own experiences to illuminate different corners of the emerging world of digital publication.

Shana Kimball of MPublishing will explain why Michigan’s university press has embraced digital publishing, but also share the questions raised by the shift that keep her up at night. Charles Homans of Atavist, the leading digital publisher of longform nonfiction, will detail Atavist’s success in engaging popular audiences with lengthy, involved works of prose. Yoni Appelbaum, a correspondent for The Atlantic, will speak about his experiments in crafting digital essays that bring scholarly research and attribution to general audiences. Christopher Heaney of The Appendix, a digital journal of narrative and experimental history, will explore the flexibility of the web as a medium, and show how it allows for experimentation with the form and presentation of historical writing. And Dan Cohen of the Digital Public Library of America will place these experiments within the broader context of the historical profession’s evolving relationship with new technologies.

Taken together, these accounts suggest both the broad range of possibilities and the complexity of the issues raised by the shift toward digital publication. This session aims to introduce historians to the exciting range of new forms and formats emerging in digital spaces, and to give them the chance to pose their questions to active participants in the field. It is also designed to provoke a broad conversation within the profession about how these new forms of publication intersect with our responsibilities as scholars, educators, students, and citizens. Finally, it aims to engage both the panelists and the members of the audience in a lively consideration of how new forms and formats will shape the future of historical scholarship.

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