It’s a chilly Saturday night in Buenos Aires. As I sit here writing my thoughts on the past month it dawns on me how much (and how far,) I’ve progressed in my doctoral studies. It also becomes clear how this process has been a joint effort.
During digital history courses at GMU, the collaborative nature of Web 2.0 technology was often juxtaposed with the more solitary nature of traditional “analog” history—the historian furiously writing in his or her office in order to make a deadline set by a publisher. While I applaud the efforts of Dan Cohen, Mills Kelly, Peter Haber and Jan Hodel (working alongside Kelly using the new Press Forward platform), among others, to push for a more open and collaborative model, historical work is largely collaborative…at least until the final stage.
The same can be said about doctoral studies in history. Although my file was processed at countless offices on campus, the elements within my file were products of collaborative efforts. I would like to thank my Major Field Oral Exam committee—Matthew Karush, Joan Bristol, and Michele Greet—for their countless hours of exam prep and thought-provoking discussions on readings in Latin American history. I would also like to thank Bristol, Karush, and John Nauright for guidance on the prospectus. They helped to shape, mold, and guide me along a process that made my dissertation topic that much stronger. I also recruited fellow PhD students Dan Luddington and Charles Parrish for their thoughts and thank them for helpful suggestions.
But then I think about a multitude of people who I can also easily thank. George Oberlie, Rachel Pooley, Lynn Price, Rosie Zagarri and others in my HIST 811 course. Ammon Sheppard for his patient ear and willingness to make his own preparation for orals open on his blog (and for helpful OmniGraffle advice.) Dina Copelman and Fred Gibbs for crafting an excellent list of readings in my minor fields—many of which still influence my thoughts on Argentinean football. Cindy Kierner, Steve Barnes, Rana Fitzgerald, and Sharon Bloomquist for their sound advice throughout my time at GMU. Kelly Schrum and Dan Cohen for being flexible and helping to make my stay in Buenos Aires possible.
Finally, my kids and wife, Lisa, whose patience and support carried me. Whatever accomplishments I have reached thus far are only possible because of their sacrifice.
Typically, these “thank you” notes are found at the beginning of a published book or dissertation. However, the larger point is that the notion that digital history is more collaborative than its older “analog” version doesn’t hold much water. Rather, the promise of digital tools is to strengthen academic partnerships and to encourage more collaborative publications. It is also about maintaing the rigor and quality of historical work premised upon peer review, while breaking free from the constraints of print publication. Digital tools offer historians a more dynamic way of “doing” history. It is my hope that this blog is a small part of how scholars could also make the process of “doing” a dissertation into a more engaging and collaborative process.