From the History and Technology column of the May 2007 Perspectives
H-Net: Digital Discussion for Historians
Matthew Gilmore, May 2007
As they say, if you haven't seen H-Net recently, you haven't seen H-Net. Now topping 180,000 subscribers to 181 individual discussion networks, H-Net has been continuing to grow and increase its subject breadth in the last several years. The newest network, H-Memory, launched in March 2007, immediately zoomed to over 400 members in a few days, discussing subjects such as the passing of trauma from generation to generation, the interdisciplinarity of memory studies, and the use of drugs to erase traumatic memories.
H-Net is based at MATRIX, the Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online at Michigan State University, but is an international interdisciplinary organization. H-Net has seven elected officers and a nine-member elected Council. Hundreds of editors collaborate to moderate and help run the lists. Officers, editors, and subscribers come from all over the globe, with subscribers from over 160 countries. The 181 moderated and edited lists and web sites, in addition to providing moderated discussion forums, publish peer-reviewed essays. Each network has its own complement of editors and an advisory board, and maintains a stream of discussion. Cooperative functions of H-Net include reviews, job listings, and academic announcements.
The discussion networks commission and publish book and media reviews through H-Reviews. Each reviewing network has a certified review editor to commission and edit reviews. Over 1,400 reviews were published in 2006, and over 4,100 since 2004. Carefully edited at each step of the reviewing and editing process, these reviews are the equal of those in the print journals, and offer the space for additional thoroughness and detail through the luxury of greater length available online, unconstrained by print journal word limits.
The Job Guide posts academic position announcements in history and the humanities, the social sciences, and rhetoric and composition. Job listings are centrally submitted and cleared through the H-Net Job Guide and each network can post all, or just those relevant. Academic institutions pay a moderate fee to post each vacancy. The Job Guide is fully sortable and searchable, and is available via e-mail through an individual subscription and on the Web at no cost to the jobseeker.
H-Announce is the portal for academic announcements; primarily for calls for papers and publications, conference announcements, and for new teaching, academic, and archival websites. An announcement needs to be submitted (and is verified and edited) only once, rather than to each and every network of interest. These announcements are distributed to all editors weekly.
H-Memory is only the newest of over a dozen new networks added in the past year and a half. The others cover a very wide span of scholarship. Fairly traditional historical and political subjects covered include H-Empire and H-Nationalism, each encompassing a global coverage of their subject. Bridging political studies with anthropology is H-Soyuz, sponsored by Soyuz—the Post-Communist Cultural Studies Interest Group of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). H-CAE is the H-Net presence of the Council on Anthropology and Education.
Some networks take a geographic area as their bounds rather than a subject or discipline. States with networks devoted to them (including the District of Columbia) now number 19—with the addition of H-Kentucky, H-NC (North Carolina), and H-SC (South Carolina). Additionally, some do cover larger regions rather than states, and now H-West, H-South, and H-Appalachia are joined by H-NewEngland and H-Borderlands.
As can be expected, some new networks have a direct complement in existing ones: H-Animal, welcoming scholars from humanistic and social science disciplines—historians, sociologists, literary and film scholars, anthropologists, philosophers, geographers, takes a different perspective than that of H-Nilas, which has a more literary focus—understanding relationships between human beings and the natural world, through the mediation of stories, poems, legends, pictures, and other cultural products. H-Digirhet joins H-Net focusing on issues of digital composition, computer-mediated communication (CMC), digital literacy, information and communication technologies (ICTs), human-computer interaction (HCI) and digital rhetoric, while H-Rhetor sticks to more traditional discussions of rhetoric.
H-Energy and H-Material-Culture both appeal to an interdisciplinary audience studying an aspect of the physical environment. H-Energy provides a forum for scholars interested in energy history broadly defined, including, perhaps, the political economy of oil, the history of technology, and energy and the environment. There are connections to and opportunities for interchange with H-Environment. H-Material-Culture's full name is the H-Net Network on Material Culture and Vernacular Landscapes and Artifact Preservation. Devoted to the promotion and support of the study of buildings, sites, structures, objects, landscapes and other material cultural productions as part of the visual record of life and work (particularly in the Americas), it is sponsored by the Pioneer America Society and the Association for Preservation of Artifacts and Landscapes.
H-Maritime, covering maritime history, archaeology, literature, and policy joins H-Net as a (perhaps tardy) addition to a number networks representing traditional avenues of approach to history, such as H-Diplo (diplomatic), H-War (military), H-Ideas (intellectual), H-Pol (political), and H-Urban (urban).
H-Info is the revival of an earlier discussion list, H-LIS (the interdisciplinary study of libraries and information), under a new name and broader mission. It too has sibling networks with which it can develop synergy—H-Digirhet and H-HistBibl (devoted to historical bibliography).
Religion and history discussions, H-Amrel, H-Bahai, H-Buddhism, H-Catholic, and H-Southern-Religion are now complemented by the addition of H-Pentecostalism. H-Pentecostalism, studying that uniquely American phenomenon, yet now with a global reach, seeks to enhance discussion of methodology and historiography related to the study of Pentecostalism in both local and global contexts.
H-Portugal represents the latest addition (along with H-Soyuz) to H-Net's global coverage, with over 40 networks entirely devoted to regions across the globe, from Latin America, Africa, Australasia, and Europe. H-Portugal, with its coverage of Portugal's African and South American empires, complements yet another two networks, H-Luso-Africa (covering those parts of Africa formerly colonized by the Portuguese) and H-Latam (Brazil and the rest of Latin America).
H-Net has worked out an agreement with ABC-Clio, whereby each H-Net discussion network will have a record in the appropriate ABC-Clio database—America: History and Life or Historical Abstracts or both. Each entry describes the mission and content of the network and lists the editors.
We welcome you to come visit H-Net at www.h-net.org and see what you might have been missing.
—Matthew Gilmore is vice president, networks, at H-Net. He founded and has edited H-DC since 2000, and has served on the H-Net Council since 2003. He has been long involved in preserving, teaching, and documenting the history of Washington, D.C. His interests are in urban planning, cartography, and GIS (Geographic Information Systems).
(Univ. of Maryland Baltimore County)
(Univ. of Houston)
(Univ. of Washington);
VP Research and Publications:
VP Teaching and Learning:
Kelly A. Woestman
(Pittsburg State Univ.)
H-Net Staff Editor:
(King Philip Regional High School, Wrentham, Mass.)
Peter B. Knupfer
(Michigan State Univ.)
(Michigan State Univ.)
(Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison)
Michael D. Innis-Jimenez
(William Paterson Univ.)
Melvin E. Page
(East Tennessee State Univ.)
(Centre d' Études Africaines, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, France)
Paul R. Steege
Jean A. Stuntz
(West Texas A&M Univ.)
Trevor R. Getz
(San Francisco State Univ.)
David J. Silbey