This thesis paper was prepared by Prof. Harold Marcuse (homepage) for a roundtable discussion at the October 2004 German Studies Association Conference in Washington, DC (panel #89 on the 2004 GSA conference program--courtesy of web archive).


Some useful links added later:



The Internet as a Venue for Scholarly Interaction with the Public

by Harold Marcuse, University of California, Santa Barbara
Oct. 9, 2004
(pdf version for printing)

Paper for the German Studies Association Conference, Oct. 7-10, 2004, Washington, DC
Roundtable #89:
Making it Real: Intellectual Exchange, Virtual Space, and the Public Sphere

  • My focus for this roundtable on historians interacting with the public is on the role of the internet. Although film, television and other news media reach mass audiences, they tend to be more ephemeral and provide less opportunity for exchange--unless they are archived on the internet. Even reviews of research in scholarly journals have much greater potential for reaching a broader audience when they are published on the internet.
  • I think scholars should make much more explicit and intentional use of the internet in order to foster public knowledge of their research results. I see three main ways this can happen:
  1. We can publish our research (and our teaching, and even our students' research) on the internet in appropriate formats. (These include: "chunking," with clear source and publication information, enlivened by graphics, with intuitive navigation, and being easily printable.)
    See example web sites:
  2. We can assess, on the internet, materials already available there, by:
    1. participating in on-line forums (esp. those that are archived, like H-German);
    2. utilizing customer review features on sites like amazon.com and imdb.com, and
    3. having annotated links on our own research pages.
      This latter point is especially crucial, since search engines--the primary means most people use to access information on the internet--use links to rank pages. We need to transcend and "re-rank" search results, so that over time search engines will "come into line."
  3. We can attend to public inquiries about research we have published on the internet.
    This would include:
    1. monitoring which of our pages are accessed and how they were found (what search terms, links from which pages).
    2. responding to e-mail either personally or by making the requested information available.
      • Example: the origin of Martin Niemöller's quotation "First they came for the Communists…"
        E-mail inquiries prompted me to create the page, which has evolved into an on-line research project: http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/niem.htm
      • Contrast that with: Did the Nazis use the body fat of murdered Jews to make soap?
        (subject of a GSA talk I commented on yesterday--even otherwise reliable institutional websites have misinformation). Published at: www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/dachau/legends
      • [addition 8/29/05]: In March 2005, after viewing Volker Schlöndorff's film "The Ninth Day" about a priest imprisoned in Dachau, I got the memoir on which it is based and created a web page comparing the book and the film. Prior to the film US release in May 2005 several journalists and film critics found that page and contacted me. I did a telephone interview for NPR, gave information to the National Catholic Register, and wrote an evaluation for a publisher interested in publishing an English translation of the memoir. Thus this is an excellent example of how a scholar can get "good historical information" into the public sphere via the internet, which can snowball into other media.
      • [addition 8/29/05]: In 1997 I posted on my faculty website a short biography of Herbert Marcuse (my grandfather), that I had used to introduce a screening of the documentary film "Herbert's Hippopotamus." Since it was receiving a large number of hits, in 2001 I moved that page to a web server my brother maintained, and expanded it into a "Herbert Marcuse Official homepage." After many expansions it has become a clearinghouse for research and conferences on Marcuse's work, with over 100 new hits/day. An excellent blog article in July 2005, which was republished in other media (In these Times), doubled the number of visitors. The Marcuse site's guestbook is a testament to the truly global reach a scholarly resource on the internet can have.

presentation handout by H. Marcuse, Oct. 9, 2004, uploaded Oct. 19, 2004, updated 2/2/06, 11/19/09
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