I have to admit that I am still mulling over Michael Hait's post "The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new experts?"
There's one last part I need to discuss and then I think I will be able to let it go. In his final section he discusses what he'd like to see from bloggers in the future. He's hoping they'll give more consideration to the fact that their blogs are public and many people are reading them.
This post does not directly address that issue but gives voice to my visceral reaction to the topic which is the matter of genre.
Within the field of genealogy there are many different types of genre that are played out in printed publication. As we explore these types of genealogical genres we have to ask again, what is genealogy? Is genealogy strictly when we are talking about discovered family connections and the citations we show to prove those connections? Or does genealogy encompass everything from the materials that we create to teach others about genealogy, the journal-like stories we write to share our journey, the discussions of serendipity we have experienced along our way? Is that genealogy or do we need to come up with a sub-field to cover those topics?
Let's look at journals and magazines. There are many different types. There are the peer-reviewed journals such as The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, The National Genealogical Society Quarterly and The American Genealogist (TAG). I could be wrong about this but when Michael gets talking about genealogy this is what I think he is talking about. Not that that is bad thing. These publications are amazing, the best of genealogy and what we strive for in our research. They are the closest thing we have to academic journals. They are written in a scholarly manner, peer-reviewed in a scholarly way and the citations alone are a lesson in good research. They are not always to most riveting works to read but they push us to become better genealogists. Since we all agree on that, let's move on.
My question is, what about all those other genealogy publications? Are they genealogy too or they something else? There's American Ancestors, the NGS Magazine, The New York Researcher and numerous others created by societies and other groups. These magazines sometimes include scholarly work but they also include articles that teach about different issues confronted by genealogists such as DNA, technology, writing, new record groups, project management and much more. Some of the materials are footnoted and some aren't based on whether it's appropriate. Do we make a distinction between publishing genealogies and publishing topics within the field of genealogy?
And what about the pop genealogy magazines? Can we consider those genealogy? There are a number of publications such as Family Tree Magazine, Internet Genealogy and Family Chronicle that specifically don't include footnotes in their articles. These are perhaps considered as how-to genealogy magazines. They discuss research and encourage genealogists to try new resources but they don't specifically print genealogies.
Each of these publications has their own voice. Each one has a specific target audience. Each one has specific guidelines for writers that need to be followed. The guidelines spell out exactly what the mission of the magazine is and how they intend to communicate with their readers. Some magazines, such as the last group, specifically don't use citations in their articles. Are they not genealogical publications because of that?
That's how I feel when Michael is encouraging bloggers to be their best. I feel like (and this could be misinterpretation on my part) that he wants us all to be in the first category. The thing about genealogy blogs is that, just like magazines, there are many genres of genealogy blogs. Some are scholarly work where genealogies are published, some are diary-like stories of a research journey, some are editorials, some are book and product reviews, some are satire, some are how-tos. And some are people just getting their feet wet with research who are reaching out to the greater community through their blog.
What makes blogs even more complicated is that each post could be a specific genre with the overall blog not specifically adhering to any one type. So we can't actually look to a blog to have a specific genre. We must consider each post separately.
So again, the question is what is genealogy? Who has the right to decide? Who has the right to publish it? Are their two distinctive elements to genealogy - the academic publication of "a genealogy" and all the other peripheral stuff which circles around, explores and supports the ultimate goal of a published genealogy? Do we need to be more specific about these distinctions when talking about genealogy?
As far as bloggers are concerned, they are just like journals and magazines. They determine what their voice is. They decide who they want their audience to be and they decide how to represent that voice in writing. Just like genealogy publications they each serve a different purpose and express their views in different ways.
So instead of talking generally about genealogy and encouraging people to write in a better way, perhaps we need to more carefully voice our comments to specifically address which genre we are talking about and how they can specifically improve within their chosen genre.