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Oct 30, 2004 8:09 am

The Kuzniki Project ...

In an addendum to his"Historical Method and Blogging" at Positive Liberty, Jason Kuzniki takes exception to my characterization of his proposal for an Historical Wikipedia. In order to guarantee quality, he would allow only those"with some historical expertise" to post to it. I think he skips too lightly over a very difficult issue, which has much broader implications than this project alone. The fact is that anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a historian. The gatekeepers exercise some control over who may practice within the academy and what credentials they must have, but some of our most celebrated practitioners write and work entirely apart from the academy. Kuzniki, himself, intends to pursue a career apart from the academy. Who does the gatekeeping among them?

Having said that, I recommend his further thoughts on"Historians and Technology." They are especially accessible to those of us who are more at ease with historical practice than technological innovation. Scroll past his initial remarks to his paper,"Engaging the User: The ‘Encyclopedia of Diderot and d'Alembert: Collaborative Translation Project' and New Scholarly Paradigms," which takes Dena Goodman's Project at the University of Michigan as a model for future work in history. The Encyclopedia's authors believed that one could encompass human knowledge in a single massive enterprise and that additions to that knowledge might take the form of appendages to it. Much of what we do does follow that form. Much of what we do doesn't conform very readily to it. Even so, Kuzniki is an able twenty-first century advocate of the Enlightenment's vision.

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