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Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Being with like minds is not an escape

Last year my article ‘A city that we shall never find’? The search for a community of fellow progressive spirits in the UK between the wars was published in Family and Community History (and it's open access...). In that article I was considering some UK organisations from the 1930s in which progressive spirits of the day got together. Their influence upon matters of politics and governance has largely been considered at best negligible.

What I argue in that piece is that perhaps these organisations, with their meetings and lectures and social events and country rambles and summer schools, provided a place where individuals who were fighting the good fight on a range of fronts against considerable odds could get together with a community of other people who had similar thoughts and feelings, and that this itself was not a negligible thing.

If I was writing this today I might be more emphatic about the virtues of not feeling oneself alone and not being the only person who could envisage things being different and be both critical and creative about alternative solutions. Who could think of different stories.

I've seen a fair amount, over the last months, about people being in 'bubbles' that give them an entirely false sense of the generality of the world.

Surely the thing about bubbles is that they are transparent and that you can see what's outside them?

I don't think anyone in any of the bubbles I might be in myself is unaware of what's going on outside. those bubbles, But there's such a thing as putting oneself in unnecessary pain and distress to a counter-productive degree. Comfort is not bad. Looking at pictures of cute animals can be a restorative reminder that there are small pleasures in the world. Communicating with like minds or just knowing that they are there is a source of strength.

Friday, 5 August 2016

It all depends on what you mean by social media

I have been moved to post in this rather desultory blog of mine by noticing that there is a furore going on over this article: We should not have to parade ourselves on social media to please our employers or be considered enthusiastic 

Well, I'm a bit dubious that employers should be demanding this of academics, unless it's considered part of their core job within working hours, but if they're doing on what might somewhat euphemistically considered their own time, it's up to them.

On another hand, speaking as someone whose day-job was being an archivist and who contrived what I think is a fairly satisfactory career as an independent scholar in my own time and with a few periods of research leave, the internet made a significant difference to me. I set up my own website in 1998, and I suspect that far more people have accessed my Victorian Sex Factoids page than have read my books, articles and chapters. I also set up the precursors of H-Histsex, on free sites offering listserv hosting in perpetuity (they lied). Later on I set up this blog for academic/archivist purposes, although I had already been blogging elsewhere in a more informal and social way.

'Social media' is not all one thing. As can be seen from the foregoing I came of internet-age when listservs were the happening thing for geographically-scattered academics to communicate with one another - and they still serve this purpose, somewhat below present-day radar. Problems arise when people think that 'everybody' is using one particular medium.

This blog post bears witness to the fact that I often see something in a tweet and think I should respond but 140 characters is just not the medium for what I want to say.

And on further twitter-problems: what does one do when somebody links a blog-post in a tweet, and one sees that although one is in general concurrence, they have made a blooper within one's own area of expertise - not something that could be clarified in 140 characters. Also on closer inspection the post was written several years ago. Couldn't find an email for the writer.

Monday, 29 February 2016

A few recent accomplishments

The audiofile and the transcripts of the Witness Seminar on 50 Years of Brook that I organised last year at the Wellcome are now available (also on Soundcloud). Also available, this very short  and highly inexplicit 1974 cinema ad for their services:
video

2015 publications:
‘A city that we shall never find’? The search for a community of fellow progressive spirits in the UK between the wars Family and Community History, Volume 18, Issue 1 (April 2015), pp. 24-36
‘Sentimental Follies’ or ‘Instruments of Tremendous Uplift’? reconsidering women's same-sex relationships in interwar Britain Women's History Review, Volume 25, Issue 1, 2016, Special Issue:  Love, Desire and Melancholy:inspired by Constance Maynard
The Victorians: Our Others, Our Selves, in Kate Fisher and Rebecca Langlands, Sex, Knowledge, and Receptions of the Past (OUP, 2015)



Tuesday, 23 February 2016

After a long hiatus, my forthcoming dance-card


History in the Pub: Queer London:

Passions Between Women in Victorian Britain: Plymouth University, 26 April 2016, 19.00
Thursday, 19 May 2016,6.00-8.30pm, Birkbeck, University of London (panelist)

Symposium on the Enigma of Marie Stopes, Palaeontologist and Birth Control Pioneer 23 June 2016, University of Manchester, U.K.


Anticipations: H. G. Wells, Science Fiction and Radical Visions: A Conference at Woking, 8-10 July 2016 (plenary)