The Future of the Past

If you're interested in a historian's take on Wikipedia and the impact of the Wikipedia process on scholarship, check out Roy Rosenzweig's excellent essay: Can History be Open Source? (via The Stoa Consortium). It was the talk of the History blogosphere around the middle of June after appearing in The Journal of American History, but I missed it due to my newness on the scene and preparation for our first Pleiades meeting. The essay is enormously relevant to the Pleiades project, and we'll be disseminating it to all our potential users.

After a brief history of Wikipedia and an analysis of its accuracy (pretty good) and prose (generally mushy), Rosenzweig considers what a Wikipedia-like peer production process might achieve with the participation of professional historians:

If the Internet and the notion of commons-based peer production provide intriguing opportunities for mobilizing volunteer historical enthusiasm to produce a massive digital archive, what about mobilizing and coordinating the work of professional historians in that fashion? That so much professional historical work already relies on volunteer labor -- the peer review of journal articles, the staffing of conference program committees -- suggests that professionals are willing to give up significant amounts of their time to advance the historical enterprise. But are they also willing to take the further step of abandoning individual credit and individual ownership of intellectual property as do Wikipedia authors?

The AWMC wants to preserve individual credit. Absolutely. But it's still going to be tricky. We'll need a lot of finesse to deal with perceptions about the big step.