One of the great things about the internet is the increased exposure for scholars’ work that used to gather dust on University shelves or be hidden in journals that only specialists read. Certainly those who laboured away at their PhD dissertations could rest easy knowing that only their chair, examiners(sometimes), and family members were ever going to read it. Times have changed recently. Sites like academia.edu, researchgate, bookforum.com have opened up somewhat the icy-cold world of academia. Though the publishing industry has recently fought back, it seems difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. This does not, in my mind, mark the end of traditional academia. Certainly there is a place for peer-reviewed journals, even the closed kind. Whilst I have experienced some very poor peer reviewers, the majority of comments only improve your work. However, like many scholars I find the process somewhat arbitrary and the often long waits for responses mind-numbing.
This thought brings me to the wider exposure that sites such as medievalists.net and bookforum have given to specialists and non-specialists. For those not familiar with these sites, they are impressive. Articles are sourced from a variety of sources journals universities and sites like academia.edu. Quality as well as readability are important factors in selection. While some scholars cringe at the thought of sharing their work with the masses, a good number have begun to appreciate the value of broadening their audience.
Many scholars cringe when I tell them that I have even created rough drafts on my various sites. Indeed, I myself have cringed when an unpolished draft has attracted somewhat unwanted attention. Indeed, I have been guilty of putting up drafts that were probably best hidden from the world. I have, however, been lucky enough to have bookforum pick up unsolicited one article and medievalists.net three in the past year. Its nice to know that your projects have found an audience albeit a small one.
Yesterday I discovered that medievalists.net had uploaded a link to my 2012 dissertation http://www.medievalists.net/2014/04/13/soldiers-life-martial-virtues-hegemonic-masculinity-early-byzantine-empire.
While happy for the exposure it also filled me with some trepidation. Indeed, I feel a bit like the guy in the speedo at the beach after a long winter of drinking stout beers. Sometimes, dissertations are best left on the bookshelves of the library. While proud of my work, I am in the midst of a substantial revision for publishing and creating two chapters that due to time constraints were left out of the dissertation.
So we live in a new world. I tell myself take the plunge even if the speedo feels a bit tight!