One of the greatest challenges facing the staff of In Media Res involves how best to encourage vibrant and productive comments to curators’ posts.
As others involved in digital scholarship have likely discovered, soliciting feedback on any website can be tricky. If you allow anonymous commenting, the discourse often degrades quickly, sometimes even becoming downright offensive. But if you ask commenters to post under their real name, submitting a comment becomes a sort of performance, a presentation of one’s best professional face to other scholars.
Thus while digital scholarship may remove much of the formality and bureaucracy of print-based scholarship, for many it does not necessarily relieve the anxiety that accompanies any public expression of professional work. Moreover, at IMR we strive to reach out to non-academic writers as well, so the scholarly pose in the comments can limit the appeal of the conversation by intimidating members of a broader public.
To counteract these challenges, we depend upon our curators to initiate the discussion in the comments, trusting they will create a space of openness for others who read the site. In accord with the sentiments Alisa Perren expressed last week, I have found that relationships established in the real world are often our best gauge for the activity level of a particular week. Moving forward, IMR hopes to incorporate a Twitter feed into the interface of the site since that space (and its 140-character limit) necessarily reduces formality and complexity.
Despite the efforts made thus far, there seems much as yet untapped potential for IMR and sites like it. Finding ways to translate our work for a general public while maintaining a level of professionalism and disciplinary engagement seems a continually elusive goal, even while technology promises to remove barriers and facilitate engagement.
While a doctoral student at Georgia State University, where IMR is housed, I served as an Associate Editor for two years. Having completed my doctorate, I now enjoy a position as a member of IMR’s Alumni Consulting Committee.
For example, one of our most successful weeks, in terms of the level of conversation generated, was the Popular Seriality week brought to us by a group of scholars working together in Europe through a research unitat the University of Göttingen.