Most of you who are reading this blog already know who I am, where I am and what I am doing. But, in the spirit of blogging, I will imagine a broad audience of strangers who are just dying to know more about me.
My name is Joanna Dawson and I am an MA student at the University of Western Ontario in the Public History program. I am originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland, where I “grew up” (at what point do you actually stop growing up – I’m not sure I’m finished). I moved to Winnipeg when I was a teenager and lived there until my recent move to London, Ontario to attend Western. I obtained my BA(Hons) from the University of Manitoba in 2007, where I majored in history, with a specialization in Canadian history. As part of a Digital History class in the Public History program at Western, we have been assigned the task of making and maintaining a blog, which will be used to reflect on our readings, assignments and experiences, as well as to interact with others in the field.
As many students who have preceded me and as many who will follow, I don’t have any experience blogging or writing for the public generally. However, instead of worrying about this or revealing all of my insecurities, I decided to think about my goals for this blog, and for my Public History degree in general (not in an effort to appear as though I have everything figured out but, rather, in an attempt to stay positive, focused and open-minded). Writing down your goals (and publishing them for the world to see) is the best way to accomplish them.
I would say that my main struggle with history, academia and sometimes life in general, is that I find it difficult to pick a side of a debate. It’s not that I don’t have opinions or that I don’t know how to deconstruct arguments and it’s not that I’m afraid I will pick the “wrong” side. I simply think that it is so important to be well informed of all aspects of the story. It is important to listen to what others have to say and to consider how this affects your opinion. I value this in other people, but I think that I have come to value this quality so much, that it sometimes prevents me from feeling strongly about certain topics. More than once during my undergrad degree, I received positive comments on an essay (well written, good research, etc) that were modified and somewhat dampened by a request to see a stronger argument, a more definitive conclusion or more of my own voice on the topic.
Therefore, my goal this year is to work on my voice. Through this blog, I hope to expand on my ability to research and understand all aspects of a topic and then formulate and, most importantly, express my own ideas and opinions. Anyone who reads this blog has my permission to question me, challenge me, disagree with me and debate with me – as I know all of these things will help me strengthen my (virtual) voice.