At the crossroads …

Monika Lehner's picture

I recently took a short break from H-Net. I used my time-out to reflect my experiences as a VP over the last 2+ years (and to explore why I have gotten more and more frustrated). Attending a number of conferences, I had the opportunity to talk to some long-time members of various H-Net Networks and some long-time (or former) editors, advisory board members and council members - and that helped a lot to find words for what was wandering through my mind for quite some time.

I decided to 'run' for VP Teaching & Learning because I wanted to make a contribution beyond being an editor for H-ASIA (which is something that I enjoy very much). Reality brought me down to earth really quickly. Instead of providing room for cooperation, encouraging new projects, channeling ideas and developing new perspectives I found myself sidelined and at the same time under pressure. Sidelined by something I would describe as a H-Net’s ‘secret inner circle’ – and under pressure by the said ‘inner circle’.

Maybe it’s me.
I have no intention to take H-Net (and the council) as some kind of stage to vent on whatever comes into my mind and to ruffle my feathers. I have not intention (and am not used) to list informal conversations as ‘super-productive committee meetings’ and to brag about ‘promising contacts’ if I run into someone accidentally while lining up to get a coffee during lunch break at a conference. I have no intention to put even more pressure on to all the editors on our networks, who do an incredible job.  

Maybe we missed something along the road.
In most of the conversations with H-Net networks subscribers I get the impression that most of them have not registered that there has been a major change. For them it looked like a sudden change of e-mail formats, and nothing else. They face a somewhat rude awakening if they want to respond to a message (and an unknown proportion refrains from figuring out how to post on The Commons and contacts the author directly.

There is still no easy way to find information in the huge pile of stuff that H-Net Commons has become. Yes, theoretically (and technologywise) it is now easier to share information across networks - but what about copyright and intellectual property etc.?

I want to believe that there is a lot of potential for H-Net that came with the transition to the Commons. Alas, I (and maybe other editors and subscribers) still fail to envision (a) what the potential is and (b) how to make use of the potential to move H-Net forward.

I thought that H-Net Commons would help to reduce redundancies and prevent networks from wasting time to re-invent the wheel. At the moment, I cannot see that, quite on contrary, there are lots of redundancies: H-Net Central is 'developing' 'projects' of all kind - book channel, teaching center/learning center and networks are coming up with new ideas. Alas, nobody knows about the other. That is not what I see as collaboration and a benefit of bringing a lot of know-how under the roof/umbrella of H-Net Commons and definitely not up to 'the potential' (whatever that may be) of H-Net Commons.

Monika Lehner
H-Net Vice-President, Teaching & Learning,
Editor, H-ASIA


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