In theory, internet-based collaboration can improve the quality of scholars’ work. Though I didn’t have any reason to doubt this, I hadn’t actually experienced this for myself until recently.
About a year ago I uploaded one of the films I’ve been investigating, Thomas Edison’s 1914 The Temple of Moloch, to the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive is cool because you can not only view videos there; you can also download them.
Someone took the bait! YouTube user markdcatlin, an industrial hygienist in Akron, Ohio, re-uploaded The Temple of Moloch to YouTube as part of his workplace and environmental health and safety film collection. Mark included a great narrative along with the video, explaining that it depicts silicosis, or “potter’s rot,” a disease that had often been misdiagnosed as tuberculosis.
I hadn’t realized this, and in fact I’d wondered why, if TB is transmitted by a bacillus, you’d get it from working in a pottery, as the film seems to claim. I’ve actually presented my research on these films at conferences, but never — obviously — at a conference of industrial hygienists.
So there you go! The internet works! Good job, internet!
(Although I should also mention that, true to YouTube form, Mark’s upload of The Temple of Moloch is followed by a commenter’s xenophobic rant about immigration. The perils of free speech.)