Graduate Student Finds a Global Audience for Digital Public History

Joe Hall-Patton
Joe Hall-Patton, creator of his own history YouTube channel

Joe Hall-Patton entered Cal Poly history graduate program to pursue his passion for local and public history. Now a second-year student, Hall-Patton is gaining notice for his series of YouTube video history lectures.

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For more than a year, he has produced videos on a range of subjects including his series “Wars You've Never Heard Of” and “Based on a True Story,” which corrects historical inaccuracies in Hollywood films, as well as episodes on intellectual history. This past summer he began posting weekly videos and ventured to contextualize and comment on the debate over the Confederate flag and symbols. Hall-Patton’s YouTube channel has attracted 50,000 total views and 370 subscribers and continues to grow.

Hall-Patton created the channel on the popular video-sharing website to fill a perceived void. “I had been complaining to one of my friends that there were no topical history shows on YouTube, as there were for science. And my friend simply said, ‘If you want that kind of thing then you should do it.’ It was basically a dare.” 

From the beginning Hall-Patton found videos to be an effective tool to spark conversation and debate on historical issues, something he noticed also lacking on YouTube in particular. “Most of the history content is meant to be little documentaries, like 'this is the history of X' stuff. Many of these are produced by teachers at the high school, junior high or elementary school level. My content, on the other hand, strives to be more about provocative ideas and challenging assumptions — history with research and a moral to the story.” 

Demand for greater conversation and debate has driven the expansion of YouTube as a platform for digital public history. The number of new channels continues to grow and diversify, often shaped by the interests of individual users and by interaction with viewers. “My own scholarly interests are often the driving force,” Hall-Patton explains. “I mostly make episodes on stuff I found to be interesting and provocative, little-known, or an argument I've been retreading.” 

But he notes the aggregate product of these personal interests is an alternate scholarly community. “I'm part of a growing network that we've been calling the history nerds.” Hall-Patton is already working on video content to last through the end of 2015. 

Check out his work at:

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