Tag Archives: blogging

Why I Blog

Doug’s Archaeology is running a blog carnival prior to the 2013 SAA  Blogging Archaeology (Again) session, a sort-of follow up to my 2011 session in Sacramento, which remains sadly unpublished.

Like Bill, a fellow archaeology blogging dinosaur, I think I may have answered the question, why I blog, before, and I’m also answering late.

I’ve been blogging archaeology for over a decade now; my first blog was during my first field school in 2001, at the Juliette Street Project in Dallas, Texas. I started it because I wanted to keep my friends back in Austin up to date with what I was doing, but I was too lazy to write individual emails. It was public-but-private, more of an experiential blog as I was learning what archaeology was all about. Happily, the blog is long gone, deleted in a moment of self-consciousness when I got into grad school.

Middle Savagery started as a livejournal in 2006, and it is probably telling that it began with this entry:

Screen shot 2013-12-07 at 4.59.47 PM

 

Reading through the old entries, I miss how casual it was, how much more akin to Tumblr-style blogging, with fragments of words, stolen poems, photos. My blogging has gotten overly formal, possibly as a result of too much academic writing. It started as love letters to all the people that I moved away from or couldn’t be with, and has ended up as grist for the academic grind.

Why am I still blogging? Indeed. I frequently ran out of words while I was writing my thesis, leaving none to spare for the blog. Still, I keep updating Middle Savagery. It’s mine, my own thing, and in the morass of academic publishing, I have a platform I can experiment with. I can be as dopey and full of purple prose as I want to be, or call out misdeeds, or summarize academic articles. Through some trick of luck, people read my stuff.

Over the years I probably should have been more strategic, made a Facebook fan page for the blog, optimized my titles, tagging and search results–10 Mysterious Archaeological Artifacts That Will Change Your Child’s Diet and Your Husband’s Sex Drive! But no. I’ll keep wittering on, and Middle Savagery will change and grow in a slightly stilted, awkward fashion, just as I do.

 

Then Dig – Live!

Then Dig is live! Check out the fantastic Distance theme that Alun Salt put together here:
http://arf.berkeley.edu/then-dig

And “like”: the Facebook page for updates:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Then-Dig/207459359276221

Sneak Preview – Then Dig

On June 1st, Then Dig, the collaborative archaeology group blog, will debut with its first issue: Distance. I’m getting together my post for Distance, but if you are interested in participating, the Call for Posts is here:

http://arf.berkeley.edu/then-dig/2011/05/cfpo-distance/

I made a one-sheet for it that we’ll be distributing on the various archaeology mailing lists. So, expect us!

Blogging Archaeology – Afterwords

Kris was waiting for me at the Starbucks in the Convention Center a couple of hours before the session. We were in the same session together at the SAA in 2007, when I urged my fellow archaeologists to use spatially-aware social media for outreach and she had enthusiastically supported me in her comments on my paper–it was good to see her again! I was a little late because I wanted to see Randy McGuire’s talk in the Activism in Archaeology session. (Thought provoking, but there is a fundamental disconnect rampant in public outreach and archaeology that I’ve been dared to blog about. We’ll see if I get up the courage.)

We chatted about the upcoming session and I groggily admitted that I had depleted most of my resources just to get to the conference, but after some coffee and a sandwich I was ready. I usually like to check out the room ahead of schedule and spend some time getting to know the space. I stood at the mic and welcomed an empty room to the Blogging Archaeology session at the meeting for the Society for American Archaeology.

The session participants began to show up and I told them the routine, asked if they had any questions, then spent a bit of time making sure Shawn Graham’s presentation would work. We didn’t have any computer speakers so the wonderful Sacramento Convention Center AV staff member (Hi Max! Thanks!!) gave us an extra-long mic cord that I held next to my computer for the talk.

And the show began.

The speakers were beyond excellent. They gave compelling, intelligent and surprisingly funny talks about the place of blogging in archaeology. The energy in the room was great and our audience stayed with us–I was in the front most of the time, but I did a quick headcount and came up with about 75 people in the room early in the session. Later it would grow to 100-125 and I spotted the friendly faces of colleagues, students, and my former CRM boss! Whispers went around–was that John Hawks in the audience?

A summary of the papers seems unnecessary because the whole session was live-tweeted, the results of which have been collated by @archaeologist at Storify and Shawn Graham and John Lowe have posted their papers online. Needless to say, I believe that between the blog carnival and the strong session presentation and discussion, we have a firm foundation to pursue publication.

As the community has become self-aware, some have taken it upon themselves to implement key questions and interests that were raised by the carnival and session.

Past Thinking has published a list of archaeology blogs, along with a bundle in Google Reader for the RSS-dependent like myself.

Alun Salt has expanded on the idea of a group blog – this is essential reading for bloggers who are interested in the possibility. The carnival was harder work and took longer than I anticipated, and editing a group blog would only amplify the amount of work and attention necessary to create a quality outcome.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in this timely and essential conversation about the place of the short form in archaeology.

Blogging Archaeology – Week 4

 

I’ve been digging midden in the hot sun for the last couple of days, and I’m filthy and tired, but here we go!

A couple from last week:

One of our session participants, Sarah Nohe at Gettin’ Dirty Before 10:30 (or the Middle Eastern version, Gettin’ Dirty Before 5:30, after being woken up at 4 by the call to prayer) discusses blogging at an organizational/regional level, mentioning that “more individual viewers had visited the regions blog than had visited the organizations’ website as a whole.” I found it interesting that blogging was discussed at a staff meeting–I’ve never heard of such official handling of blogging in archaeology before.

Alun Salt mentions not being able to keep up with my questions–neither am I, it seems! He has a great response to week 2, that blogs are both a built-up repository of what you were thinking about over time and “a stream of nowcasting.” I agree with this point and hope that my colleagues are cognizant of this fact, that they are new media-literate enough to understand that blogging is an ongoing process, ever an unfinished product, and that it shows strength as a scholar to refine ideas and be willing to make mistakes in order to get a better result.

On to week three responses:

To illustrate his point, Shawn Graham, the Electric Archaeologist, used Gephi to visually trace the network of relationships between bloggers who are participating in the blog carnival. The true power of blogging doesn’t necessarily show in comment-count, but in the network of relationships that blogging forms. You participate in the conversation not just by speaking your mind, but listening to what other people say. While comments do indeed show that you are listening, linking to the blogs you read is the best way to show your good taste and (to a certain extent) your academic/personal relationships that you’ve fostered or are fostering.

In a complimentary fashion, Bill Caraher at The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World wrote a similar post, noting that “the influence of a blog and the way that it becomes part of the academic discourse represents are far more complex and (to use an over used term) networked phenomena.” His blog has been cited in academic publications and considers blogging to be another facet of academic experience. He also wrote a post regarding Blogging for Publication in Archaeology, something that is in the works and will be further discussed after the SAA session.

Dig Girl (whom I accidentally outed) was our catalyst for last week’s question, has kept her blog primarily for friends and family to understand what she does a bit better; she pre-digests archaeology news with this audience’s interests and level of understanding in mind. I started blogging archaeology in much the same way. I wrote because I missed my friends while I was in the field and it was an easy way to update everyone at once, and then I had to move away for grad school, and finally it became broader than that. Colleagues started discovering the blog, then my family, and my audience was suddenly a lot bigger and more diverse than I could imagine. I’m pretty chagrined that I slipped and used Dig Girl’s real name–but as she says, nothing in her blog could be used against her. If anything, I think it would be a positive in the hiring equation.

John at Where in the hell am I? also blogs for his friends and family and his next post is one of the best examples I’ve seen that explains the varied Texas  CRM field experience. John’s blog exemplifies a strong tradition in archaeology–storytelling. We make narratives from our gathered information about the past, and pair them with our contextual experience of this process of gathering. I think this is where the short form excels above other methods of communicating archaeological information. Nowhere else are we allowed to tell our archaeology campfire stories, the things that we did or our friends did that make up the stuff of our profession. Most people choose not to share this information, but I think it gives non-archaeologists the best insights into our profession. Do yourself a favor and read John’s experience with a gentleman who drove him around in an old jeep in the Hill Country.

Alun Salt helps us understand why we don’t receive more comments using the 95-5-0.1 rule–wander on over to his blog to check it out. He points to Facebook as the place where people will comment on posts rather than on the blog itself. Blog-commenting isn’t a very visible activity whereas interaction on Facebook has both visibility and a more instant payoff. Even if others within your Facebook social circle do not read the blog post, they can see that you are interested (and are therefore interesting) in the content of the blog post. Alun expands on all of this, it’s really worth checking his entire post out.

Matthew Law (a fellow OG LJ archaeology blogger) at Adventures in Archaeology, Human Paleoecology and the Internet also notes this dichotomy–the blogs set up for outreach projects at Cardiff University weren’t nearly as successful as Facebook groups that were set up for the same purpose. After several years of experience, I am seeing more and more that blogs are not particularly well suited for short-term group projects. Setting up a Facebook page may bring the audience you desire, as they are able to “perform” their interest in your site/research as a “like,” thereby incorporating it into their projected online identity. And don’t fret Matt–you can always change the name of your blog.

The MSU Campus blog provides us with some insight, beginning with Katy Meyers’ appeal to treat blogs as a roundtable discussion rather than a solo activity. Grace Krause suggests that we draw in wider participation by linking blogging with the real world, blogging public events and such. I think this is a great idea–I still need to work on some of the public aspects of my SAA and TAG sessions. Lynne Goldstein views the problem of communication as an historic one and suggests promotion through personal Twitter and Facebook feeds. I’m pretty inconsistent about this last point myself–I post links on Facebook most of the time, and Twitter very occasionally, but I’d hesitate to make a Facebook fan page for a personal blog.

Terry Brock extends this point at Dirt, and encourages us to ask “what would you like to see more of?” or “what questions do you want us to answer? on Twitter or Facebook. I’ll admit that I’m an inconsistent Twitter user, probably because I don’t use it on my phone. I agree with him though, “I consider blogging to be one piece of a larger use of online media for archaeology on the web.” This kind of distributed identity is good for archaeologists and even for archaeological projects whereas webpages have relatively limited use and success conveying the same information. (see Carol McDavid’s excellent and seminal dissertation regarding this point)

Johan Normark uses his blog, Archaeological Haecceities to query the Object Oriented/Speculative turn and notes that timing his posts can get better results. He’s writing for a different time zone, as I am I (at least in part) as most of his traffic comes from the US. He also names his hit stats, which look pretty respectable to me.

A new blog and entry comes from Doug’s Archaeology. He notes that archaeologists rarely solicit comments on their blogs, but I have to say, I have a few times and only rarely do I get feedback in that form. People who will read my blog and who will talk to me about it on Facebook or in person won’t comment directly on the post. Doug’s research sound interesting though, probably something the Electric Archaeologist should talk to him about. I’m also looking forward to reading his publication Making a Living, coming up in the SAA Archaeological Record and will watch the Youtube summary when I have a moment.

Again, a big thank you to everyone who contributed to this week’s discussion of blogging in archaeology. As I wrote to Bill Caraher in email, this conversation seems to have taken on a life of its own! If I missed your contribution, please notify me.

For our last question, I would like to ask you to consider the act of publication for this blog carnival. How could we best capture the interplay, the multimedia experience of blogging as a more formalized publication? What would be the best outcome for this collection of insights from archaeological bloggers?

As always, please email me a link to your post! Seeing as I was so late in responding, the deadline for blog entries is 29 March.

Blogging Archaeology – Week 3

The Ides of March edition of Blogging Archaeology is finally here, coming to you from the inside of a sand-tornado. First, a few stragglers from week one:

Alun Salt broadens the question to include other disciplines, linking to several interesting blog posts from our colleagues in Botany and the History of Science. He emphasizes that the comments that we can receive with blogging are similar to feedback at conferences, that is, short and to the point. Though in my experience most conferences don’t leave time for this Q&A–the papers run too long and most people just want to be out of there, sadly.

Bill Caraher, who has written one of the earliest and best pieces about blogging in archaeology, states that blogging is a tool, “neither specifically short-form or long-form, and is probably at the ragged edge of being anything at all except a piece of software running on a server and accessible via the web.” (I would take up the point that many former zine writers, myself included, turned to blogging as an easier-than-kinkos way to extend their genre and distribute an “alternative” voice, perhaps a point I should elaborate on in another post.) I especially appreciate his comparison to former “academic correspondence” or notes–Dan and I have discussed publication of sites as a series of letters, much in the way that Rosemary Joyce explored this genre in The Languages of Archaeology.

The second question, in short, the consequences of blogging, brought in a huge response again. In asking this I was hoping to start a conversation about sharing and the still-secret arcane archaeological knowledge that we must still keep to ourselves in the digital age.

We’ll start with John Lowe, our resident CRM archaeologist at Where in the hell am I? who manages the difficult balancing act between acting in the interest of the public and working in the professional sphere. The clearest consequence of blogging for him is “having the food taken out of my mouth.” He also has to confront artifact looters who could use the information that he posts to raid sensitive archaeological sites. Fortunately he uses this engagement as an “educational opportunity” and “a chance to create a steward.”

Shawn at The Electric Archaeologist provides some excellent insights about the positive feedback loop that blogging creates, and how this can change the blog (and the blog writer). He also mentions blogging as a way to document failure, something I hadn’t thought much about. I’m about to write a report on negative findings, so I should keep it in mind.

Mick Morrison and Terry Brock have similar responses, urging academics early in their careers to maintain an air of professionalism. Terry Brock extends this argument, reminding us that we “represent something bigger than yourself” as we speak for our universities, professional organizations, and various archaeological projects. I should probably re-read these posts next time I feel like grumbling about line-levels or when a publication goes awry. I worry a bit about blogs losing personality or interest though. There’s a big trend toward “research blogging,” or blogging journal papers that you’ve read and while I’ve done some of that myself, I like to hear about what people are researching themselves, and all of the quirks that go along with that process. Pure research or news blogs without a personality attached is, well, boring. Not that either of the blogs I’ve linked go down that road, thankfully.

Michael Smith acknowledges these risks, even stating that he won’t discuss impacts of blogging regarding “agencies and governments that are responsible for funding and overseeing archaeological research.” There is another side of risk though, that of disappointment from lack of interest or readership. His new blog on comparative urbanism looks fascinating though–I don’t think he’ll be let down. When I get two seconds I look forward to reading his take on Black Rock City. See you on the Playa, Michael?

I was chuffed that Johan Normark at Archaeological Haecceities, whom I specifically referenced in the second week’s question, elaborated on his ongoing conversation with 2012 folks. While 2012 has brought a lot of traffic to his blog (moreso, he states, than discussions of archaeological theory) Johan has had to develop a certain finesse in dealing with particular branch of public outreach. People passionately believe in the 2012 misinformation and they “get upset about the way I (Johan) debunk these ideas. They feel that I am patronizing, that I think I am better than them, that I am fooled by academia itself.” He also mentions getting abusive comments and emails from an astrologer. I think we all owe Johan a beer for taking on this monster of a task–I could not have done it so tactfully, that’s for sure. Johan also elaborates on his posts regarding archaeological theory and how there are very few responses from his fellow Mayanists or archaeologists in general. It’d be interesting to start an archaeological theory blogging discussion group–I’d try to write a post or two and comment.

Matthew Law and Brenna at Passim in Passing delve into some of the specifics of research that are unbloggable. Similar to John’s experience of working in CRM in the US, Matt states “I may be an archaeologist who believes passionately in public access to heritage, but I’m also a paid professional representative of the developer and while fieldwork is ongoing, that has to win out.” Matt also mentions a British archaeologist who was fired for tweeting about low pay, even though she didn’t mention her employer’s name. Brenna’s research is in bioarchaeology, so she has a very specific list of things that she cannot divulge, such as no photos of bones later in age than 1550 and no “video, photos, or recording of ‘behind the scenes’ mystery areas where analysis takes place.” Bioarchaeology is a particular minefield for public access and social media right now–this would probably be an interesting publication if one was so inclined.

Ryan Anderson at Ethnografix (whom I owe a way overdue email) approaches the question from a visual standpoint, “specifically posting photographs that potentially reveal sensitive information.” While Ryan is studying cultural anthropology, he worked on various CRM projects and relates his experience as a photographer and archaeologist in the field. While he had his camera and took photos, he “didn’t post all that much online, for some very specific reasons.” This is a particular issue in archaeology, and he tried to avoid landmarks in his photographs, posting generalized landscape shots. I see this a lot–either very large overviews, or very tight-in shots without context. Interesting that a profession so very obsessed with context will willfully annihilate that context in their documentation. I’ve spent the better part of a week looking for a site that was intentionally mis-marked on a map, but that’s a story for an upcoming post.

Sara Perry reminds us that all media is a risky endeavor, and that by focusing on blogs alone she is “concerned that we are all-too-conveniently avoiding discussion of the limitations and indeed prejudices of other modes of publication.” Publication in archaeology writ large is an incredibly fertile and interesting topic (see Michael Smith, for starters) and I would love the opportunity to push the boundaries and question our assumptions in practice. Blogging is proving to be such an expansive territory to explore–we might have to stick to the short form for now and use it to subvert other publishing paradigms.

Catherine at Dig Girl highlights the transparency that blogs lend, and how this can be scary for researchers. Many, she says, “are scared to be ‘called out’ on poor research plans or methodology.” This, as she states, undermines our ability to be reflexive and “it needs to be acceptable within the field to point out the shortcomings in our approaches.” I can’t agree more, and consider the taboo surrounding the discussion of field methodology to be frustrating and disheartening. I would also agree with her characterizing the short form (blog writing) as “an outlet for thought processes and emotional reactions” and while publishing on a blog certainly has a certain form of permanence (see the MSU response), you can change your mind on the blog and restate your argument or opinions, unlike academic publishing. If the reader chooses to only pay attention to your earlier beliefs without following up on the often hyperlinked revisions, it is their failure in understanding, not your failure to communicate. Her final point, the illusion of dialog in blogging, will be addressed in this week’s question below!

Bill Caraher at The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World finishes us off here, sharing his manual for student contributions at the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project–excellent guidelines to follow for most archaeology project blogging. I wrote something less elaborate but similar for Dhiban in 2009, but a lot of the considerations are specific to the politics of antiquities in Jordan. Bill makes the excellent note that “if an archaeological projet does not blog or maintain a presence in the digital world, that project is basically ceding a significant aspect of their public face to other people.” In fact, it’s so excellent I’m gonna put it in bold. Be the loudest voice in the room. Tell people about your findings before they use them to misrepresent the past. It’s pretty simple, really.

Finally, the gang at MSU sum it up for us, urging to “wield their (bloggers’) public power for the greater good” (Katy Meyers). I was happy to hear from Chris Stawski that the Campus Archaeology program protects their bloggers and provides the “wonderful, albeit unique, situation in which we can share details about our research and excavations to the public; so unique that we can use blogging and social media to show in real-time where we are, what we are digging, and what we are finding.” It’d be nice if all digs were like that–radical transparency would be a bit scary, but refreshing. Lynne Goldstein backs up Terry’s response, reinforcing the institutional link to project blogging and the importance of representing the complexities of any potentially problematic situation. She also goes on to restate an ongoing theme–a candidate up for a job at MSU had “posts and photos that our faculty member found offensive and potentially unethical” and the candidate was eliminated from the job pool. This is obviously scary as hell, but I really hope that it does not encourage greater anonymity in blogging. This is exactly what the academic blogging world does not need. Kristin Sewell lays out ten rules of blogging–I agree with much of them, but part of me hopes that we’re not becoming blogging robots, thinking only of our careers and not speaking truth to power. As always, I suppose it all depends on what your goals are. Grace Krause makes the point that a good blog marries scholarly information with an attractive, engaging presentation. Specifically, “a blog that encourages creative thinking instead of endless facts and dominant opinions will be far more likely to reach a greater audience.”

I’m happy to end on this note, as this post has become tl;dr.  Thanks again for all of the outstanding responses, and I apologize that this is a bit late. Also, I apologize if I’ve left anyone out–if so, please email me the link to your post.

Catherine’s response at Dig Girl has provided this week’s question. She writes, “A final downside to the short form is the appearance of dialog. Noting this virtual round table and other blogs (like MS) as exceptions, most archaeological blogs that I read have very little in the way of dialog through comments. Often on this blog, I feel like I am talking to myself, which in a way is catharsis, but if an archaeology blogger writes and no one reacts, are we really changing opinions or moving the field forward?” I would add to this, how do you attract readership? Without too much in the way of SEO chatter, who is your audience and how to you interact with this audience? What do you want out of interactivity by means of blogging about archaeology?

Blogging Archaeology – Week 2

There was a remarkable response to this first question–thanks to everyone who took the time to reply. The posts are outstanding and I will do my best to summarize and synthesize the responses, but please click through and read the posts in their entirety; they are worth it!

Terry Brock’s excellent discussion of blogging as public archaeology emphasizes the connection between the public and real archaeologists, specifically taking “the public ‘behind the scenes’ in ways that couldn’t be done before, and it combats misinformation and educates people about the importance of our discipline.” John Hawks liked Terry’s answer enough to highlight the “person attached” aspect of blogging and archaeological expertise.

The discussion was expanded to the MSU Campus Archaeology Program’s blog, where five bloggers contributed wide-ranging insights. Kat Meyers takes up blogging as a way of “throwing your ideas into the academic community” where “your work is open to criticism and debate.” Chris Stawski celebrates this openness, and hopes that blogging is not forced down a “more traditional path” with referred posts. Kristin Sewell takes up Terry’s points by calling the internet the best Who Wants to be a Millionaire “‘phone a friend’ lifeline anyone could ask for.” She also makes the point that writing every day is the best way to improve your writing and that presenting your ideas to a critical audience gives the chance for them to be published and reviewed by people who would otherwise not know of your existence. Lynne Goldstein, Director of Campus Archaeology at MSU has found that people are so engaged with social media that “when we complain that it is cold, folks even bring us coffee!” Perhaps the most material gain I’ve seen from blogging so far! Finally, for Grace Krause, “blogging represents a missing link in the academic though process that was rares seen before the rising popularity of digital media.” Another great quote, “blog entries are polaroid pictures of archaeological ideas, instant and unpolished, but nevertheless the perfect way to watch those ideas germinate and develop over time.” I can see that one going into a publication or three.

Over at Dig Girl, Catherine compares blogging to classic mass-market publications in archaeology, books such as Nineveh and Its Remains and Ur of the Chaldees that captured the imaginations of many generations of people. While these books added an undeniable mystique to archaeological fieldwork, they also “provided a window into the excavator’s thoughts and initial interpretations about the ancient sites and civilizations he was uncovering.” She sees the short-form as “a resurgence of this type of publishing, one that simultaneously promotes public outreach and transparency in the archaeological process.”

Michael Smith is skeptical of blogging (sorry, I didn’t come up with the term “blog carnival”–maybe I should have called it a public forum?) and I appreciate his contribution, despite his misgivings! While he finds it “pretty clear that the best use of blogs in archaeology is to communicate information to a range of audiences beyond professional scholars” and “some kinds of professional information (as opposed to scholarly findings) among scholars,” he is more dubious about blogging as a way to advance research in our field. With all the world-changing proclamations that accompany most digital media research, it is good to have a wary and incisive moderating voice in the discussion.

While Michael Smith is a well-published and established archaeologist, Sara Perry is of my “generation” of scholars–finishing up graduate work (in her case, finished! Congrats!) and exploring the world of academic publishing. She reads blogs “for inspiration and as a means to take the pulse of contemporary concerns in archaeology (and beyond)” and views blogging as “a forum to allow new practitioners a voice’ a venue to enable emerging archaeological thinkers to press outside of the traditional, highly-controlled, paper-bound publication format and in-so-doing to rethink the communication and creation of archaeological knowledge.”

John Lowe at Where in the Hell Am I directly addresses blogging in the professional sector, noting that while most of his work is paid for by the public and is in the interest of protecting the nation’s cultural resources, what he does is mostly misunderstood or flies completely beneath the radar. He blogs “so the public can understand what I do, why it’s done, and why it matters.” Public archaeology is generally discouraged in professional archaeology and yet professional archaeologists make up the majority of working archaeologists and their working knowledge of their surroundings is an incredible resource.

Brenna at Passim in Passing is defending her thesis soon–good luck to her!–but took a bit of time to re-state her original founding post, that blogs provide an “informal format” that “means that the tone is conversational, rather than pedantic” and that doesn’t “demand a million-dollar subscription to an academic journal.” She also links to our friend Anies’ video, which is a good look at English professional archaeology:

While she doesn’t state it explicitly, I think that it displays the vitality that multimedia blogging can bring to archaeology. Weaving together words and photos, videos and 3D reconstructions while hyperlinking to sources more explicitly displays the “remix” nature of knowledge production within archaeology.

Finally, Shawn Graham, the ever-excellent Electric Archaeologist makes a particularly relevant point, blogging is exhausting. After nearly a thousand words dedicated to this week’s carnival, I’m inclined to agree! He compares blogging to grinding, that is, playing aspects of a game that are repetitive or boring for access to other features within the game. This is a bit of a grim reality check–for us to be noticed, to drown out ‘bad’ signals with good, you most post constantly. While Shawn is absolutely right in terms of getting page hits, I think that I’ll probably stop blogging when it becomes a grind. It will be an interesting point to discuss at the SAA.

Whew! It will take me some time to digest all of the responses, but I appreciate people taking the time to read and really discuss blogging’s “work” in archaeology.

If I missed you, please send (or re-send) me the link to your post directly. WordPress picks up most ping-backs, but not all of them, especially if they aren’t clicked through. Thanks to everyone who linked or tweeted the carnival, commented on a post, or contributed!

The question for this week is a bit long, sorry!

In our last question, many emphasized the public access that blogging brings to archaeology, the option to “phone a friend,” as Kristin Sewell stated. Blogging gives new scholars a chance to speak out, to debunk 2012 foolishness and to give a little bit back to the public that usually signs our paychecks in one way or another. Though it is generally embraced (says she of the Berkeley bubble!), public outreach can be incredibly difficult, tricky, and prone to hidden downsides. Blogging archaeology is often fraught with tensions that are sometimes not immediately apparent. Beyond the general problems that come with performing as a public intellectual, what risks do archaeologists take when they make themselves available to the public via blogging? What (if any) are the unexpected consequences of blogging? How do you choose what to share?

New(ish) Neighbors

I’ve added a few new blog links to my long list, several of which are worth further mention.

Dr. Rosemary Joyce has been busy in the blogging world with What Makes Us Human at Psychology Today and The Berkeley Blog at UC Berkeley and her single author blog, Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives. I’m ashamed that while I knew about her contributions to The Berkeley Blog, I’ve missed the other two entirely. Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives is my favorite, with great articles about her teaching and sex and gender in the archaeological record. Rosemary also excels at what I am particularly lax at–answering comments. I can’t believe the patience she had in this particular comment thread about global warming and the archaeological record.

There’s the Diary of an Archaeological Intern, a blog written by Meghan Ferris, an Archaeological Intern with the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat, Government of Prince Edward Island. She has a nice selection of photos and videos from archaeology on Prince Edward Island. I think some of the best outreach blogging is done by people who are starting in their profession, as they have the ability to still look at the field through the eyes of an outsider, giving more explanation than their more seasoned colleagues.

Passim in Passing is a very new blog from Brenna, a PhD student in the UK. She took up some of my discussion about wikileaks from a few days ago, posing additional, interesting questions. We’ll see how she gets on!

Finally, there is The Baking Archaeologist, who has more baking content than archaeology content right now. It’s an anonymous blog, which I’m never very excited about, but the cookie recipes look delicious and as a fellow baking archaeologist (I contend that I am unmatchable in pie-making) I have to offer solidarity.

As always, the best way to tell me (and the world) about your blog is to link to other blogs. Support your archaeo-blogging community!

Blogging Archaeology 2011 – The Abstracts!

As you may have noticed, I’ve organized a session called Blogging Archaeology for the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology 2011 in Sacramento.  The session has been finalized, with the following participants joining in the discussion:

Discussant – Kris Hirst of Archaeology@About.com fame.

Michael E. Smith
Can Archaeological Blogs be used for Serious Scholarship?

Most archaeological blogs are aimed at the dissemination of information to a non-professionalaudience, with a few blogs focused on communication of professional information amongarchaeologists. I explore the possibilities for expanding blogging beyond a teaching-service-entertainment orientation into a more serious intellectual realm. Why are there no archaeologicalblogs for serious intellectual conversation (like the anthropology blog, “Savage Minds”). Mightarchaeological blogs be used for the production of intellectual content through collaborationamong professionals? I discuss some of the roadblocks and potential benefits to expandingarchaeological blogging in the direction of intellectual and scientific production.

John Lowe
Blogging archaeology in CRM

In the practice of archaeology, engaging with the public is an important element. By doing so, archaeologists can help to explain the value of protecting cultural resources and the important data “in the ground.” However, this interaction can also benefit the work of the archaeologist, in understanding the perspective of other stakeholders, as well as revealing sources and data not readily apparent otherwise.
Blogging, although in many ways more of a soliloquy than a dialogue, is one way that archaeologists can and do reach out to the public. By sharing data, pictures, and stories, the everyday work of an archaeologist is exposed to any who are interested. The information is more personalized, and the exchange more dynamic, than a static presentation of results.

For American cultural resource management (CRM) professionals, blogging presents a challenge. The projects are often small and unexciting, and negative results are the norm. State and federal laws are a consideration when discussing site finds. Clients may have non-disclosure contracts associated with a project, or monitor the Internet for any references to project details and negative comments. Often, there’s a sense that you’re trying to reach out to a public that just isn’t there, or isn’t responding. The work is unpaid, and finding the energy to write after a long, hot field day can be a challenge.
However, blogging should become a more important part of the practice of CRM. Publicly funded projects in particular often require a public outreach component; blogging is a way of doing this real-time, and being more inclusive of the participants.

Nicolas Laracuente
Public Archaeology 2.0: Facilitating Engagement with Twitter

Public archaeology increases public awareness of archaeological issues
and their practical applications to modern social concerns. Classroom
visits, hands-on activities, site tours, and other events give
archaeologists the opportunity to engage public audiences and transfer
knowledge through face-to-face interaction. However, engagement ends
at the conclusion of the event leaving the audience with an incomplete
understanding of the subject. Twitter, a social media application,
transcends these spatial and temporal limitations by allowing
sustained multi-directional communication between archaeologists,
their audience, and others who never attended the original event. This
form of engagement facilitates learning and can be applied across
disciplines.

Johan Normark
Dealing with the public view of the Maya

The public view of the Maya is often affected by stereotypes, exoticism,
and ethnocentrism. Nowhere is this clearer than in the 2012-phenomenon.
While blogging about various parts of this phenomenon I have encountered
everything from threats, dismissals on the grounds that I am biased because
I am part of the academia but also positive feedback on the attempt to
uncover frauds. Although my blog primarily is dedicated to Mayanist studies
and archaeological theory, the 2012 part of the blog is most popular. How
does that affect my choice of topics? Am I also feeding on the phenomenon
that I criticize?

Sarah Nohe

Digital social media has emerged as one of the most powerful and revolutionary forms of media consumption, interaction, and information distribution.  Unlike traditional forms of media, blogging and social networking allow information to travel from the source, reaching wide audiences directly, and providing opportunities for feedback, criticism, and interaction. Two programs, the Michigan State University’s Campus Archaeology Program and the Florida Public Archaeology Network, have successfully employed digital social media to engage the public in archaeological heritage.   This paper illustrates the effectiveness of digital social media as a means to facilitate public archaeology.

Terry Brock
Teaching Archaeology and Community Engagement through Blogging: A Public Archaeology Field School Project at Michigan State University

Blogging has had an impact on both public engagement and college teaching. This paper will use a field school blogging project conducted by the MSU Campus Archaeology Program to discuss the importance of digital community engagement, the use of blogging as a means to share with the public not only what archaeologists find, but also to educate the public about how archaeology is done and how conclusions are drawn. Additionally, it will discuss how blogging in this manner can better teach students about archaeological methods, while introducing them to public archaeology and digital media.

Shawn Graham

Signal versus Noise; or, why blogging matters”   The single greatest reason for
blogging, for creating a professional on-line  profile and for creating a
sustained presence for our research can be summed up  in one word: Google.
Academic blogs are content-rich, and tend to focus on very  specific areas.
Academic bloggers create an enormous signal in the chaos of the  internet.
Google controls how we find information; but often, academic blogging  tells
Google what’s important. Thus, academic blogging can set the larger  research
agenda.

Meta-Bloggery – Masthead, Collections, Best-of

I’ve made a couple of changes around the blog, the first being the new masthead. I was a little iffy on it, and the DD’s have been the subject of some critique, but ultimately I’m happy with it. And it’s all open source/creative commons fonts! Everything except the “V” is Blackout from the League of Moveable Type. The “V” is from the Skullphabet type set from the Skull a Day Project. I had to fix the kerning a bit, but it wasn’t a big deal in Illustrator.

I created two new pages:

Collections - I have been amassing some kinds of archaeological photos and ephemera in a somewhat lackadaisical fashion with the help of some of my friends. I thought I’d be a bit more organized about it and share the collections as I have time. They’re a little miscellaneous, but what do you want?

Greatest Hits – I have a “Top Posts” widget, but it’s a little bit random and changeable. I picked some posts that have proved to be popular by getting linked a lot, and some that I felt were examples that best showed what the blog was all about. I should get together a sub-genres collection of my series of “Poetry and Prose that remind me of Archaeology” and my photo comics, but that will be another Sunday’s work.

What do you think? Any suggestions?