Tag Archives: blogarch

Blogging Archaeology – Week 5 & Finished!

From Terminal 3 in Heathrow, between Mulberry and TGIFriday, here’s the last edition of Blogging Archaeology. Our SAA session in in a couple of days and I’ll be covering it (and probably the rest of the SAA) on twitter: check #blogarch or http://twitter.com/clmorgan for updates.

Last week I was prompted to ask about possible outcomes of this conversation, after several participants expressed interest in publication:

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?

First, I recommend reading the comments on last week’s entry, where Jonathan Jarrett from tenthmedieval discusses the electronic publication of blogs, noting that it is considered the lowest form of publication because it is considered transient. This is a good point, and one well taken. Jonathan also questions peer review of blogs–after so much speculation regarding peer-reviewed blogging, I think that an experiment might be in order. I will likely bring this up during the blogging session, if we have time to chat.

Shawn, the Electric Archaeologist provides a few good reference links about “the relationship between blogging and other academic forms of discourse” and makes the good point that the best outcome for many of us would be a refereed publication. I wonder if there is a middle ground available for us here, something that would satisfy both the academic community and be digital, open, and more suitable to the conversational tone of blogging.

Bill Caraher from The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World has been giving me great feedback via email and contributes to the conversation by offering some observations about publishing Blogging Archaeology in a traditional manner. He specifically cites transmedia dialogue, that is, “the interaction between various forms of web-based media” as well as that between digital and paper media. He also makes the excellent point that as archaeologists we are attuned contextual shifts and translating meaning from physical objects into “the more elusive realm of practice, social structure economic organization, and political life” and so we should be able to negotiate the structure and meaning of blogs to some other media.  He suggests that we build a blog catalog with an eye toward the archive, which I heartily endorse. I wonder if we could build upon Shawn’s network of interconnection to create this catalog. There are several other insights in his blog post–I highly recommend a wander over his way to check his post out.

Matt Law suggests that we check out the Archaeological Record, the SAA publication as a possible format, and perhaps that peer review is not the best format. Publication is an unexpected outcome for him, but he hopes that any results will be published quickly and that it will “embrace the informality” of blogging. Bill’s comments on the post are worth checking out as well.

Passim in Passing (who has remixed the logo each week to a horror-show theme) is happy to have found other blogs and suggests that we might be able to offer “text summaries alongside some visual mapping of the responses” – I would hope this as well–visualization tools are so close and so adaptable that it is worthwhile to try to do something creative, building on Shawn’s cool graph. Hmmm.

Doug’s Archaeology was also caught off-guard, and notes that his page view count has gone up considerably, though it might result from a post about Lew Binford’s health. He encourages other bloggers to consider the consequences of blogging and to make sure to have a polished and up-to-date CV–which reminds me, mine is woefully outdated and badly formatted.

Dig Girl makes the great point that a formal publication would “go against the very virtues of blogging that many in this carnival have been rallying around: flexibility, informality, and dialog.” She feels the same though, that the “experience has been a unique one that warrants some kind of formal and creative documentation.” She also points out that there is a discussion of archival of RSS feeds, noting that “perhaps one day your rambling posts could end up automatically archived on a progressive digital library system.” Amazing stuff!

MSU’s blog answered as a group for this edition–they too suggest the Archaeological Record, with online hosting from the SAA. There was also the suggestion of a blogroll, which I think makes sense. I try to keep my links updated, but there might be a better place for this than on just one individual’s blog. Thank you very much for mustering such a strong response every week, MSU!

John at Where in the Hell Am I? also likes the idea of a publication in the SAA’s Archaeological Record and hopes that more archaeologists might consider starting a blog as a result. He also would like for CRM to be more open to blogging and notes that the people in his office don’t consider his participation at the SAA in a blogging session to be “particularly valuable.” This is frustrating and as John says, “perpetuates the view of CRM as small-scale and unable to be involved in big-picture ideas.” I would also encourage John’s bosses to check out the incredible public education and outreach that Wessex Archaeology is continuing to do in the digital realm.

Michael Smith at Publishing Archaeology is not sold on publication of the Blogging Archaeology conversation, and brings up the two very good questions: Who is the audience? and What is the purpose? He wonders if such a publication would alleviate the “blog-cluelessness” among influential archaeologists. I too am unsure about this and about the potential audience. His questions are good ones, and only answered in part by the participants in the Blogging Carnival. I look forward to his paper at the SAA–I’m sure it will push us to produce something that is both inventive but also useful to the profession.

Alun Salt reacts to these points and wonders if a digital-only publication would be ignored by the “blog-clueless,” and provides a model in Holtorf and Karlsson’s recent Philosophy and Archaeological Practice. I’ll have to check it out, but I wonder, if blogging is a shout in the digital dark, what better is a collected volume? This is obviously a collaborative product, and I wonder if separating this conversations into chapters would not be the best transmedia approach. It would preserve some authorship at perhaps the expense of interactivity and informality. Alun wasn’t forcefully arguing the point–I think one of the most interesting outcomes of this blog carnival could be a brave new publication standard–not that I’m holding my breath.

Terry Brock at Dirt wonders about using Anthologize, but also perhaps having a collaborative blog. I like the idea of a “home base” and I would be happy to contribute posts toward such a thing. Building a community is a happy outcome of this session, and now has a community that has become self-aware, perhaps it’s time to make others aware of us.

Throughout the carnival I thought about contributing my own posts, but it was a true pleasure to collate and react to the reactions of others–so much so that by the time I was finished reading and reacting, most of my thoughts on the subject had been covered! As the organizer/instigator I am extraordinarily pleased at the nuanced responses that the carnival has attracted. We will discuss this further at the SAAs, and I will do my best to report this conversation. Also, I hope to move forward with the following points:

1) Catching the network/Archiving the conversation – listing/archiving and keywording the responses would be a boon to any further work or conceptualization of the carnival as a particular moment in time that can be referenced and built upon.

2) Blogroll – Building a central place that would serve as an RSS feed and maintained list of links would be a fantastic idea. I think it would also serve a great place for…

3) …Peer-review for blog posts – While it would be a drag (in my opinion) to have every single one of my posts go through a vetting process, I think there should be a mechanism for peer-review. My thoughts are that it should be an open review, such as a google document, and comment would be asked from both bloggers/digital archaeologists and peers drawn from the subject matter. After the blog post has passed this process, it would receive a “stamp” and a link back from the central site, with a particular note that this post is peer reviewed. Much like the “research blogging” phenomenon, this would provide readers (the blog-clueless, in particular) a venue for receiving vetted blog posts and would perhaps draw the non-blogging peer-reviewers into the conversation without necessitating their hosting/maintaining their own blog.

I’ll see many of you at the SAA–I have to catch my plane!

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?

Blogging Archaeology – The Carnival

I am honored to join several of my fellow archaeology bloggers at the Society for American Archaeology meetings in Sacramento, where we will hear short, 5-10 minute presentations followed by questions and discussion regarding the use of this social medium within our profession. A lot has happened since I proposed this session last Fall, both in the world of anthropological blogging and the wider world of political regime change, highlighting the relevance of social media.

I have invited the session participants to answer a question each week regarding blogging archaeology, but I wanted to widen the conversation to folks who couldn’t make it to Sacramento this year, especially as I’m not sure that we’ll be able to broadcast the session in any way, given that the meetings lack internet access.

So it goes like this:

* Each Sunday evening (Qatar time!) I will post a question. If you would like to answer this question, please feel free to steal the banner above, and link back to this post.

* Please also email me at clmorgan@gmail.com with a link to the post, just in case WordPress doesn’t notify me of your link.

* At the end of the week, I will summarize all of the post and add links so that folks can find them all in one place.

The carnival will run for four weeks. Answer as many or as few of the questions as you like, and feel free to propose questions of your own! The more people we hear from, the better! There are so many great archaeology blogs out there that don’t get enough readership, hopefully this will bring a few of them to light.

So, the question for this week:

The emergence of the short form, or blog entry, is becoming a popular way to transmit a wide range of archaeological knowledge. What is the place of this conversation within academic, professional, and public discourse? Simply put, what can the short form do for archaeology?