Tag Archives: blogging

#CritBlogArch Virtual Roundtables

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I’m very pleased with the new dedicated issue of Internet Archaeology, Critical Blogging in Archaeology, first conceived at the 2011 Society for American Archaeology sessions in Sacramento. That it has taken so long to publish is entirely on me–working in Qatar and finishing my thesis left me spread a bit thin.

Happily, my postdoc here in the Archaeology Department at the University of York put me in the perfect position to publish the issue in Internet Archaeology, the Open Access journal embedded in the department, edited by the fantastic Judith Winters. Judith put a tremendous amount of effort into producing this issue, and I am deeply grateful for her willingness to be a bit experimental.

We decided to use Open Peer Review, which means that the authors and the reviewers are identified. I’ve found this works really well on Then Dig–peer review becomes less adversarial and more cooperative. Combined with the small group of people doing research on this topic and the complete inability to make these article double-blind, it seemed like a good choice. You can read more about the process in my editorial for the issue.

The other features that we decided to include is the ability to directly comment on the articles and to archive the uses of the #CritBlogArch hashtag on Twitter, to preserve the feedback and conversation surrounding the issue. So far the uptake has been mixed and without clear direction so we decided to create a series of round tables, identifying dates and times to discuss particular articles. The articles are all Open Access, so there should not be any barriers to discussion.

Join us on the following dates and times to discuss these articles on Twitter with the #CritBlogArch hashtag, or leave comments on the articles themselves.

June 16 (16:00 BST)
Mapping the Structure of the Archaeological Web – Shawn Graham
From Blogs to Books: Blogging as Community, Practice and Platform – William Caraher and Andrew Reinhard
Micro-blogging and Online Community – Lorna-Jane Richardson

June 23 (16:00 BST)
Crime, Controversy and the Comments Section: Discussing archaeological looting, trafficking, and the illicit antiquities trade online – Meg Lambert and Donna Yates
Blogging the Field School: Teaching Digital Public Archaeology – Terry P. Brock and Lynne Goldstein
Changing the Way Archaeologists Work: blogging and the development of expertise – Sara Perry

June 30 (16:00 BST)
Online Resistance to Precarious Archaeological Labour – Sam Hardy
Bones, Bodies, and Blogs: Outreach and Engagement in Bioarchaeology – Katy Meyers Emery and Kristina Killgrove
Vlog to Death: Project Eliseg’s Video-Blogging – Joseph Tong, Suzanne Evans, Howard Williams, Nancy Edwards and Gary Robinson

We also encourage responses to Fotis Ifantidis’ photo essay (peer reviewed with other photo essays from Steve Ashby and Jesse Stephen) on Instagram, or Flickr–please drop a comment with a link on Ifantidis’ essay.

How Savage is Your Savagery?

After receiving some rather chilling feedback regarding the name of my blog, you know, Middle Savagery, I took a step back to think about it a little bit more. I thought it was obvious to everyone, that it was reclaiming an arcane, racist category for classifying ancient societies in a reflexive, anthropological way. I shouldn’t have assumed.

While I had been blogging since 2001, I started my archaeology-based blog in 2004, after taking Sam Wilson’s excellent The Archaeology of Complex Societies class, wherein we had to directly address what complexity means. It was one of those game-changing classes for me, a rigorous exploration of archaeological literature on complexity that revealed my own assumptions about social organization a moment before blowing them completely away. In it, we learned about the history of categorizing ancient societies, including Lewis H. Morgan’s system of progression through savagery, barbarism and civilization, with gradations of Upper, Middle and Lower for each category.

So when I heard that the name was not well received, I was taken aback. By now Middle Savagery feels worn-in, well-used, easy–perhaps lacking the sharpness of critique, an archaeological in-joke on a blog that has grown far beyond the original intended audience of friends and the handful of archaeologists communicating online at the time. I thought about transitioning to a new blog, but I’m torn. I might still. Lacking that, I re-wrote my rather glib About page to include the following:

The name of this blog is from Ancient Society written in 1877 by Lewis H. Morgan. In a very racist, colonialist way, he categorized all societies within an arcane hierarchy, ranging from Savagery to Civilization. In a fit of reflexive angst brought on by sharing the last name Morgan, in 2004 I named this blog after one of these categories, “Middle Savagery,” to highlight the ludicrous nature of ranking ancient and modern societies along such lines. It is not meant to perpetuate or codify these categories in any way, but for us to highlight the suspect history of anthropological and archaeological thought.

Even as archaeological blogging has grown vast and somewhat mundane, I hope that I can keep up a little outpost here at Middle Savagery. That, and we’re finally publishing the papers from my 2011 SAA Session on blogging in the excellent, Open Access Internet Archaeology–look for it in the coming months.

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.