Blogging for Publication in Archaeology

One of the things that partly engaged in the recent gaggle of posts (part 1, part 2, and part 3) curated by Colleen Morgan at Middle Savagery is the relationship between blogging and more traditional forms of archaeological publications.  Many bloggers use writing a blog as part of larger digital workflow which make transparent the research process. It is easy to day to build bibliography, in public, using Zotero, draft ideas on a blog, “publish” a conference paper or pre-publication drafts via Academia.edu or Scribd, then present a digital offprint via the same service.  In conjunction with basic online tools, blogging forms a step toward producing a proper peer reviewed publication.  (In fact, Anthologize is a tool created to facilitate this.)

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Authors with a more popular inclination have already used blogging after publication to promote their works. Barry Strauss, for example, a master of the hybrid field of popular, academic writing, has had a blog on his most recent book’s webpage quite some time. Adrian Murdoch is another very effective public scholar whose blog Bread and Circuses both reflects his substantial scholarly knowledge of the later Roman Empire, but has complements his more popular works on the Roman Empire.  Victor Davis Hansen is another phenomenon all together.

Recent stories about Amanda Hocking’s publishing career which has developed from her blogging put the relationship between blogs and more traditional forms of writing in an even more interesting perspective.  She has managed to make some significant money and reach a huge audience for her self-published works, in part, by using a blog to share her writing to potential fans.

The flip side of this was something like the recent N+1 sponsored publication: What Was the Hipster?.  While unrelated to blogging per se, this slim (and inexpensive!) volume derived from a two hour round table hosted by the magazine. About a third of the book is basically a transcript of that round table and discussion. It is informal, verges on being witty, and places the reader in the space of the roundtable discussion. It’s not quite academic writing, but it is thought provoking, pace-y, and interesting.  The rest of the little volume is dedicated to more formal writings by the participants in the roundtable.  They form a nice counterpoint to the less formal first section of the book.

From other hipster circles, Snarkmarket’s (the blog!) small volume The New Liberal Arts derived from blog posts and the like and makes a nice, informal, though provoking volume that circulated in both book form and as a pdf.

We can debate whether the academy can learn anything from these more popular works and whether the weighty topics of the academic discourse are suitable for such informal, spontaneous, and flexible media or such a close tie between the world of the blog and the world of print publication.  On the other hand, a conversation like the one we’ve had surrounding Blogging Archaeology could easily move from blog posts to a print publication. In fact, I think that our conversation, perhaps complemented by the papers at the upcoming SAA panel could even pass the peer-review muster provided the reviewers were aware of what this kind of publication is trying to do.

I could also imagine our writings appearing in a self-published volume. I am working on a little volume for a faculty member who has recently left out university. The contributions come from his former students and range from creative fiction to small academic articles.  The process of bringing these works together into a little volume has not been particularly challenging or difficult and some nice options exist for limited run publications.

What I am proposing here is that we should make an effort to bring this sustained discussion of blogging archaeology together into a little volume. We can look for a publisher, if we want, and we can circulate it for peer review with the understanding that these posts are part of a spontaneous conversation rather the the product of months of library research. A more scholarly introduction or conclusions (perhaps even by someone not involved in the conversation) could bring the contributions together and frame them in a more academic way.  The point is that these little contributions could come together into a single volume that marks out a moment in time for archaeologists’ engagement with the new media. Even if we don’t all agree that each contribution has enduring intellectual value, as archaeologists, I think that we’d all agree that these little contributions have value as historical artifacts and deserve to be curated in a deliberate way.

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