Blogging Archaeology at the 2014 SAA Conference

This past month I was invited (well, that’s too strong a word) to contribute to the conversation that was initiated at the Doug’s Archaeology blog on blogging in archaeology in the run-up to the 2014 Society of American Archaeology conference in Austin, Texas. I’m also talking to our new graduate students today in our graduate methods class on the broad topic of digital history. So, I’ve been thinking through some of these issues lately.

For my post today, I’ll follow Doug’s simple, two question prompt

Why did you start your blog?

Why are you still blogging?

Check out his wrap-up of responses to these questions here

I feel like I’ve answered these questions quite a few times on this blog. In fact, Colleen Morgan ran a similar blog carnival in 2011 (here’s a nice wrap-up). At the same time, I’ll also admit that my ideas on the second question are always changing, so it probably doesn’t hurt to think about them again.

I started this blog to publicize my research at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria on Cyprus, and it gradually expanded to provide a broad overview of my research and teaching interests. My hope was both to keep various stakeholders appraised of my work, but also to introduce my work to folks who might not be familiar with the activities of a junior scholar on an obscure island. 

After only a few months, I found that blogging had become a vital part of my daily workflow. Even to this day, the first thing I do every morning is sit at the keyboard and write this blog. On most days, I’ve hit send – typos and all –  before the sun has come up over the North Dakota prairie. My blog has incubated most of the ideas I’ve had for articles, hosted working drafts of these papers, and announced their final publications. My workflow has become routine, public, and more transparent through the medium of blogging. The almost instant gratification that came from watching the number of site visits and page views increase and the spread of a global readership was a powerful incentive to write.  

At the same time, I realized that my blog not only let people know about my work, but also provided a venue for new media projects (like podcasts and videos), a node in our social media outlets (as I slowly embraced Facebook and Twitter and blogging platforms like WordPress have become more socially engaged), and a platform to share the remarkable work of my colleagues and to debate issues. I think that recognizing the dynamism of the blogging platform and the opportunity for it to be more than just a place for me to express my own ideas led me to begin to understand blogging as gateway to a larger exploration of digital publication.

In the winter of 2013, we managed to bring a long running conversation on the topic of Punk Archaeology to a different audience as the topic of a conferences which is now in production as an “analogue” publication. A series of blog posts on 3D imaging in Mediterranean archaeology is poised to become another short, analogue/digital publication in the winter of 2014.  As the blogging platform has matured and become more an acceptable part of both academic production and consumption, the line between formal academic publication and “merely” blogging has become increasingly blurred. Blogging is no longer just a stage in the production of an academic text, perhaps falling just sort of a conference paper, it has become a venue for any form of scholarly production from the intensely provisional to the finalized.

Most importantly, it can carry along with this transformation a spirit of transparency and immediacy. The number of readers, the location of readers, and the  pace at which readers engage and distribute content all become more trackable than ever before.  While this runs the risk of contributing to the growing “assessocracy” who have come to exert such a strong influence over American universities, it also has the opportunity to bring academic writers more directly involved in understanding their broader audience and community.

Archaeology has mass appeal and presents an avenue for academics to engage a diverse, global audience on the larger humanities (and social science) project. As economic pressures, changing social expectations of education, and new cultural paradigms have come to challenge the role of the humanities in Western society, scholars cannot turn their backs of opportunities to speak to larger audiences about the complex contributions of the humanities in the global conversation. 

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