SAA Blogging Carnival: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly about Blogging

Last week, I offered a post on “Why I blog?” in the run-up to the 2014 Society for American Archaeology panel on blogging at their annual meeting. The responses were collated and commented on over at Doug’s Archaeology blog where he has also offered us another round of prompts.

Here are Doug’s prompts:

The theme is the good, the bad, and the ugly of blogging. Blog about one or all of these themes. Instructions on how to participate can be found here.

The Good- what has been good about blogging? I know some people in their ‘why blogging’ posts mentioned creating networks and getting asked to talk on a subject. But take this to the next level, anything and everything positive about blogging, share your stories. You could even share what you hope blogging will do for you in the future.

The Bad- lots of people mention it feels like talking to brick wall sometimes when you blog. No one comments on posts or very few people do. What are your disappointments with blogging? What are your frustrations? What do you hate about blogging? What would you like to see changed about blogging?

The Ugly- I know Chris at RAS will mention the time he got fired for blogging about archaeology. It is your worst experiences with blogging- trolls, getting fired, etc.

I’m pleased enough to observe that most of my blogging experiences have been good with few in the other two categories, but I’ll offer a few comments none the less…

The Good

1. Writing. As I mentioned in my “why I blog” post last week, the best about blogging for me is that it has helped me learn to write more quickly and efficiently. With all the disruptions present in a traditional academic career (students, meetings, colleagues, books, et c.), there is nothing more rewarding than having an hour or so to write each morning with a cup of coffee. I have found that this writing time sets the tone for my entire day. More mornings last a little longer and I am far more willing to set aside some pressing task and spend some time on a long term project.

2. Contact. Like many bloggers, I’ll complain that my blog has not necessary attracted the boisterous community of readers who fill my comments with untold riches. That being said, there are few things more gratifying than getting an email from a reader letting me know that my blog has brought something to their attention. This is perhaps the most heartwarming of those stories

3. A Platform. Recently, I have been more willing to turn my blog over to other people, and I’ve come to realize that my blog is both an outlet for my writing, but can be used as a platform to bring the writing of other people to a wider audience. Since part of what gives a blog exposure on the web is a regular (and constant) stream of good content (good being adjusted to the standards of the interwebs), a regularly updated blog tends to attract more attention than one that is only updated occasionally. My blog is updated five days a week, and it is immensely gratifying to be able to use my blogging habit to provide a platform for other people’s writing. 

4. Citation and Credit. I’ve never asked for any direct credit for my blog at my institution. I think I could probably get some kind of credit for it, but since the blog is part of my workflow, it seems unnecessary to me. Occasionally, someone cites my blog in a traditional academic publication, and this is incredibly gratifying because it means that someone sees my work here as a meaningful contribution to the scholarly conversation. 

The Bad

1. Comments. As with all bloggers, I wish there were more comments on my blog. I also wish that panels at conferences were more vibrant and interactive. I wish that academic journals published responses to articles more frequently and that scholars took the time (and had the opportunity) to respond to reviews of their books. But, honestly, these things rarely happen. The optimist in me sees something in academics that pushes them to read, process, and look ahead leaving little time to engage in conversations. The pessimist in me recognizes that we tend to see reading – even on the web – as a largely passive exercise.

2. Am I a Blogger? There are still people who think that blogging is silly and a waste of time. This is a perspective that I generally respect except when blogging is wrenched from its place within an evolving workflow of academic production. In other words, if blogging is a waste of time, then surely conference papers are every bit as much of a waste of time. To this I could add other forms of informal writing (some festschrifts, non-peer reviewed proceedings, correspondences, working papers, and popular publications) that have long held a place in the accepted typology of academic productions. Moreover, the idea that a blogger is somehow less serious as a scholar because they produce a regular stream writing in a digital format, relies on a view of writing and production that is not only outdated, but also privileges elitist forms of scholarly communication.

The Ugly

I began blogging when the long shadow of scholarly skepticism was still retreating. People still conceived of bloggers, like forthright Bitch Ph.D., as transgressive rebels who were willing to put their academic career and intellectual credentials on the line to speak truth to power. Earnest commentators urged scholars to consider carefully their decision to blog because it might jeopardize their academic or professional careers. I am sure that there are still those who feel that expressing themselves at all on a blog is intrinsically risky.

I’ll admit that every now and then, I do get a tingle that tells me not to blog something. Sometimes, like when I eagerly announced the discovery of an Early Christian basilica on the hill of Vigla at our site on Cyprus (it was a Hellenistic fortified settlement), I probably should have followed those instincts. In other cases, like when I referred to the Regular Program at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens as “approach[ing] a kind of hazing”, I will stand by my critique, but admit that it wasn’t the nicest thing to say while they were funding my term as a professor there. On the other hand, there are things that I haven’t blogged about when I really wanted to. 

Maybe this kind of tingly blogger-sense has kept me sheltered from the ugly side of blogging. Maybe it is the memory of the early blogging days when we feared the new medium and the free flow of information that it promised. Maybe there are only two kinds of bloggers: those who have quit blogging and those who haven’t quit yet.  Whatever the reason, I’ve yet to encounter the ugly side of blogging. 

One Comment

  1. I love your blog, Doctor, and if I rarely comment that is because I lack the academics to do so. (I have on occasion shared a thought about something that you’ve written by way of a personal note.) Yet generally your reflections are in areas where I have little understanding and no experience. Why then do I read it? Because you write about other stuff that has nothing to do with teaching or archeology. As you know, I lived in Grand Forks and attended UND. Sometimes our interests coincide. (For example, if I don’t share your wide musical interests, we have shared a thought on tube amplifiers and I do love your photography.) For myself, however, my own little blog of “rantings and ramblings of an old man” is entirely self indulgence; a continuation of my practice of sharing thoughts with my kids when they were in college by way of essays on many things. Today it is mostly a matter of grumpy nostalgia. I don’t humor myself that anyone reads it. That might be a shame for I love nothing better than collapsing the walls of time and hoping that some youth might better understand and relate to my youth and thereby get into the practice of seeing other times and cultures in the same way. For the same reason another section of my web page contains links to many things that the younger generation do not know but which I hope can help to collapse those walls. I think that blogging is by its nature self indulgent but I mean that in a good way. We each have some area where we have knowledge, experience, and insights that others may not, but blogging is not so self centered and generally ephemeral and irrelevant as Facebook. I hope that anyone who does see my web page finds links to popular Byzantine items, of course; but also to the shared imusic and humor of the post WW II generation.

    Vince O’Reilly (aka: Paul Kastenellos)


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