The Goals for Archaeological Blogging

The final prompt in the 2014 SAA Blogging Carnival was pretty direct and serves to get me thinking about the abstract on archaeological blogging that I submitted to Colleen Morgan’s proposed volume of Internet Archaeology. Andrew Reinhard, punk archaeologist, musician, and director of publications at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, has agreed to co-author my contribution and to contribute his thoughts on how blogging (or the larger constellation of tools and genres produced on the web) will shape the future of archaeological publication.

So this prompt is a good first step to getting a few of me thoughts down:

The last question is where are you/we going with blogging or would you it like to go? I leave it up to you to choose between reflecting on you and your blog personally or all of archaeology blogging/bloggers or both. Tells us your goals for blogging. Or if you have none why that is? Tell us the direction that you hope blogging takes in archaeology.

From the start my goals with this blog and for archaeological blogging in general was to produce an alternative mode of scholarly communication. At first, it was directly largely to people interested in my fieldwork projects in Cyprus, but by midway through my first year blogging, I realized that I had access to a much more diverse audience that included both scholars, non-academics, students, teachers, and interested lurkers from around the world. 

As I watched my page views and visitors slowly increase over the first few years of this blog and a few fearless colleagues start their own blogs, we began to discuss the potential of our efforts to disrupt the standard methods of scholarly communication. Academics love to imagine themselves to be rebellious trailblazers, but mostly we’re as conventional as anyone who sits in cramped offices under florescent lights taking a paycheck and “doin’ work”. At the same time, we do have the freedom to be a bit more unconventional than the average cubicle jockey and we have generally been trained to challenge authority. 

It is hardly a revolution to see blogging as a more interesting mode of academic communication than the traditional scholarly routine of poorly-attended conference papers, barely-read (much less cited) articles, and the skimmed battery of echo-chamber forged book reviews. The appeal of academic blogging might be as simple as the regularity, visibility, and immediacy of the content. But it might also be that bloggers have generally developed their pages as personal vehicles and, like our favorite teachers in high school and college, weave in their own personality throughout the posts. In contrast to the austerely “scientifical” prose favored in traditional academic publications, blogs and individual blog posts can be informal, provisionalflippanthumorous, random, and polemical without undermining their integrity as a academic products. For many of us, the blog carries the our more dynamic classroom personas into public space and toward the realm of academic publication.   

Along the way, our blogs develop loyal readers, commenters (especially when combined with the social media), and like-minded fellowbloggers have begun to formulate a new perspective on the long-standing academic back-channel. This group not only believes in the existence of a community of people who are interested in academic archaeology, but also feels it appropriate to share with this community the process of archaeological thinking from the first random scribbles on an idea to the fully formed working papers and publications. The unveiling of the archaeological process works to demystify the “science” of archaeological thought and to invest the community in the process as much as the product.

The final step in the disruptive potential of archaeological blogging is returning to the traditional realm of scholarly publications and somehow infusing it with the sense of community, transparency, excitement, and energy of blogging. Some of this has already happened with experiments in open peer review, comment enabled publications, a commitment to working papers, and deeper engagements with social media. The future of academic publications in archaeology and how willing they are to reflect trends in blogging remains unclear, but it seems like the nature of the conversation in our discipline has begun to change, and it’s cool to have been part of that transformation.

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