Friday Varia and Quick Hits

Wind chill warnings in effect and snow tomorrow evening make this a perfect weekend for putting the finishing touches on a book and making some maps for the Tourist Guide to the Bakken. It’s also a nice weekend for watching some cricket from New Zealand and sitting by the fire while imagining a sun-drenched, late-summer day in Wellington.

Yesterday, I blogged about the dust-up between Michael Smith and the archaeology folks at University of Colorado-Boulder (in a slightly self-congratulatory way). It looks like the little controversy is not over yet, with the Department of Anthropology weighing in with some pretty stern words. While I am still inclined to think of this as a tempest in a teacup, I was pleased to see that the comment from the chair of anthropology largely echoed some of my own sentiments, but then took it in a different, less sophisticated direction: “blogging on the internet evidently does not require understanding, a sense of professional courtesy or ethics, or much thought of any kind.”  

To be sure, blogging (on the internet or otherwise) does not require those things, but it does provide a window into the dusty pre-professional quarters of our disciplines. While we might want to hide these thing, I worry that this kind of “black boxing” of the academic process (to borrow a term that might site nicely in Prof. Joyce’s talk) does little for understanding how our discipline functions. Prof. Smith’s response to the lecture, in my experience, is the kind of thing that academics say all the time after talks (and who hasn’t directed hyperbole at an ideal that we don’t quite understand). Blogging as a platform allows scholars to make these impressions and observations public and to expose the messy “sausage making” process of academic and intellectual work. As embarrassing as it is for me to admit, there are talks that I have called incomprehensible when it turns out that out they were significant and important.

Folks like Prof. Smith can be blunt and honest on his blog. His reputation as curmudgeon with nearly dogmatic views is well-known and well-established. This persona takes a certain amount of confidence and courage because exposing the sausage making process through a blog entails risk. His apology, to my mind, did enough to clear the air as did his open conversation in the comments section of his blog. The response from the anthropology faculty at Colorado, in contrast, sought to reinforce professional and disciplinary standards which I’m not convinced that enforcing stilted standards of academic decorum on blogs makes academia a better place. But don’t believe me, this post didn’t require “much thought of any kind.”

If you couldn’t care less, here’s little gaggle of quick hits and varia:

IMG 4095Sometimes you wear the elephant, sometimes the elephant wears you.


  1. “The kids these days” seems to go to “a more scholarly treatment”, betraying your lack of understanding, courtesy, ethics, and thought of any kind at all.


  2. There’s something delightfully Jane Curtin/Dan Aykroyd-esque about beginning a statement addressing a colleague’s lack of professional courtesy by comparing them to an 8-year-old. It’s interesting watching this play out. It initially struck me as a pretty standard Publishing Archaeology post, but it’s certainly generating a lot of discussion. Or something approaching discussion, anyway.


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