Blogging Archaeology in the Future
The final question posed by Doug for the blog carnival leading up the Society for American Archaeology meetings in April is: “…where are you/we going with blogging or would you it like to go?
I will take up Doug’s question more broadly from the perspective of user-generated content and open(ing) authority and consider additional forms of user-generated content. The question raises a few themes for me:
Information Sharing – When I began this blog a few years ago my desire was to share information about outreach in museums and archaeology with my colleagues and a broader audience. I knew that collectively we were doing a lot of interesting stuff in cultural heritage outreach that could benefit others. My interactions through this blog over the past several years supports that claim. Counting hits, reblogs, comments are gauges of whether the information presented is considered of value. But my primary motivation for continuing to blog comes from the side comments made in phone calls, emails, or visits with colleagues and students who note how a particular post was helpful to them. These interactions confirm to me that there is a desire for sharing information, my basis for launching this blog in the first place.
Beyond formal blogging, I am pleased with other new means of sharing information. As an example consider academia.edu. A bunch of years ago when doing my dissertation research I transcribed the handwritten field records of archaeologists who had conducted excavations at the Fort Ancient site (33Wa2) in Warren County, Ohio. As I now slowly edge toward retirement, coupled by working with a PhD student with an interest in those records, a few months ago, I loaded the transcribed notes to the academia.edu site. There are not a huge number of views of the records, but certainly enough to warrant the 60 minutes or so it took to format and load the notes. Similarly, I loaded course syllabi to academia.edu. I appreciate that others have done the same.
Diversity – I appreciate that blogging provides me with a diversity of thinking on a topic. For example, I enjoy the Bamburgh Research Projects approach to community outreach in Britain. Blogs such as Paul Mullins’ Archaeology and Material Culture, Jamie Gordon’s Narcissistic Anthropologist, and Amy Santee’s Anthropologizing are resources that allow me to expand my box of thinking in consumerism. The list of topics I learn about through blogs is extensive. In my day-to-day existence, I simply do not have the time or resources to access this diversity of material through traditional print media, or even online journals.
I liken much of my blog reading to the three quarters of linguistics courses I took as an undergraduate. I am not certain how those classes aid me directly in my career today but I know they provide me another angle to approach research and a good way to think. The same is true with blogs I read. I appreciate this level of diversity and my ability to be a part of that process.
Relevance – A growing buzzword in the cultural heritage industry today, particularly in the public sector, is relevance. Today, a good bit of virtual ink is spilled that 10 years ago would be limited to peer-reviewed publications, conference papers with the obligatory “Do not cite without the written permission . . . ” or other scholarly publications. Today, I am as likely to Google a term as opposed to searching in JSTOR, depending on the task at hand. Peer review is in a state of transition and I do not mean to dismiss the process. However, as I discussed and demonstrated in my Wikipedia as a Scholarly Research Tool undergraduate honors seminar this past fall, it’s not difficult to find Wikipedia entries that are more accurate than information found in scholarly publications on a particular subject. That is, increasingly, the platform of delivery is less important than the scholarship behind the presentation. I suspect this process will continue to evolve, and that blogs will be a part of that process. Blogs and similar types of platforms will prove relevant to a range of public needs in informal and lifelong learning processes.
I suspect that 10 years from now blogs will be a thing of the past, replaced by a technology/mechanism that better suits the public needs. For me, the ability to share and receive a diversity of relevant information will likely keep me blogging for the foreseeable future.