Last week I was on the Radio with the great folks at Trowel Points and Terry discussing blogging. Aside from shameless self promotion, I recommend that you have a listen as it was an excellent session. One of the questions Joe asked us was, “does social media and blogging matter?” “Does it lead to anything?” We were talking about the Grave Looters show on National Geographic. It was last Wednesday, the story was just breaking, and I said it was to early to tell if social media could make a difference. Well, I am happy to say that only a week later they are canceling the show and now I have a definitive answer for Joe, YES it dose make a difference.
Lots and lots of people deserve credit for this. I don’t think social media deserves credit for these events, it was people that made this happen but I think it did help as a tool. The rage over this travesty was amplified and spread much quicker through social media than if we had waited till a big conference to talk about it.
I was thinking about this as I was writing this post for the final #blogarch question which is to reflect on the future of blogging in archaeology (PS it is not too late to join it). I should say that correlation is not causation and it is hard to separate out the role blogging played along with Twitter, Facebook, email, the article in the New York Times, etc. Each fed into each other and raised awareness and the proper rage to get things done. However, I do think it shows the role that blogging can currently play and might play in the future of archaeology.
The March question for #blogarch is what I want for the future of blogging.
My Hopes and Dreams for Archaeology Blogging
I might be in a minority here but I don’t actually want archaeology blogging to change very much. To me blogging is freedom. It is the freedom to think what I want. It is the freedom to write what I want. It is the freedom to express myself how I want.
It is funny, we talk about blogging like it is a single mass that can easily be described. Yet, no two blogs are alike. Some do long form, some use tumblr which is very hard to explain other than an unfettered flow of images, thoughts, GIFs and videos, some people have picture blogs. Technically, there is vlogging for video blogging and podcasting for audio blogging but really they are all pretty much the same, people experimenting with expression and communication. This I think is the single greatest thing about “blogging” it can be almost anything you want it to be.
The internet is strewn with hundreds (not exaggerating) of archaeology blogs that have been abandoned by their creators. I think this is a good thing. It means people experiment and did not find it useful? fun? exciting? or whatever reason they gave it and that is good. Imagine being forced to do something you hated for the rest of your life because the costs of leaving were too high or you were made to do it. How miserable would you be? Starting and stopping a blog costs you almost nothing. Depending on how long you give it a go it might be a few hours or a few days of your life somewhat wasted. There is almost no entry or exit costs to blogging. That is the perfect storm for experimentation and learning, low costs and potentially high rewards. It is a bit like checking out a book from a library. If you don’t like it don’t read it and return it but every time you get a new book it has the potential to change your life.
Lots of people don’t know about blogging which means they don’t see the value of blogging. Guess what? I think that is a good thing. Whenever I walk into a room of other archaeologists usually the majority of them see no value in blogging (social media sessions at conferences being a rare exception). It means every time I get the chance to convert a heathen to the light and show them the errors of their sinful lifestyle. Ok, that is a bit dramatic but it does make me a stronger and better communicator discussing how blogs benefit the world. If I can’t convince archaeologists about the value of blogging as tool for some, but not all, of their needs than how am I going to convince the public that archaeology is worth it? Because lets face it, blogging has about the same reputation as archaeology, “oooohhhh you’re those sort of people”.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another”- Proverbs 27.17
Are there down sides to this? Of course there are. I get tired of people saying, “Oh blogging and podcasting, one of them young people’s things that you crazy kids do” (side note- they were 24 years which made them younger than me and they were serious). This is also not to say I want blogging to be frozen in time. Like others, I would want more archaeology bloggers but that is because I am selfish and want more great things to read. I would also like to see how blogging changes and adopts to a changing world. Being static would probably kill blogging off.
My Fears- blogging for tenure
My absolute greatest fear is that blogging will lose its ability to have the freedom to do whatever you want. You look at history of scholarly publishing and see that the first method of publication was simply letters, much like blogs. Scientists would write to each other in fashions very similar to blogging, if blogging involved carrier pigeons. Even the first journals were not standardized and there is debate about who had the first journal due to the diverse nature of publishing back then. Fast forward 300 years and you can look in 99.99% of all journals and see the exact same format, with some window dressing changes. It doesn’t matter if it is philosophy or physics, the content maybe different but how it is present is not.
Yes, it would be great if blogging counted as paid work. Yes, it would be great if it was recognized for tenure. Yes, it would be great if people did not role their eyes when you mention blogging. Yet, the moment a tenure committee is able to dictate what does and does not count as “blogging” is the day it dies a little bit. Who am I kidding? It will probably be deader than a doornail then. Diversity is its strength and if I have learned anything about academia it is this, ” …different, people don’t like different”. Unfortunately, I fear we have to come to the realization, with being recognized for our blogging endeavors, that, “if you are not enough without it, you will never be enough with it”- (i’ll buy a drink for the person who can tell me what movie I am quoting, no Googling).
I fear, as in I don’t know what the outcome might actually be but I am concerned, that all the diversity in blogging would be beaten right out of it if it ever became main streamed. It could come to pass that blogging will count towards employment and tenure without diminishing its usefulness. This I think would be an amazing result. We just have to make sure it does not become another check box exercise in bureaucracy.
Not Too Late for #blogarch
We are collecting responses till April 5th so there is still time to respond if you want to join in for the final question.