I have been asked by Doug’s Archaeology to contribute to a blog carnival ahead of the 2014 SAA Blogging Session. Doug wants us archaeo-bloggers to respond to a question every month. His first question is: why did you start a blog? Here is my answer.
I have been aware of blogs on archaeology topics for aeons. One of my bestest and closest archaeo-pals, Martin Rundkvist, has run the long-term active science blog Aardvarchaeology.
However, I have never seen the point of writing blogs, either to express personal views or half-baked ideas. As an academic, I see my principal role to produce more considered publications in scholarly contexts. Equally, to be honest, I rarely ever read blogs by others unless I spot them as interesting or relevant via a posting in Academia.edu or Facebook.
There is a good reason for this lack of engagement: time. I struggle to find time to cope with the flow of emails I have to receive and send out to cope with the job as a teacher, administrator and researcher in a UK academic position and as a father of five. I connect to Facebook to connect to friends, family and colleagues, but writing and reading blogs regularly has always been a step too far.
To be honest, these feelings haven’t changed that much. So why have I now, since June 2013, started to blog? I have to say, it is all about research; to communicate the range of research activities I am participating in when I feel that there is no ready conduit via my University to disseminate this information for me via press releases or my professional staff website. Partly this is about archiving for my own benefit. Partly it is to help structure my own thinking. It is also about communicating and promoting my research and the work of those whom I work with and come into dialogue with. It is still an experimental blog, I am refining as I go along what I want to use it for. Within this context, I am using the blog ‘archaeodeath’ to discuss a range of issues relating to my interests in death, memory and material culture as follows:
- Static public profile: blogs provide, like my Academia.edu page, my SelectedWorks page, and my University of Chester staff page, another static place, via the ‘About’ section, to record my research activities and publications in a formal way.
- Fieldwork: I realised it was a valuable means of reporting on my fieldwork to rapidly communicate to fellow archaeologists and other interested members of the public the results of my research. It also serves to show what our students get up to in those cases where I am working with student volunteers.
- Field visits to museums, heritage sites and historic landscapes. Whether in my ‘free time’, as part of research projects or as student field visits, reporting on these serves as an an aide memoire for myself and to communicate my views and interests in particular sites and landscapes, as well as showing to potential and past students the kinds of activities our students participate in.
- Public lectures, research seminars and conferences both attending and presenting: to provide synopses for myself as an aide memoire, public record for my university, and for other specialists, students and interested parties, in the public and academic talks, seminars and conferences I participate in.
- Ongoing research projects: to provide updates and preliminary observations on research projects that are ongoing.
- Publication forthcoming: to provide updates to contributors, fellow editors and interested students and specialists regarding forthcoming books, journal articles and book chapters.
- Publication launches: to provide a short summary of my recent publications (I publish c. 2 and 4 pieces per year).
- The Archaeological Journal: I am currently Honorary Editor of the Archaeological Journal, the Royal Archaeological Institute’s annual journal. It seemed a logical thing to update RAI members, interested students and specialists, as well as potential, current and past authors, regarding progress with each volume via the blog.
- Archaeorants: occasionally I am breaking cover and putting forward some professional and personal opinions about archaeological topics that really interest or annoy me. I have dubbed these ‘archaeorants’ and these are bound to be the only part of my blog that will be read, re-blogged and circulated to any significant degree.
- Movember and Personal Topics: in selected dimensions, I have talked in my blog about aspects of my background and interests in history, archaeology and landscape. One area where I have departed from an ‘archaeological’ focus is in a couple of posts promoting my moustache-growing for the charity Movember. This I justify by claiming to be growing an ‘archaeotache’.
I am still not a great fan of writing and reading blogs, but since I started in June 2013, I am finding it a useful way to write about the subjects listed above. The blog is interesting some people in my research as well as helping me to archive and structure my research activities. I hope I am writing in a clear, comprehensible and occasionally humorous way, but I make no apologies that I remain a dull academic and not a popular writer.
Perhaps more of interest to readers of this blog is what dimensions of blogging I am NOT employing. I don’t see the blog as a place to change the world or make money. I haven’t yet attempted to integrate my blog into my teaching activities. I won’t use a blog to expound my personal world view. I haven’t yet attempted to use the blog as a vehicle for research development and dialogue. I also don’t yet have a vision of using blogs as the end-result of research in itself. Equally, I don’t have a vision yet for using the blog (regularly) as a medium for writing my ‘take’ on recent archaeological news, writing extensive commentaries, reviews and criticisms of current research by others. In short, while my blogging is inherently egocentric, it is focused on only certain dimensions of my research-focused activities and thinking and therefore is not a window onto ‘me’. There remain many archaeological and others matters I am working on and thinking about that I won’t be blogging about.
Still, I look forward to feedback on my blog, given that in under 6 months, this is my 90th post!