IMG_2152Doug’s Archaeology has set a new blog carnival for the month of January: The Grand Challenges for Archaeology: A Blogging Carnival. 

What are the grand challenges facing YOUR archaeology?

Here’s my first reply of 3; exploring the challenges of my Archaeodeath blogging itself.

Blogging is fun but of course it also brings with it many challenges in how best to communicate my research, to whom, and for what purpose. Individual issues include the following and I welcome feedback on them.

How regularly to blog? 

I enjoy writing about the places I go and the things I get up to and think about. I want my blog to be regular, but how regular is regular? I began my blog midway through 2013 and I have then subsequently blogged for two full years, 2014 and 2015. In this time I’ve posted 514 entries. Roughly four times a week.

Is this too much? Who is to judge? Who cares? I’m not sure.

The problem is, am I setting up an expectation for myself that is going to be challenging in the long term to maintain?

How promptly to blog

Is it really important to be prompt in blogging?

I have mixed views on this one.

Sometimes write blog entries about events that have just happened (i.e. within hours or days). This applies to conferences and places I’ve been to, for example. >

However, sometimes I delay a long time – weeks, months and in some cases years – before I write up my thoughts about a particular theme or place. In some cases this makes it rather ‘old news’ and not a diary of my travels and thoughts on archaeodeath matters.

Delaying can have advantages. It can give me time to digest, think of relationships between sites I’ve visited at different times. So I have sometimes written about issues I’ve researched, or places I have visited, weeks, months and even years before.

Students and me digging in Sweden in 2005 – this is unrelated to this blog entry, but simply helps punctuate the rather boring text

How visual should my blog be?

My blog is heavily visual, but I don’t want to simply post a series of images linked to ‘I’ve been here’ and ‘look at what I’m working on/thinking about.

I try to explain and explore aspects of places I’ve been and, in particular, explore issues of mortality and material culture in doing so.

Images don’t speak for themselves, although sometimes I like to use excessive numbers of images to reveal alternative views of sites that are perhaps very familiar to the tourist and the archaeologist.

There is a practical issue though: after 2.5 years, I’m now well over halfway through my WordPress free allowance. I reduce the size of images as much as possible before posting. Still, in a year or two’s time, I need to make a judgement as to whether I give up on images, remove older images, or pay for a larger data allowance.


What constitutes an original or interesting blog?

What might be of interest to readers is frankly less a concern for me. I find some blog entries that I suspect will interest few get wide readership, and others I steer towards popular debates and themes hardly get a look at. Some are predictably popular, but there seems no clear logic.

I think it really depends on who reads and he retweets the link via Twitter or whether I accidentally include reference to a popular phrase or popular figure.

We are seven – Conwy

What is and what is not Archaeodeath?

In my opening blog, I did admit that I might steer away from mortuary matters occasionally, and this has indeed transpired. The fact remains, however, that my interests in both prehistoric and historical archaeologies, including contemporary archaeology, mean that I can readily explore a range of different topics from the heritage of castles to the interpretation of prehistoric burial mounds.

I think archaeologists can be their own worst enemies in obsessing over what is and what is not archaeology anyway, and so anything related to my research themes and interests is fine by me.

How opinionated to be and how critical of current affairs and other researchers?

This is perhaps the biggest set of challenges for any blog. In the last year, I’ve written posts about ISIS killing archaeologists and my views on autism, as well as the destruction of cultural heritage, alongside critical views about archaeological terminology and interpretations.

How much should my blog contain my original research ideas? Might they be stolen by other academics or be used against me by the time I finally get around to writing them up for academic publication?

I have tried to write about my research, but not publish its final discussions and conclusions on my blog. Therefore, I’m happy to say what I’m doing, but keep a degree of suspense. For good reason: often I haven’t decided the full implications of my work and what their significance might be. So I try to leave it until publications are just out, to promote them and discuss them in a popular fashion, rather than pre-empt publication with the ‘results’. Still, I have found myself in a position where some of my blogs might become publications that I had never envisaged: in some regards, the blog entries will unintentionally feed into publications. I am keeping my views open on this topic and welcome the input and guidance of other bloggers.

I’m not sure if my ideas about being ‘stolen’. I think I might be sparking interest in topics and stimulating debate. That would be nice. I hope I get cited. I know some other archaeologists are setting a few of my blog posts as reading for students. I’m very flattered to hear it.

Greatest challenge of all?

I guess the greatest challenge of all is to work out if and when to stop blogging. What will be the moment when I give up? Is this still just an elongated experiment and when do I appraise whether it is worth my time? Am I really engaging in digital public archaeology, or simply cultivating digital hot air and/or talking to myself?

To be honest, even if it were only talking to myself, I’d probably still do it… Everyone needs a strategy to cultivate writing skills and help to fashion ideas populating my head onto ‘paper’…