I’m trying to retain a sense of why I’m doing any of this blogging about mortuary archaeology business. I find it fun and therapeutic and a useful way of recording and reflecting, disseminating and promoting, my academic research and teaching on the themes of the archaeology and heritage of death and memory.
Sure, I get lots of positive responses to blogging and people think it is a ‘good thing’ when I ask them (apart from the occasional digital malcontent). I also seem to get sufficient views to surpass any series of public talk audiences or academic publications I could hope of creating (and that’s with me doing quite a lot of public talks).
I’ve also justified my blogging academically as a mode of public outreach and critical digital public archaeology. Indeed, in 2014 and 2015 I co-authored a pair of academic pieces about blogging mortuary archaeology with super-bright then-doctoral researchers (Meyers and Williams 2014; Williams and Atkin 2015).
Since then I’ve kept at it and developed the content in numerous fresh directions. Now, I’m approaching my 6th full year of blogging and I’m trying to reflect on how it is all going. So I’ve written a self-evaluation piece of a forthcoming edited collection I’m pulling together on public archaeology.
To whet your appetite for this forthcoming evaluation of Archaeodeath, I’d like to share with you one screenshot of the stats from my WordPress blog, showing the hits (views) of one of my 1,200+ blog-posts. My point here is that blogging isn’t about immediate ‘viral’ reception and mass readership, it is about providing a distinctive medium of reaching niche and informed interest groups, stakeholders and enthusiasts. In this regard, blogging is all about a slow-burn of google searches and social media shares that bring my writings to a wider academic, and multiple specific and non-academic, sets of audiences. It is simultaneously about writing things I wouldn’t necessarily publish, as well as providing building-blocks en route to academic publications.
Let me take a blog-post about Game of Thrones Season 3 to make my point. I composed it 3 years ago, in May 2016, and it is called Fire on the Water. In this post I reflected on my core research interests: cremation in past societies, and considered how cremation is portrayed in the television adaption of George R. R. Martin’s books materialises pagan religious and mortuary practices in a (broadly) later medieval fictional environment. For this incredibly popular fantasy television series, I reflected on its inspirations and relationships with what we actually know about early medieval cremation practices from literary, historical and archaeological sources. Moreover, this is but one of a series of posts about Game of Thrones seasons 1-5 (I have yet to comment on seasons 6-9).
The point that the stats of hits on this particular blog have increased exponentially over nearly 3 years, culminating to its highest frequency of views in association with the intense media interest in the finale of Game of Thrones these past weeks.
My point? Most of my posts won’t get this attention, and many will soon but lost in the digital wilderness. However, some take years to reach fruition, and therefore, like many areas of archaeological knowledge, we need to consider their impact over the medium and long term, both as individual posts, and as strands of posts on particular themes. Indeed, one could argue that these hits out-shine any journal article or book chapter I’ve produced, conveying to different and wider audiences, and few if any will have this enduring and increasing appeal over a 3-year period!
Meyers, K. and Williams, H. 2014. Blog bodies: mortuary archaeology and blogging, in D. Rocks-Macqueen and C. Webster (eds) Blogging Archaeology, E-book: Succinct Research, pp. 137-70. http://hdl.handle.net/10034/337528
Williams, H. and Atkin, A. 2015. Virtually dead: digital public mortuary archaeology, Internet Archaeology 40. http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue40/7/4/index.htmlhttp://hdl.handle.net/10034/594441