Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blogging for Anthropology and Archaeology

If asked, I would probably respond that blogging is something I do, first and foremost, for the sheer fun of it. My secondary motivations include gaining writing experience and notoriety however small they may be. I’m no PZ Myers or J-Walk, but he little feedback I get is meaningful and it motivates me when I know that the information I created on my blog is appreciated, either through direct comments, links to other blogs or regular hits from social bookmarking sites like Digg or del.icio.us.

But, like, perhaps, other bloggers who consider themselves to be in the science genre, I often evaluate myself: am I simply regurgitating news in my field or am I provoking thoughts into discussion and editorializing; and, can I generate original perspectives on fresh ideas in anthropology and archaeology?

I try to be some of all this, not wanting to get stuck in any one mode. Not that there aren’t some very good blogs that do well in any single slant. Anthony at Archaeoblog does a fantastic job at presenting archaeogical news to his audience –so much so that I find myself visiting his blog often just to find out what’s new. Alun Salt, formerly of Archaeoastronomy, now called Clioaudio used to present the Vidi: an irregular roundup of the past on the web, which linked to sites that dealt with archaeology and history in a carnivalesque format. And he did it with great style that was appreciated far and wide! John Hawks gives a fresh perspective on the field of paleoanthropology with lengthy and often well-sourced but always very informative essays on topics that are part of that field’s current events. I’ve yet to find the anthro/archaeo blogger that doesn’t consider his site to be well-respected and authoritative.

Each of these blogs presents information in the field of anthropology in very different ways. There are certainly other blogs that are equally informative, some of which can be found in my sidebar with names like Northstate Science, Afarensis, Aardvarchaeology, and Anthropology.net, each with talented bloggers that meld a combination of the above formats into their writings.

But it is the very act of writing a blog in the fields of anthropology that I’m curious about. Early blogs were records of individuals’ lives, weblogs that were updated in diary-like format (i.e. “July 18, 2007 – 5:30 am: I began the day with brushing my teeth; a short stack of pancakes and backed over the kid’s bike on the way to work...”). Today’s blogs range from fresh and investigative journalism to satire and parody to aggregations of other blogs and news items. What, then, is the best possible purpose of an anthropology blog? Should it be strictly academic? Should it focus on recent news in the fields of anthropology, sharing new journal articles and citations with others that might not have access to them?

If were active in an archaeological project, I would very likely have the desire to share its progress in weblog format, a diary of progress in an excavation or field survey. Unfortunately, however, I haven’t had the opportunity to get involved in a project as yet (work, school, family, etc.), but I’m hopeful that my up-coming graduate studies will change that. In the mean time, I’ve focused on providing commentary to the recent news in archaeology where I’m able to and writing on a few topics that I’ve had the opportunity to study in-depth. Another thing I try to do is cover pseudo-archaeology and skepticism from an archaeological perspective, of which I have a few topics in the works to post soon.

I’m interested in what the other anthropology bloggers think about what purpose, goal, or need is behind blogging for them. I think I recall Duane at Abnormal Interests mentioning in a post that it’s our responsibility to educate and provide references to academic information for those seeking knowledge – a noble and honorable cause that I’m easily behind.

I’m also interested in what blog readers, who don’t necessarily have a blog of their own, think about anthropology blogs and what they like about anthropology blogs –what keeps them coming back? What makes the reader bookmark or share a blog post with social bookmarking sites?

4 Epigraphic Artifacts:

afarensis said...

Great post! I put up one on the subject here

CFeagans said...

Dude, I just read it with great interest. I was worried that I was "rambling" on a bit above. I had a rough draft of an idea and wasn't sure what, exactly, I wanted to say and then -poof- the blog template goes nutty because of a few .css files I link to in the author's code. Two days later I fixed it and realized I still needed to finish a post!

But, looking at the Four Stone Hearth #19 at Sherd Nerd, I found Bad Archaeology (in my sidebar), which reminded me of one of the original intents of my blog: to discuss and counter pseudoscience, specifically pseudo-archaeology.

I think the rational perspective and opinion needs to be available for those searching for information. If all they see when they search for topics like Bosnian Pyramid, Noah's Ark, and Egyptian pyramids are the mystery-mongers and significance-junkies, then those of us that have the ability to provide the voice of reason and do not are at fault.

That's one of the things I've always enjoyed about your blog. You're always willing to take on the creationist nonsense when it comes up.

Kris said...

Why blog for anthropology? It's my passion, and I'm a biological anthropology student (and instructor) in Kansas.

I started Freethinker's Asylum when the state school board "revised" the science standards here in 2005, as an attempt to counter, in some small way, the blatant misuse of science by state officials and the media, whose distillations of research generally bear little resemblance to the actual work.

Without fail, my students are surprised to learn that there is evidence for evolution, and what I love about this field is new evidence crops up all the time (giving us plenty to write about!).

fool for the process said...

The way I see it, it's about all of the above. If we're anthro-geeks it's all anthropology and that just may get reflected in our blogs.

Sometimes I post about politics, local and national, about creationism (I teach human evolution), about my latest adventures in CRM. I also blog about my family and some of their/our doings. I post about teaching the subfields. I angst about going back for one more degree, and that one not in anthropology. I post about evil land-pirates in this desert (under lock, which LiveJournal allows) and how we're exceeding the land's carrying capacity here. Sometimes I rant.

Anyway, it's all anthropology, in some sense.

Btw, I found your blog via John Hawks' weblog. Nice job!

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