As part of the upcoming SAA session on blogging and archaeology, Doug’s Archaeology has been hosting a monthly discussion (“blog carnival”) on related topics. Doug asked bloggers to consider the future of blogging and archeology for this final month. In this post, I consider how the field of archaeology might benefit from the work being done by those groups and individuals who blog about archaeology.
The blog carnival usefully highlighted the variety of work that people are posting. The ecosystem of archaeologically-themed blogs seems as mature as found for any other subject. Blogs cover personal experiences of students and professionals, provide field project updates, highlight research, discuss news, aggregate news, and explore odd corners of archaeology. Interestingly and importantly, not all of these blogs are produced by professional archaeologists.
Professional archaeologists in America have been moved recently to defend and promote the relevance of their field, in response to questions about whether such work should receive scarce public research funds. Some professionals have called for the field to rally around a unified set of topics for investigation. These efforts are reasonable, but they also highlight a problem.
Professional archaeologists are not necessarily their own best spokespersons. They clearly have a self-interest in the funding of their research. Professional archaeologists are also not always great communicators of their work, particularly to lay audiences. Not everyone is going to be good at everything. Consequently, the work of bloggers who write about archaeology could be a real resource to the field, testifying explicitly and implicitly that archaeology does matter.
My hope is that professional archaeologists and their national and regional societies figure out a way to tap into all the enthusiasm and talent that exists. Public outreach efforts should not be limited to any single venue, such as blogs, of course. Nevertheless, this resource already exists and could be very easily incorporated into a comprehensive media strategy. The collection of papers on blogging and archaeology at the upcoming SAA meetings in Austin looks like a good opportunity to get further exposure to ideas about the potentials and pitfalls of blogging, for those folks who are interested.