I’m a little behind on this week’s Blogging Archaeology blog carnival response, mostly because I’ve been in the field this week (as mentioned in the previous post) and catching a little too much of a buzz at the YO Ranch Resort Hotel happy hour after the field. Colleen knows all about the happy hours at the YO Ranch bar, so I’m sure she understands the delay. Today, however, I’m only on my second Lone Star and the huge, delicious chicken fried steak in my belly is balancing it out. So I’m ready to do this.
Here’s Week 3’s question. You can click on the link here to read the original post, with all of the summaries of the Week 2 Responses:
“Catherine’s response at Dig Girl has provided this week’s question. She writes, “A final downside to the short form is the appearance of dialog. Noting this virtual round table and other blogs (like MS) as exceptions, most archaeological blogs that I read have very little in the way of dialog through comments. Often on this blog, I feel like I am talking to myself, which in a way is catharsis, but if an archaeology blogger writes and no one reacts, are we really changing opinions or moving the field forward?” I would add to this, how do you attract readership? Without too much in the way of SEO chatter, who is your audience and how to you interact with this audience? What do you want out of interactivity by means of blogging about archaeology?”
To quote my original abstract for the SAA panel, “Blogging, although in many ways more of a soliloquy than a dialogue, is one way that archaeologists can and do reach out to the public. … Often, there’s a sense that you’re trying to reach out to a public that just isn’t there, or isn’t responding.” My blog stats and lack of comments pretty much let me know that I’m not reaching much of the public, and those that do see it aren’t really responding (although my mom and Aunt Bev frequently comment on my posts through Facebook).
I’ve often questioned whether I’m just screaming at a wall here. When people find out what I do, they always seem very interested in archaeology. They may be a little less interested in how my job differs from the classic “dig”, but they usually listen. The main goal of my blogging is simply to get people to understand what cultural resources management entails, and what a CRM archaeologist does. My idea is to let them know that there’s archaeology all around them. It’s not Pompeii or Teotihuacan or the Pyramids of Giza, of course, but cultural heritage is still important enough that there’s laws protecting sites, and time and money expended to identify them.
I don’t really present high-falutin’ theory on my blog, partly because that’s a miniscule part of CRM (and even “miniscule” might be generous), and partly because I’m afraid it could turn potential readers off. I’m certainly excited when other archaeologists read and respond to my blog, but y’all aren’t exactly my target audience (although I’m always down for swapping field stories over beers). I started the blog for two reasons. First, so my friends could keep track of where I am (thus the blog title). Second, so I could try and explain to them and anyone else who might find the blog just what it is I do, while it’s happening, in a way that makes sense. Within the last year-and-a-half or so, I’ve gotten more and more into the idea of using it as a form of public outreach for projects I’m involved in, as a form of public archaeology.
As for attracting readership, the main thing I do is link to my Facebook account so that updates are posted there; before that, I posted links to blog posts. Of course, that’s basically my friends and family (which is awesome, don’t stop reading!). Beyond that, I’ve done very little. I comment on Colleen’s blog, and occasionally other archaeology blogs, and my friends’ non-archaeology blogs. I *almost* including a link to my blog while commenting on the New York Times archaeology blog posts, but I chickened out, thinking that was too presumptuous.
Finally, as far as interactivity, I’m not sure how to answer because I guess I just don’t ever expect it to happen. I’m always happy to answer any questions in my comments, and I have a few times, including a couple from people who aren’t my good friends. I like to think I’m good at putting across complex ideas and activities in a way that is easy to follow and get, but I’d always be down to explain anything that people didn’t understand. I would really love for fellow archaeologists, particularly those who are in school or the academic realm, to comment on the work we do as it relates to theories and concepts in the classroom, because I really miss the discussions I would have with my classmates in grad school.
But I think what would make me the happiest would be for someone to say something like, “I saw some people out digging near my fence, and they said they were archaeologists doing a survey. I didn’t quite get this, so I searched online and found your blog. After reading your posts, I understand what they were looking for, and why they were digging those holes out there. Thanks!”