Where in the hell am I?

November 20, 2013

Blogging Archaeology 2014 Carnival Month 1: WHY?





So, at the 2014 Society for American Archaeology meetings in my lovely home city of Austin, Texas, we’ll be doing another Blogging Archaeology session entitled, appropriately enough, Blogging Archaeology Again. It’s not exactly a follow-up, more of an update with new ideas and almost all new people (I may in fact be the only holdover).

Anyway, as a contribution to the discussion  Doug Rocks-Macqueen (an excellent archaeology blogger [an excellent blogger who can’t make it, read his blog here!) is running a Blogging Archaeology blog carnival. Last time, Colleen hosted one and it was a lot of fun, got some good discussion going before and at the session.

So I’ll play along again. It also helps me because I’m not good about updating, so at least there will be a monthly post by me from now until April 🙂 This is even funnier because of question 3! So here we go!!

Question 1: Why blogging? – Why did you, or if it was a group- the group, start a blog?

I first started blogging because I liked writing and sharing my ideas and opinions. In college, I did radio and in my first run at grad school I wrote for the newspaper (entertainment section). I did a few issues of a zine after (the namesake for my other blog http://alltheragezine.wordpress.com/) and was online. So when I found out about blogs, it was something of a natural thing for me to be interested in and try out. At first, I did a personal blog and enjoyed that, met a lot of new people in Austin and elsewhere that way.

When I back to grad school for archaeology, I would occasionally write about that on my blog (it was on Livejournal and I’m pretty sure I deleted it), and I wrote some about my first field school on there. When I went back in Spring 2004 I decided to start a blog dedicated to my field school and archaeology, partly inspired by what Colleen had started doing. First post was on January 14, 2004, right before I left. It was called Digstories and there’s probably some posts on there that were too honest or not well thought out.

I kept up with it as I moved into CRM, eventually moved the blog to a different host (the whole LJ stigma partly), and changed the name to Where in the Hell Am I, because that was one of the questions my friends would always ask me! It started with just stories, and then I would explain things to my friends who would ask specific questions about aspects of my work. I tried to develop it more as a tool for public outreach, but this somewhat coincided with me starting to be burned out on archaeology, which leads to…

Question 2: Why are you still blogging?  Have the reasons why changed since you first started blogging? Are there new reasons why you blog?

Well, I answered some of that in the paragraphs above. Sometimes I still tell stories here, and I’ve used it on occasion for outreach. Sometimes I use it to vent or discuss issues in archaeology such as #freearchaeology or machismo, which was always an element of my blogging (while trying to keep it professional). Mostly, I’ve switched to microblogging and photoblogging through Twitter and Instagram (which is what my presentation at SAA14 is about). Mostly because it’s easier and has more feedback.

I still feel guilty about not blogging more, and I honestly want to, but…

Question 3: Why have you stopped blogging?

One of the ironic things about blogging that I’ve mentioned in the past is that usually when I have lots to talk about, or good stories to share, I’m too busy from doing things to take the time to talk about them, or just too tired. As I got higher in the field hierarchy, especially with some of the pipeline projects, I had a lot to do after the fieldwork was done. It was not unusual to have a 9-10 hour field day and then 2 hours of post-field work, 6 days a week. Once I was done, I was tired and didn’t want to talk about my day again.

Also as I moved up, things got less interesting, in some ways. I was mostly running the GPS in the field, managing the techs while they did the actual digging. I was talking to clients and landowners (which could be interesting, of course). I was also doing a lot of survey report writing, which is repetitive and boring even to me. I tried to talk about analysis, but was afraid to expose my ignorance to the public and other archs.

I also had some very difficult periods in my life, and got very burned out on the field and archaeology. I always try and be positive on here, even if I don’t always succeed. When I was depressed, or hating my job, I just didn’t want to pretend on here.

Finally, my company got a couple of very large projects, with clients who were very protective and concerned about media and publicity. I started to worry about possibly getting in trouble or straight up fired for things I wrote here. And when I was mad or burned out or thought something was dumb, I DEFINITELY knew not to say so on here. Last year, I found out that even a very innocent post that doesn’t mention much of anything about a client or a project can get noticed and possibly lead to reprisals (although all I had to do was pull it and promise not to blog about or while on that job). That last thing happened right when I was thinking about getting back in to this.

And, now that I’m a public servant, I feel the same need to be extra cautious. That’s why I started a totally non-archaeology blog (which gathers as much dust as this!).

And thus ends my unsurprisingly long first contribution to the Blogging Archaeology Carnival!


July 29, 2011

Day of Archaeology #dayofarch and Then Dig

While I have been remiss at updating my own blog lately, I have contributed to two archaeology group blogs this month.

One is for The Day of Archaeology. Today (July 29, 2011), over 400 archaeologists from around the world and many disciplines are blogging and tweeting about their day. My contribution, about taking a mental health day, is here. I recommend reading the entries on this blog for a great overview of how archaeologists spend their days.

Earlier this month, I wrote a post about my snake guards for the Then Dig group blog. This month’s theme was “tools”, and I detailed why I think snake guards are a very valuable tool. You can read it here.

I also wrote a few tweets on Wednesday when I actually spent (most) of a day in the field doing a survey.

Have a nice weekend and I’ll try and make things pick up here soon! Unfortunately, the Turkey trip fell through for this year, so I won’t have that to keep me interested/interesting.

March 9, 2011

Blogging Archaeology Week 2 – Consequences

As mentioned before, I’m participating in a blogging carnival in anticipation of the Blogging Archaeology panel at this year’s SAA annual meeting. My dear friend and colleague Colleen is organizing the panel and this blog carnival, partly to help slackers like me have much of their presentation prepared well ahead of time. My Week 1 response is here, and Colleen’s summary of the various replies (with links to each) is here. Here’s the Week 2 question:

In our last question, many emphasized the public access that blogging brings to archaeology, the option to “phone a friend,” as Kristin Sewell stated. Blogging gives new scholars a chance to speak out, to debunk 2012 foolishness and to give a little bit back to the public that usually signs our paychecks in one way or another. Though it is generally embraced (says she of the Berkeley bubble!), public outreach can be incredibly difficult, tricky, and prone to hidden downsides. Blogging archaeology is often fraught with tensions that are sometimes not immediately apparent. Beyond the general problems that come with performing as a public intellectual, what risks do archaeologists take when they make themselves available to the public via blogging? What (if any) are the unexpected consequences of blogging? How do you choose what to share?

In terms of things that I would define as actual “risks” that I could take while blogging, the clearest one is that I risk having the food taken out of my mouth. My blog is a personal blog, about my experiences as an archaeologist, and I hope I’ve made it clear that these are my opinions only. My experiences are under the auspices of my employer, but I do not represent them in any official capacity, nor are my blog posts intended to represent the views or opinions of my company (SWCA, if I haven’t said that before). At the same time (and one only has to look at recent events) I can say a million times that this is only my opinion, but if I piss off the wrong person, I could easily get fired. As such, I try to be vague about clients and project details. Honestly, a lot of the dead times between posts is because I don’t have anything nice to say and don’t want to possibly get in trouble. I also try not to bitch about my co-workers or superiors (which I honestly wouldn’t do 90% of the time anyway) and definitely don’t name names. I realized this was a potential issue when I started linking my blog to Facebook, where a number of co-workers were friends. I’ve since deleted almost all my co-workers for unrelated reasons, but I recognize that I can’t choose which public reads this.

Since the 2012 foolishness was mentioned, another consequence of archaeological blogging is encountering “fringe” opinions and unethical behavior. This, by the way, is not limited to blogging, but happens regularly anytime you deal with the public in the field (or in a bar). My readership is small and limited mainly to friends, friends of friends, and a few fellow archaeologists, so fortunately I don’t encounter this much here. But a look at some of the comments on the Ceibal project blog on the New York Times webpage  (click here for an example) will give a glimpse. Between the mainstream fringe garbage that litters the archaeology section of most bookstores, the dreck on the Discovery and “History” Channels, and misinformation from tour guides and museums…well, it clearly gets me agitated blogging about it. It’s hard to contour the misinformation, and the temptation to mock and scorn rather than respectfully answer the question is great. But by ignoring it (as the Times’ archaeologists have) gives it a sort of credence as well.

Something that happens more often for me, both in the field and in my use of the Internet for engaging the public, is dealing with collectors/relic hunters/looters. It’s against the law for me to disclose the location of an archaeological site in Texas, but when discussing nice sites on here and try to put as little locational information as possible. You never know when a collector/looter is reading or Googling. Likewise, I remove any sensitive geotags from Flickr. Flickr is where I have actually encountered a collector, who commented on some of my artifact photos in relation to his own collection. Of course, I could not encourage the collecting of artifacts, regardless of the legalities, but I also felt like I couldn’t just be out and out rude. Part of engaging in public archaeology is to view such things as educational opportunities, and a chance to create a steward. So in my posts, I try not to scorn those folks who come up to me and want to talk about and/or show off their collections. In fact, I try to engage those folks and landowners in general to tip me off to site locations (or tell me that sites aren’t there anymore), making my job easier!

Well, that was long…no wonder Colleen had to remind me that the presentation is only 5-10 minutes long 🙂

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