First Review for Built on Bones!

So, I spent this week doing a lot of things. One of my favorites was freaking about my photoshopped proximity to lifetime hero author Neil ...

Friday, 27 December 2013

Welcome to round two of the #blogarch adventure, orchestrated by Dougsarchaeology. This month, the question posed to those of us who still do this blogging thing is more reflective: what's been good about blogging? Bad? And what's been downright ugly?

Well geez.

The Good

Friends! Contacts, networks, people to talk to. But I think more importantly, blogging offers a longform elaboration of the casual conversations and offhand interests that the 140 character world doesn't really give you a chance to get into. For instance, I am pretty good at working up a #twitterstorm rage. I've had lots of social media chats with friends and strangers about things that seriously, epically get my metaphorical goat (looking at you, #aquaticape! also, druid in-fighting). But here's the thing about an insta-rage: you sound like a total jerk. Seriously. That rage needs context. And maybe pictures of the Judean People's Front (splitters!).

literally, any excuse to use this photo
The Bad

Oh hai impossible deadlines and epic time-suckage! Apart from this, personal, blog, I also play 1/4 of the instruments in the feminist archaeology tribute act . Aside from being totally rewarding and a heck of a lot of fun, a regular blogging time commitment is pretty hard to juggle with my postdoc (teeth!), my fieldwork (teeth! but in Turkey), and my personal health and hygeine.

 Honestly, the most difficult part of keeping up a blog has been the fact that I am strongly advised not to divulge any details of my current research by actual Acts of Parliament (shout out to the Human Tissue Act!). In addition to legal restrictions on what I can and can't discuss, there are organisational attitudes to navigate; i.e. nothing I say here can reflect too much on my employment over at the Museum That Dare Not Speak Its Name Without Being Cleared By the Press Office.  So between various pressures to keep mum and the general sense by people who sign off on my paychecks that blogging doesn't count for impact metrics with our funder, there are a huge number of disincentives to keep blogging.

The Ugly

I have never had an experience publishing my blog that I would describe as 'ugly' per se. Unintentionally, out-of-control, hilarious? Yes. Very much. I got so peeved with theories of an 'aquatic' period of human evolution (after we walked out of the sea that first time) that I went all Rudyard Kipling on the idea that it wasn't the sea -- it was SPACE! This was the sarcasm that launched a thousand tweets, and they were unapologetically funny. However, the relentless mockery in short form (tweets, my take on the subject for Radio 4) comes off as more snide than I ever intended the original post to be.

In the end though, the same things that were 'good' about blogging -- engaging with people who are neither me, nor my mother -- are the same things that were 'ugly'. The 'bad' is just part and parcel of the whole blogging experience - it takes time, which, for most archaeologists I would reckon, is in short supply.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013 which your correspondent participates, not for the first time (those were the good ole' days, eh Colleen?) , in the digital round robin that is a blogging carnival, with the hopes of someday seeing it at the SAAs.

Follow along with the carnival through the #blogarch tag or Doug's blog here.

November's question:
Why blogging? – Why did you, or if it was a group- the group, start a blog?

I'm guessing that like many of my blogging compatriots, I started my personal blog for a combination of reasons, starting with interest in a new bright and shiny thing (blogging! whatever next-- hoverboards? Hey, it was a different time), and running the gamut of self-publicising social media instincts, including the desire to join a conversation of peers, the chance to talk loosely and informally about things I was interested in, and the chance to share my devastating wit with the world at large.*  The world is a lonely place at the end of a PhD or in the dreaded gap between degree and employment, and I enjoyed the company.

Gertrude Bell, behatted.
I could say quite a bit more about my *other* blog, The TrowelBlazers project came about organically, but was consciously designed and organised by our group, with planned posts and a duty roster - a very different scenario from the haphazard, laissez faire attitude I maintain with my personal blog. I think in the end this reflects the very different uses both are put to. Where TrowelBlazers is a wonderful, glorious, time-suck of discovery and funny pictures of women in outrageous outfits that we actively want to bring to a larger audience, my personal blog has very much become a repository or archive of small projects that would otherwise be left by the wayside. My personal blog has become a bit of a memento mori for the various shiny things I get distracted from my actual job (dental anthropologist / bioarchaeologist) playing with. I think this answers the second part of the carnival question: ' Why are you still blogging?'. Quite frankly, if I don't write down how I made an augmented reality app with bouncy Neanderthal skulls, I'm never going to remember.
* who uniformly failed to notice.

Trivia (personal)

archaeologist. dental anthropologist. yes, that's a real thing. Author of Built on Bones, available in February 2017 (UK), May 2017 (USA) from Bloomsbury.



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