What can the short form do for (insert discipline here)?

Google drink. Photo (cc) Peter Kaminski.

Colleen Morgan is get­ting ready for the SAA con­fer­ence ses­sion on blog­ging. To open up the ses­sion to people bey­ond those who can get to the USA, she’s ask­ing a series of ques­tions to the world at large. Her first ques­tion is:

The emer­gence of the short form, or blog entry, is becom­ing a pop­u­lar way to trans­mit a wide range of archae­olo­gical know­ledge. What is the place of this con­ver­sa­tion within aca­demic, pro­fes­sional, and pub­lic dis­course? Simply put, what can the short form do for archaeology?

This is a topic that’s being dis­cussed else­where. At Ether Wave Propaganda (h/t Jonathan Dresner) Will Thomas notes that blog entries are cre­at­ing extra interest in papers. At AoB Blog for Botany, we’re find­ing that the blog is increas­ing interest in art­icles. So what is it that helps?

First up there’s the simple act of telling people that there’s research out. This is why there isn’t just a blog for the Annals of Botany, there’s also a Facebook page and Twitter account. These aren’t repla­cing other meth­ods of com­mu­nic­a­tion, they sup­ple­ment them and they work.

Another issue is that there are ser­i­ous aca­demic con­cerns that can be aided with dis­cus­sion that don’t belong in a journal. Exhibit one is Mick Morrisson’s post on a Digital Archaeology Workshop. Nearly every aca­demic is going to have expert­ise that’s unique to their depart­ment that is also shared with other people around the world. A blog is a tool that can open dis­cus­sion with col­leagues around the world. I’m sure Mick could write up his blog post in long form with ref­er­ences and sub­mit it to a sub­scrip­tion only journal with a read­er­ship that’s well over 100 people, but would the extra effort be worth the extra (or just dif­fer­ent?) response?

Google drink. Photo (cc) Peter Kaminski.

Downloadable drink, they’re work­ing on it.
Photo (cc) Peter Kaminski.

Which leads me to the third point. Short form doesn’t apply to just blog­ging. It applies to com­ments as well. We’re used to the 20 minute talk at con­fer­ences. Social con­ven­tion means you don’t hear 20 minute ram­bling replies at a con­fer­ence unless the ram­bler is old and the ori­ginal speaker is young. Even then the abil­ity to reply without pause for breath, coher­ence or mercy doesn’t work. Likewise blogs also offer oppor­tun­it­ies for short com­ments and if you see a long ram­bling reply with CAPITAL LETTERS lib­er­ally sprinkled around, scroll on.

Blogging is writ­ten, so there’s a tend­ency to see it as a com­pet­itor for aca­demic pub­lic­a­tion. Instead the short form means it can be more inter­act­ive and dis­curs­ive. For an example fol­low the many links in Bora Zivkovic’s post Roosevelts on Toilets for dis­cus­sion about what blogs can dis­cuss and an example of an event becom­ing a mat­ter of ser­i­ous and pas­sion­ate debate. Blogs are more a com­ple­ment to con­fer­ences. Just as one con­fer­ence doesn’t really pre­clude the exist­ence of oth­ers, so too blog­ging is not going to replace any con­fer­ences. At least not till you can down­load alco­hol and brief but embar­rass­ing romantic encoun­ters over the internet.



Babylonian Cylinder

The trip to Durham mid­week was fun. I went up to see Dr Peter Heslin, give his talk: “The Emperor’s New Sundial: Domitian and the So-Called Horologium Augusti”. The Horologium Augusti is some­thing I’ve never really under­stood. It’s sup­posed to have been a massive sun­dial on the Campus Martius built by Augustus. The prob­lem is I’ve never been able to find any use­ful details to see how it worked. It turns out that this is because des­pite the pres­ence of many curly math­em­at­ical sym­bols, the pro­ponent, Buchner, didn’t provide enough detail to explain it. The whole sun­dial was debunked in an enter­tain­ing way, but it did also raise the ser­i­ous point that the peer-review sys­tem isn’t work­ing as well as it should. If you have the chance to see the talk you should — it’s very good.

As for Durham itself, both the Classics and Archaeology depart­ments were very friendly. There’s a lot of inter­est­ing people there and I’ll have to make a point of going back. My pho­tos were a dis­aster though. I was tired and had the shakes. The cyl­in­der above is the only good photo I got in two days.

The International Conference on the Arts in Society


I’ve been sent a Call for Papers for The International Conference on the Arts in Society. My ini­tial feel­ing is to ask where else the Arts would be. I men­tion it as Theme 5 Audiences includes: Virutal audi­ences, blogs, cyber-art and per­form­ance. I was about to sug­gest that a panel of blog­gers might be inter­est­ing. Then I saw the regis­tra­tion fees. Student regis­tra­tion is $377. I have no idea what the aim of the con­fer­ence is, but a charge of $226 for “vir­tual regis­tra­tion” (i.e. you don’t actu­ally go) would sug­gest that par­ti­cip­at­ing with soci­ety isn’t one of them.

The SEAC Conference starts


Today is the first ses­sion of the SEAC con­fer­ence. They star­ted with a meet ‘n’ greet last night. I’m not there, I have work to do. This will be the first year in quite a while when there isn’t a new book pub­lished at the meet­ing. Normally the pro­ceed­ings of a con­fer­ence are ref­er­eed and then pub­lished two years later. However the 2003 con­fer­ence was a micro-conference so the papers are get­ting bundled into the 2004 volume, which is due 2006. Readers who work in the sci­ences may find this hard to believe, but this is con­sidered speedy.

So today I’ll prob­ably be grouchy because I’m miss­ing out on sites like the one below. It’s a Nuraghe a Bronze Age tomb for­ti­fied dwell­ing. Not miss­ing them so much that I’d actu­ally pay to go to Sardinia though :)

A Nuraghe
Nuraghe Palmavera. Photo by Dave2002.

Text and Context Post-Mortem


I put for­ward an abstract for this because I wanted to show the Faculty of Arts that I do appre­ci­ate the work they do. I thought I’d needed to do this as I’d rather force­fully given my opin­ion about the forth­com­ing Festival of Postgraduate Research. I thought I was able to offer a paper because I was told it was an inter­dis­cip­lin­ary con­fer­ence. With hind­sight I should have asked which dis­cip­lines it was inter. It turned out to be a very English Literature based con­fer­ence. My grasp of English Literature goes as far as allit­er­a­tion. It’s on my exam cer­ti­fic­ate ‘E’ for English. So it could have gone very badly.

It actu­ally went amaz­ingly well.
Continue read­ing

I’m going to a conference and you’re ALL invited


I’m giv­ing a paper tomor­row at 14:30 at De Montfort University. It’s called: Not all of us have Apple Macs: Inter-operability and web pub­lish­ing for journ­als. The con­fer­ence is Text and Context: Scholarly Editing in the 21st Century and is fun­ded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

What I’ll be talk­ing about are the bene­fits and pit­falls of elec­tronic pub­lish­ing. There are three main strands. One will be that elec­tronic papers need to meet web stand­ards so people can read them. Second a web paper can be com­men­ted on in situ which is a use­ful aca­demic thing to do. Finally Open Access is a Good Idea which aids schol­ar­ship. You can read the whole thing for yourself.

I’m also invit­ing you to take part.

The plan is to look at the live copy of the paper dur­ing the talk between 14:30 and 14:45 BST. If you get a com­ment up before then I’ll try and throw it into the audi­ence for dis­cus­sion. I can­not be cer­tain that inter­net access will be avail­able, but you can also take part in another way. It is pos­sible that the con­fer­ence pro­ceed­ings will be pub­lished. If this is the case I’d like like to include the com­ments as part of the paper. By my reck­on­ing if that hap­pens then that makes you a co-author which you can add to your own pub­lic­a­tion list if pub­lic­a­tion hap­pens. If you add a com­ment to the paper I’ll assume you’re aware of this.

I don’t know if the con­fer­ence pro­ceed­ings will be Open Access, though I throw down the chal­lenge. Feel free to berate my naiv­ety or applaud my god-like genius and agree with me, espe­cially the latter.

Handshouse Studio


Handshouse Studio have a site that’s worth look­ing at. They’re the people who designed the sand sys­tem for the NOVA doc­u­ment­ary on Raising the Obelisk / Secrets of Lost Empires. I have to admit I wasn’t impressed by the doc­u­ment­ary. I thought there was far too much faff­ing around and the exper­i­ence of the work­ers seemed to be ignored. Luckily for me I saw the sys­tem in oper­a­tion at the AIA con­fer­ence in January and I was much more impressed. They had an excel­lent model which gave me much more con­fid­ence of the phys­ics of how the sys­tem worked. Crucially, the people demon­strat­ing were the people who designed the sys­tem and they did a much bet­ter job of it than the TV crew.

Their site also shows some of their other work includ­ing the Bushnell Turtle. It’s an excel­lent way to lose an after­noon when you should be working.